While we all have a past and we all might have a future, we can only live in the present. What is done in the past cannot be undone and what will happen in the future can only be prophesied. There cannot be an action in the past, neither can there be an action in the future. The action can only be in the now, in the present. Inaction in the present cannot bear a bright future tomorrow. Action in present alone can bring a change in life you desire. Repentance and dreaming are of no consequence. Wakeup! Stop repenting, stop dreaming, stop thinking about the past or the future, your time is now. Live now!
Let me narrate to you a story of my good friend named Mr. Future Past Tense, the story will help you understand what living in the present means. I know Mr. Future Past Tense like I know myself. When Mr. Future Past Tense was young, he had high ambitions for his future. He dreamt every day of a new future and planned every day a new plan to achieve that future. Every day he went to sleep deciding he would act on his wonderful plan the next day. Come next day, he would be too lazy to start acting on the plan, so, he sat and dreamt of a new better future and a new better plan. Days passed and turned into months and months into years and one day Mr. Future Tense realized he wasted a lot of years dreaming and planning for his future when he could have lived and enjoyed his life. He felt sad and started repenting for time he wasted. He woke up every day not wanting to get out of the bed. Every day he would sit and regret for the time he wasted living in the future. Days turned into months and months into year and one day Mr. Future Past Tense realized he wasted years repenting the dream he did not live. Then at that moment he had an epiphany, living in the future or dwelling in the past cannot bear fruit to a bright future. This knowledge bought a profound change in the life of Mr. Future Past Tense; he started living in the present. He planned for future, but did not live in the future, he learnt from his experiences but let go of his past.
Does the story of Mr. Future Past Tense sound very familiar? If we look at our own lives we will find many instances when we have wasted valuable time in over-planning our futures or in regretting our past actions, in useless worry or in evitable agonizing suffering, in an fantasized fear or in unjustified anxiety, in needless sleep or in an insubstantial day dream, in an egoistic argument or in judging others. The time spent in these unconstructive endeavors can never produce a bright future. So wakeup, be mindful of what you are thinking and be conscious of what you are doing; this is living in the present. Living in the present is experiencing the splendor in every moment like the one you experienced seeing a gorgeous sunset. Living in present is experiencing the freshness in every moment like the one you see in a baby’s eyes. Living in present is living in compassion and living in tranquility.
Every living being has to go through the pains and the pleasures of life. No one has ever lived a life without pain. Pain is complementary to pleasure. In our everlasting pursuit of pleasure, pain is inevitable. But like pleasure is fleeting, pain is also momentary. If pleasure and pain are momentary then why we suffer? Suffering is the result of our never ending pursuit to get pleasure. Suffering arises from grasping to pleasure and yearning for pleasure. Grasping and yearning are emotional states, and since emotional state can be changed by conscious effort, suffering is optional. Even though, due to the physical ailment, the body may be in pain, but the mind can be free of suffering.
Between the peaks of pleasure and the hollows of pain there is a vast plains of tranquility. The moments in life when one is not in pain, not in pleasure and not yearning for pleasure are the moments of tranquility and bliss. Though such moments seem few, they are only limited by our urge for pleasure. A moment might seem short-lived, but, by conscious effort of living in the present and not yearning for pleasure one can expanded the moment into the eternity. Plan for the future, but don’t live in the future. Think about the past, don’t suffer because of it. Experience the present!
We live in dreams and our lives are full of partial experiences. Eating, we start comparing the taste we are experiencing to the taste we have experienced in the past. Talking, our mind wanders to the emotions on the face of the listener. When listening the mind wanders into inferences and conclusions of what is being said. When seeing, mind wanders to judge what is being seen. When on vacation we think about work. When at work we think about vacation. When with family we think about friends. When with friends we thinks about family. Our mind wanders from the topic of the present to the world of dreams, leaving the experience incomplete. If an experience is incomplete the desire to complete it would naturally arise resulting in an never ending chase to fulfill our desires.
Remember the beautiful sunrise you saw last summer or the beautiful sunset last autumn. Remember the chirping of the birds early morning or the sound of waves on silent beach. As you remember these moments remember the tranquility and bliss you experienced. Those were the moments you were in the present. Those were the moments when you lived without a past and without a future. Those were the moments you had full experiences. Those were the moments we lived without suffering.
asato ma sadgamaya
tamaso ma jyotirgamaya
mrtyorma amrtam gamaya
Lead me from the ignorance to truth.
Lead me from darkness to light.
Lead me from death to immortality.
In Hindu philosophies (and also Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and many other ), the self is regarded as immutable, unborn, un-manifest and non-discriminatory. Hence, the true nature of self never changes. In death and rebirth, the body changes, the self remains unchanged. The ignorance mentioned above is the ignorance about the true nature of self. All the suffering arises from this ignorance. Hence, one should know his/her true nature to attain a state of eternal bliss. Self is not to be understood but to be known and experienced. This can only be achieved through meditation. When one meditates, he gradually loses awareness of the world outside and then his body. Once one has lost awareness of his body he is in his mind. But mind is not self, mind is a bundle of thoughts, perceptions and suggestions. Slowly in meditation as one rejects thoughts and keeps focus on what he is meditating, the thoughts disappear and then one is in ‘alone’. In this state one realizes the true nature of self.