Saturday, August 03, 2013

Some Interesting Quotes about Time, with brief commentary

The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it. (Thich Nhat Hanh)

Spiritual aphorisms with an "if" activity prescribed are notoriously hard to refute.  Because if you don't see it, maybe you are not paying enough attention.  Or the right kind of attention.  Or maybe your attention is actually concentration (Krishnamurti was fond of this response).  The real reason why attentiveness dissolves the underlying emotional state to some extent is quite simple: when you begin to be attentive, you are already less invested in that emotional state.  Then you might be more interested in, through attentiveness, gaining some mystical insight about "Fear" or "Mind" or in simply getting out of that state.

Asking a hurt person to be attentive and thereby experience joy is a form of attention manipulation.  Any person in pain is very aware of his pain.  Not aware as  a practicing meditator perhaps, but he is conscious of it.  Without this awareness, depressed people would not be able to recognize their depression and go to the doctor or to a psychotherapist.

The spiritual notion of "being attentive", or more in the jargon, "to be mindful" is to actually forget about what caused the problem (say, that you were diagnosed with cancer, or that you remembered your dead child), and to focus instead on what's happening inside.  Disciplines like Goenka Vipassana don't even ask you to look at the mind.  In that discipline, you need to start attending to your body sensations as in whether you are sweating or tingling.  I am not joking.

When you practice such attentiveness for a longish time, you develop a sort of emotional immunity where outside events don't really cause an emotional (or tingling) reaction in you.  Closer to Nirvana, in other words.

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment. (Buddha)

It is perhaps a good calming practice at 4am, but otherwise rather bad advice for anyone older than four.

The past has no power over the present moment. (Eckhart Tolle)

It is said that when Eckhart Tolle applied for a mortgage, his credit history came up unsatisfactory and he got a much higher APR than J Krishnamurti.  Then he was forced to take back his words and have J Krishnamurit as a co-signer on the application.

Ask yourself what “problem” you have right now, not next year, tomorrow, or five minutes from now. What is wrong with this moment? (Eckhart Tolle)

It is said that when Eckhart Tolle went to the hospital to get treatment for a mild case of flu, he was turned away as he didn't need it.  After all, at THAT MOMENT he wasn't sneezing.

Can we live so completely that there is no tomorrow for thought to think about? Because time is sorrow.  (J Krishnamurti)

J Krishnamurti didn't need to think about tomorrow because he had quite a trust fund to fall back on.  He gave up the mantle of the World Teacher in 1929, but interestingly, didn't quite give up all the land or the money or his rich friends which he had accumulated due to the charisma around his promise.  He advocated people to give up their boring careers and oppressive families but didn't allocate a portion of his trust fund to them.  Some of the influenced young folks managed to become teachers or trustees at his schools and earned a bit of money repeating and discussing Krishnamurti's sayings ad nauseum.

I have realized that the past and future are real illusions, that they exist in the present, which is what there is and all there is. (Alan Watts)

Alan Watts' says something quite remarkable at first glance.  That the present moment is the only one that exists at the present moment.  No wait, that is a tautology.  This is the attitude of an infant who believes that his mother no longer exists because she went out of sight.

If you don't think about the future, you cannot have one. (John Galsworthy)

This is more true than all the preceding quotes put together.


Anonymous said...

I used to always keep on thinking about the past and worrying about the future. This brought me to a point where it was hard for me to function in life. My health deteriorated because of all the stress that this caused. Then I started meditating and this helped me to a point where I have become functional in life and can endure the normal stresses and strains of life.

Anonymous said...

"Disciplines like Goenka Vipassana don't even ask you to look at the mind. In that discipline, you need to start attending to your body sensations as in whether you are sweating or tingling. I am not joking."

I'm the author of the first comment and I'm familiar with Goenka Vipassana and can see the benefit of attending to body sensations such as sweating or tingling such as when the sweat starts in the palms of hands or in the armpits (it is useful to be attentive enough to be able to distinguish if sweating is due to it being hot or being stressed).

Anonymous said...

Some beginning sentences from Dhammapada:
Phenomena are preceded by the heart, ruled by the heart, made of the heart.
If you speak or act with a corrupted heart, then suffering follows you-- as the wheel of the cart, the track of the ox that pulls it.

From this it seems that Budha is talking of cause and effect and that has time implicit to it.

Sanjay Srivastava said...

I have read your past essays and your journey from Sikhism to New Age to AF to the other extreme where everything spiritual is suspect. I have a few comments to offer:

1) Positive Psychology is relatively recent discipline. It is not a spiritual discipline but if you go through their literature it has lot of commonality esp. with Buddhist meditation practices. Staying in the present etc. is taken as part of common sense mental hygiene. Not surprisingly their research reveals that statistically speaking religious people lead a happier life compared to non religious people.

2) How would you counter Ernest Becker's conclusion that transcendence has to be a key factor in any human culture? Nothing less than transcendence can actually satisfy human beings. That alone explains why all cultures without exception have developed some sort of religion. Human beings have an insatiable yearning for transcendence.

3) I read an interesting interview of Urdu author Shamsur Rehman Farouqi where the author says that his mind rejects all paths that reject life. Yet on emotional grounds he finds the pull of Sufism irresistible. Many of us might be facing this dichotomy.