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Jan 23, 2014

Live in the Present Moment, Live in Reality

(From The Munificent Nature of Dhamma and other articles in Vipassana Research Institute newsletters) 
Idaṃ pure cittamacāri cārikaṃ,
yenicchakaṃ yatthakāmaṃ yathāsukhaṃ.
Tadajjahaṃ niggahessāmi yoniso,
hatthippabhinnaṃ viya aṃkusaggaho.
This mind that wanders wherever it wishes, desires, wherever it sees pleasure, I will first make it steadfast. I will train it thoroughly like a mahout with a goad trains a wild elephant.
Dhammapada 326

To live in the present moment is to live in reality. Moments that have passed are no longer real, only memory. Similarly, moments yet to come are unreal; you can only have expectations, fears and hopes of the future.

Living in the present moment means to be fully aware of whatever you experience at this very moment, now - by objectively observing the reality within yourself.

Pleasant, unpleasant memories and hopes, insecurity, fears of the future takes you away from reality of the present moment. This wandering habit pattern of the mind causes problems.

A life not lived in reality, i.e, in the present, is a life of delusion. Delusions defile the mind, causing difficulties in life. 

The wandering, impure mind leads to suffering anxiety, tension, dissatisfaction and frustration.

Strong determined efforts are needed to change this habit pattern of the mind. Stop the mind constantly wandering into the past or future. You train your own mind to remain in reality of the present.

A Vipassana meditator become aware how much the mind rolls in thoughts – past or future. Thoughts are agreeable or disagreeable. You  relish agreeable thoughts, disagreeable thoughts causes suffering. But a Vipassana meditator is with reality when the mind is with sensations, or the natural breath - not with the mind wandering in thoughts.

Sometimes before a thought is completed, another thought arises. Before that thought is completed, a third thought arises. Thoughts arise without sequence or meaning.

An example: 
Out of compassion, someone serves food to a mentally ill person who is very hungry. He accepts the food and feels very happy. But before he eats, he thinks -"I am in the bathroom, and this is a cake of soap," and he rubs the food over his body. Then another thought arises-"This person before me has come to kill me. Let me kill him first. How can I kill him? These are hand-bombs..." So he throws the food. No sane sequence of thoughts. No reality. Such a person is called mad.

A Vipassana meditator realizes how a wandering mind too suffers from a similar mad habit pattern of rolling randomly in thoughts of past or future – generating craving or aversion, and becoming restless, agitated, unhappy. 

The wonderful practice of Vipassana enables us to live in the present moment. 

Be master of this present moment, and be master of your future. 

Attā hi attano nātho, attā hi attano gati. 
You are your own master, you make your own future

Every thought arises with a sensation in the body, a pleasant or unpleasant bio-chemical reaction. The deepest part of the mind – where conditioning takes root – is constantly reacting to these sensations, and has nothing to do with objects in contact with sense organs.

By bare observation of sensations, without blindly reacting with craving and aversion, the mind starts getting purified at the deepest level. 

There is no more ego ' I ' of the observer, only the observed. Only the phenomena of mind-matter, at level of sensations, arising, passing away. 

This is Vipassana - the Buddha’s unique, infinitely beneficial discovery: blindly reacting to bodily sensations is real cause of our suffering, not external objects, persons, or happenings. The real cause of happiness or misery is within, not outside.

Vipassana is objective awareness of constantly changing bodily sensations, from moment to moment. 

By experiencing this inner reality of sensations arising, passing away, Vipassana trains us to be aware – with equanimity - of the true, impermanent nature of things, every moment. This is  experiencing impermanence or anicca (*), the practice of Vipassana.

For a relative beginner of Vipassana, there may be only a few moments of remaining purely in the present, not rolling in thoughts of past or future. The mind is fully concentrated in the truth of the present moment – at the level of physical sensations. No delusion, no ignorance. 

A moment of purity from Vipassana practice has a strong impact on old impurities accumulated in deeper levels of the mind. Accumulated impurities and this moment of purity come in explosive contact as negative and positive forces - like eruption of a volcano within. As a result, some deep-rooted impurities may surface as various physical or mental discomforts - such as pain in the legs or in the head, or fear or agitation. What seems a problem is actually signs of progress in meditation. When cutting open an abscess, pus is bound to surface. Similarly, during this Vipassana surgery of the mind, some underlying pus is coming out of the wound. Although unpleasant, this is the only way to get rid of the pus, to remove impurities that for long are cause of one's misery.

By working correctly - exactly according to instructions received during a residential Vipassana course - initial difficulties gradually fade away. 

Vipassana is training for the mind to be balanced in all situations. Equanimity is purity. And purity of the mind is real happiness in life.

With longer periods of continuous awareness of sensations with equanimity, the Vipassana practitioner gradually becomes free from fears caused by attachments, lust, craving for sensual pleasures. You free yourself from reacting to memories of the past and anxieties of the future. Gradually, the mind becomes calm, peaceful and pure - by living in this moment.

Living in the present moment, by observing impermanence of sensations, is living without fear, anxiety.

This present moment is nothing but a child of past moments. Whatever we are now, at this present moment, is nothing but sum total and result of our accumulated past actions, or kamma.

Whatever one has done in the past is done. Start again.

Become master of the present moment. Try not to generate a single moment that brings misery. 

The future is child of the present moment. When the present moment is full of wisdom, the future will be full of happiness.

For the mind to be still, in the present moment, the body has to be perfectly still during Vipassana practice. No small, impulsive movements of the body. 

Develop this mastery of the present moment, by objectively observing sensations arising and passing away, moment to moment. 

The mind has to be fully attentive to subtler sensations continuously,  their arising and passing away, without interruption of thoughts, for longer periods. This is Vipassana. 

This does not mean that Vipassana practice makes you forget the past completely or lose capacity to plan for the future. Oh no! After one learns this art of living in the present, you can easily recall things of the past consciously, when needed, and more effectively make wiser decisions about the future.

With deeper peace and happiness through Vipassana practice, we feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude.... but this gratitude is true gratitude only when one works hard to acquire the same qualities of purity and compassion. Such a practical gratitude does not become blind devotion, blind belief, nor turn into bondage; it becomes a factor of enlightenment. This factor of enlightenment makes the mind tender, which greatly helps in further process of purification through Vipassana.

You become not only happier and more peaceful, but also become an instrument for serving others in Dhamma, so others too can work for their own happiness.

May the munificent, benevolent, universal nature of Vipassana practice reach all suffering beings, thereby bringing peace, happiness and liberation.

May all beings be happy!