Friday, January 9, 2009

Present Tense

I read this article in the Business Line supplement today by TT Srinath, of new approaches to personal growth. And what actually held my interest is the Zen story that the writer quoted which has always been a favourite of ours. It is being reproduced here - Two monks, an older and younger man were once walking down a road. They chanced on a pretty lady who was attempting to cross a puddle. The senior monk carried her over the puddle and put her down. The monks continued their journey and for over an hour the young monk did not speak to his senior. An hour later the young monk admonished the elder monk chastising him for having carried a woman. The elder monk replied, “I dropped her one hour ago but you still seem to be carrying her.” The burden of the past had trapped the young monk.

In this article, the writer exhorts us to live in the present. He says one should live only for the moment, without carrying any baggage from the past or thinking about the future. In this manner the person is responding to his/her feelings and experiences a sense of freedom. Not burdened with the past and no demands of the future. Living in the present keeps one focused on what is happening right then. He says even in the most difficult situation focus on the right of the moment, think of the positive side even if the present is not exactly encouraging. This way, you get the needed confidence and end up appreciating the situation. He says Living in the present has the potential to be a satisfying growing experience, one that flows naturally from moment to moment. The more we succeed in this task, the more human we become

Sounds very encouraging and makes sense as you read. But does not work all the time. It is said that only the sages could meditate keeping the mind blank. It is a task so humanly impossible. I have tried my hand at meditating. It has never worked. For me, a blank wall is my time machine. It can transport me back in time to being a 5 year old ( I don't think I can go beyond that!!) and then fast-forward to playing with my grandchildren. But living for the moment, when all I probably have to do is walk into the kitchen to make a meal, is simply not my cup of tea. At least to make mundane tasks more interesting, one has to let the mind wander.

It is of course, sane advice, but not really practical. Good to read, appreciate, interesting article to relate if you want to seem wise. Living for the moment works when the going is good. But I doubt if any human has a tight rein over the mind . We learn from the mistakes of the past, and also perhaps by dreaming of the future, work to make the dreams happen, and that makes us what we are.

It would perhaps make more sense to say that we should be grounded to the present, even when we retrace our steps into the past, or wander into the future.It is only then that we can enjoy life in total.


  1. There is a lot written about living in the now, controlling mind, slowing the mind, state of no thoughts etc. Living in the present can be equated to experiencing thoughtlessness or 'no mind'? . How would you know you have experienced living in the present? After all the mind has to tell you that isnt it? Its tricky.

    I would approach all this by observing more on where is the urge to enquire about these matters coming from? Who is questioning these? Why are you getting attracted to these ideas? Is this a natural urge or is this one of the things our minds pick up for sake of intellectual entertainment alone?The danger is feeding the mind with endless concepts. Everything is entertainment to the mind. Sorrow, good times, reading about the present etc. All of this ensures its continuity and keeps it busy.

    Do you sense a natural urge to enquire , do you and see it in others? Maybe in different form,shape and intensity. If the urge is strong , it will grab your attention more and more. When you do find that happening all these concepts start speaking to you, some more loudly than the rest. There are multiple schools of thought to approach this quest. If your reason and judgement allows to to accept a particular one, you would then follow it unquestioningly. For eg: If you accept the Vedanta framework of approaching enquiry, you would see how it details out various methods of enquiry depending on the kind of person you are. For eg: meditation is not a tool suitable for everyone. Especially if it is done with aim of an imagined end state of well-being or result. There are many for whom Raja Yoga is more effective. While controlling your breath and learning to observe the movement of energy and body tension you are in effect practising 'living in the now'. There is no room for thought while you do this? A disciplined practise of such a yoga gives one control over mind by virtue of its inherent nature. If you are one who is inclined to enquire through a self enquiry, you would have advaita's approach on identifying the 'I am' and being able to dissociate it from mind and its perception. Moving beyond the 'I am' into 'being' progressively. There is also another path of surrendering the 'ego' (ego not in the colloqial sense). You adopt a 'guru' unquestioningly and submit your 'ego' to him. This is in effect what Christianity preaches. Jesus asks you to give yourself unto him. He does not call himself as the God,instead the son of God. Vedanta explains this as complete and innocent submission to a 'guru' who becomes a vehicle to connect with your divinity. Buddhism/Zen preaches control of mind through meditation or Buddhist yoga.

    There are a lot of tools out there discovered over centuries of self enquiry. If the urge is strong you will find yourself gravtitating towards finding a 'your' way through it.

    If you haven't got hold of it yet, 'Power of Now' by Eckhart Tolle is probably the most highly recommended book on this subject.

  2. I have to take a little time to digest this!! Will respond once I have done that.


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