Part XXIX – Living
in the Present
We can live only in the present. We cannot
live in the past, since the past is always gone.
The future has not yet come. The present alone
is given for us on a silver plate to act in and
to enjoy. How big is the present? The present
is a thin line where the past meets the future.
The gap can be reduced as small as possible -
a second, a micro- second, a nano-second or a
pico-second – ultimately the time concept
itself is dissolved to the very present where
we can live or accomplish and where the very
life exists. There is no time in the present.
But that is where we spend all our lives. In
the present, what is there is only our presence – the
very life that we are; that, because of which,
we say we are ‘beings’, the existent
conscious beings that we are; where the dynamic
life exists not as a concept in the future and
not as memory of the past, but as the very existent-conscious-being
that we are.
That is the living present where the action
is; where the acting itself reduces to being
or where acting and being merge into one. In
the present we transcend time itself. There is
an objective time for things to be done and things
that were completed and for the on-going things – but
that is only transactional time or objective
time for transactional purposes, just as the
reality that we assign to objects is only for
the purpose of transaction.
Krishna, in declaring the law of action and
results, essentially says that we are only given
a choice to act (karmanyeva adhikAraste) but
not in framing the results (mA phaleShu kadAchana).
This is because we can only act in the present
and the results are always in the future. A karma
yogi therefore lives in the present ; the present
is not a means for the future, which never comes
- the present is the end in itself. Unfortunately
we do not live in the present – that is
the source of our bondage. We drag the past into
the present or we dream about the future. If
we examine every action, every thought, it either
concerns the past or the future. Our ego itself
is based on these two concepts and has very little
existence in the present.
The bio-data about each individual is about
what he has accomplished in the past and what
he wants to do in the future. There is nothing
wrong with this. The only problem is that, in
the process, we miss the very present where the
whole action is. For us, the present is only
a means to accomplish or to gain something in
the future but very rarely the end in itself.
On the other hand, when we are doing an inspired
action, the very acting becomes an end in itself – that
is living a dynamic life; a dynamic present where
the time concept itself is transcended. During
an inspired action, one is not conscious of time.
Time flies. That state of being becomes a transcendental
living or meditative living where one does not
care what happens – the future takes care
of itself. In fact, the future never comes. What
is there is only the present – a dynamic
present where the Lord resides, where the life
is, where conscious-existence exists. That is
Surrendering to the present becomes a key to
self-realization. Many sAdhaka-s get trapped
in this conceptualization of the future and conceptualization
of even self-realization. I want to realize one
day or I am going to become realized soon – the
wanting mind never ceases to want and this is
always a future expectation. Vedanta clearly
declares that you can only realize NOW (ehaiva – right
now and right here) – where there is no
space or time, since both are concepts in the
mind. Longing for something in the future itself
becomes an obstacle for self-realization, since
the longing mind or wanting mind is the ego-based
mind which assumes I do not have what I want
and I am going to get what I want. For a longing
mind, the present is only a means to an end and
not an end in itself. Life is in the living present
and not in the dead past or in an unborn future.
How to live in the present is the essence of
yoga shAstra, where the surrendering or witnessing
presence is the key to freedom from the past
and future or freedom from ego.
As we analyzed earlier, the ego bases its firm
existence in the memories of the past and expectations
for the future. It has little to do with anything
in the present other than as a means for an end
in the future. Ego therefore is centered on the
wanting mind or longing mind. The wanting mind
never stops wanting regardless of what it has
gained, since it always sees itself as incomplete.
To reach fullness or infiniteness is the very
goal in life. To be fulfilled or longing for
self-realization becomes an obstacle to self-realization.
This is the final hurdle a seeker has to go through
during his spiritual journey. This is expressed
as ‘I want to meditate’ or ‘I
want to take up saMnyAsa or renunciation’ or ‘I
want to withdraw myself’ etc. These are
all forms of expression the ego assumes in wanting
to realize. In fact, no ego will be able to achieve
self-realization, since the very self-realization
involves transcendence of the ego, which lives
in the past and future. Any attempt to eliminate
ego itself crystallizes ego in a different form.
The only way to eliminate ego is to observe its
action in the present. This in Vedanta is called ‘sAkShi
bhAva’ – the attitude of a witnessing
agent. Witnessing is a present action and in
fact it is an actionless action. In the process,
one lives in the present where ego has no place.
What is there is only ‘I am’ or from
the bhakti point, what is there is the presence
of the Lord.
Proceed to the next