In the Bhaddekaratta Sutra, Sakyamuni (the historical Buddha) exhorted his monks to live in the present. Recently, Toshiyori lost an old friend whose life was one of perpetual yearning for the past. He refused to accept that the past had vanished forever, and would never be again. Consequently, his life was one of continual anguish.
In a previous Leaf, Toshiyori wrote about the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair, with its “World of Tomorrow” theme. He believed in the prediction of “power too cheap to meter,” without realizing that the wealthy corporations which profit from the sale of energy will NEVER willingly allow such a future. It was only after Toshiyori realized this that he commenced to live in the present.
This moment is all we have, or ever will have. The past is gone, and the future never comes. We are compelled to live now, or not at all.
Living “in the moment” is much more difficult today than it was in Sakyamuni’s time, as our world is filled with myriad distractions unknown 2,500 years ago. For example, Toshiyori recently observed two friends seated near one another without the slightest interaction. Both were completely absorbed in looking at various displays on their i-phones. To what extent were they “in the moment”?
Greek philosopher Socrates is alleged to have said, “The unexamined life is not worth living” and “Know thyself.” But, if we are surfing the internet, absorbed in social media, watching television, or listening to an MP3 player, we are in fact — in Sakyamuni’s words — being “swept away by the present.”
Particularly in northern climes (as also, of course, among aging populations) it is not uncommon today to find that anywhere from a quarter to almost a third of all domiciles are occupied by one person. It seems reasonable to expect that most of these individuals would be aware that they are by no means totally “independent.” For, their continued existence is obviously contingent upon the work of countless others: Farmers, truck drivers, clerks, mechanics, engineers, miners, doctors, dentists. and so on. Clearly, even though we may live alone, we are a part of the universal web; without the stones or grass under our feet, and the sun or clouds over our heads, we would not be here. Accordingly, it would appear likely that the majority is aware of some degree of indebtedness to the web. Few can contribute much, but all can give a little. Nor need our donation necessarily be financial. The Buddhadharma speaks of four types of giving: 1. Material (offering money, food, clothing, and/or medicine); 2. Security (offering protection); 3. Teaching (offering insight into the Buddhadharma); 4. Love (offering benevolence).
In the American penal system, “solitary confinement” is regarded as a severe punishment, and many people — apparently craving distraction — seem to dread silence. It is Toshiyori’s view that we should welcome the rare moments of solitude and quiet which modern life affords, and in such times seek to discover our true “selves.” For, the unexamined life is a wasted life, and a life squandered in pleasurable distractions can scarcely be said to have been lived at all.