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Monday, June 6, 2011

Dwelling in the present moment

I came across the following quote by Joseph Campbell some time ago and was really intrigued by it.

I don't believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive. 

What did Campbell mean by “the experience of being alive”? Though definitely I can't be sure about what he meant, if I meet him on this, I figure it has to do with what Thich Nhat Hanh called “making true contact with life”, and “to encounter life”.

Now, flipping the coin, how does it look like not to have “the experience of being alive”? Is it similar to being so lost in thoughts that we “pass through a forest of sandalwood trees without ever really seeing one tree”, according to Buddha's analogy?

And on this subject, it's occurred to me how wonderfully enlightening Buddha's explanations on dwelling in the present moment:
He is aware of what is going on in the present moment, what is going on in his body, feelings, mind and objects of mind. He knows how to look deeply at things in the present moment. He does not pursue the past nor lose himself in the future, because the past is no longer and the future has not yet come. If we lose the present moment, we lose life.

(Buddha, the “Sutra on Knowing the Better Way to Live Alone” as told by Thich Nhat Hanh in “Old Path White Clouds”)

On Amazon
I don't know if the last sentence was able to call your attention:
If we lose the present moment, we lose life”. For me, I felt quite a little uneasy; and it was somewhat frightening as well.

A few sentences of direct and simple prose but so deep and wondrously enlightening.

And may I end this short post with a poem for those of us who are mesmerized by poetry?


Do not pursue the past
Do not lose yourself in the future.
The past is no longer is.
The future has not yet come.
Looking deeply at life as it is
in the very here and now,
the practitioner dwells
in stability and freedom.
We must be diligent today.
To wait until tomorrow is too late.
Death comes unexpectedly.
How can we bargain with it?
The sage calls a person who knows
how to dwell in mindfulness
night and day
'one who knows
the better way to live alone'.

(Buddha, as told by Thich Nhat Hanh in “Old Path White Clouds”)

I'll definitely return to this enlightening book in the next post or so. My feeling after reading this book is amazingly different from any other book. Indeed, the book's apparently too exalting comment in the back-cover just does justice to its content:
Old Path White Clouds is destined to become a classic of religious literature
And I agree, now that I've read it.

Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha at Amazon

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