Today’s subject is about staying with the present moment and not letting the past or future come to disturb us. This goes against the grain with ordinary people because it’s understood that we learn from past experience and need the future as the repository of our hopes and dreams. Currently, we live with a certain longing for past times while entertaining expectations about the future, and this, they say, is the way it must be. But the Buddha is on record as saying:
“One ought not to long for what has passed away, Nor be anxious over things which are yet to come. The past has left us, the future has not arrived.”
In other words, paying attention to the present is the way to live. But some say that’s not possible, that they can survive today because they have expectations regarding, for instance, work, and that they delve into the past in order to learn from previous experience. Although there must be anxieties connected with such an attitude, they are satisfied with that.
Now, the Buddha had a particular aim: that people be able to live without any suffering at all. So how then should they behave when dealing with the past, present, and future?
Well, consider a lesson that Buddhists chant regularly called the Bhaddekaratta Gāthā,* which begins: “Atītaṃ nānvāgameyya nappaṭikaṅkhe anāgataṃ,” “One ought not to long for what has passed away, nor be anxious over things that are yet to come,” or in other words, one should stay steadily in the present, experiencing the present moment clearly and attempting to do this increasingly as time goes on. Obeying this instruction can, and will be, troublesome, but if being happy, cool and peaceful is what we want, then this is the way we will need to live.
A Dhamma lecture presented on 31 July 2525 (1982) at Suan Mokkhabalārām.
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‘Living in the Present without past, without future’
by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu.
With thanks to Suan Mokkh: The Garden of Liberation.
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