Living in the Present
Sri N. Ananthanarayanan
This article is from the book What The River Has Taught Me.
A very distinguished Indian, now no more, had once gone to London to attend a Royal function. On his return to India, while narrating his experiences to friends, he is said to have remarked: “Ar-rhey! They say, ‘Queen! Queen! Queen!’. What man! The queen is just like any other woman”. Even so, everyone says, “New Year! New Year! New Year!”. What New Year?! It is like every other year. For that matter, why only the new year? Each fresh month is a new month. Each week, each day, each hour, when it is born, is new too. Why, each fresh moment is a new moment. Live every moment fully and well. Live in the present.
Time is but a concept. Past, present and future are but man-made notions, concepts of convenience invented by man for the purpose of Vyavahara or worldly dealings. There is no past apart from the present. Dead present becomes the past, though in common usage we refer to the dead past. The past is never dead. It is the present which, when it dies, becomes the past like man who, when he dies, becomes a corpse. Likewise, the future too has no existence apart from the present. The future is only the yet-to-be-born present. The future is only the present in embryo. The truth of the matter is: there is present only. Present is life. Present is existence. Present is consciousness.
Many waste their time endlessly brooding over the past and day-dreaming about the future. And in the process they miss the present. How sad! Thinking over past mistakes, you lose the joy of the present as well. Building castles in the air about the future–castles which may never materialise–you let go God-given opportunities for living a rich life in the present.
Squeeze the maximum out of your life by living in the present, by living each moment. Face the present boldly with faith in God and courage in your heart. Squeeze the maximum out of each moment by living it. Get the maximum essence out of life by living concentratedly each God-given moment. Have you ever seen little boys sucking the pulp and juice out of a ripe mango? They will not leave a grain of pulp or a drop of juice. Such should be your effort in drawing the maximum blessings out of each moment of your earthly existence.
The present is there with you now. The same cannot be said about the future. You may or may not be. Even if you continue to be alive, you may not be healthy in the future. You may lose a limb or two in some accident, or go blind, or go deaf. Who knows? God forbid but who knows? Is it not prudence, then, that when God has given you a healthy body, an intelligent mind and all comforts, you should utilise time well, not just well but most profitably, in a manner beneficial to yourself as well as to those around you?
The man who declared, “Give me health and a day and I shall make the pomp of emperors ridiculous” apparently knew very well the secret of living in the present. Living in the present implies having your priorities in proper order and tackling the foremost items with all the resources at your disposal, throwing yourself body, mind and soul into the task on hand, forgetting the past and the future.
Little children always live in the present. No matter what they may be doing, their entire attention is on that. They may be eating or they may be playing; they may be watching a ladybird with intense curiosity or they may be chasing a dog lustily–they are totally involved. They are intensely intertwined with life in the present. Little children forget the past and ignore the future. Can we not live like little children?
You are out on a walk and the scenery is breathtaking. The air is crisp and clear. The sky is blue with not a speck of cloud or mist or haze. The birds are calling, chirping, twittering. The trees, the hills–all is green and fine. Enjoy it all–now where you are–instead of planning for the future and dreaming about the dead past. Give yourself over to the sights and sounds. Breathe in the fresh mountain air consciously. Bask in the sun’s rays. Get attuned to the bird’s songs and soak yourself in nature. Forget the rest. Just forget. That is living in the present.
You are lightly asleep. The Satsang music on the loudspeaker wakes you up:
“Sri Krishna Govinda Hare Murare,
Hey Natha Narayana Vasudeva!”
The Nama Sankirtan is sweet, inspiring, soul-satisfying. All right. Shake off the drowsiness at once and sit up and get in tune with the Kirtan Dhvani. Give your mind over to Sri Krishna. Visualise Him. Then and there become full of Bhakti-Bhav. Assume a prayerful attitude. Imagine yourself kneeling before Him and join-in in the singing from your room itself, from your bed itself. Those five minutes or ten minutes are marvellously well spent, are fully lived. That is living in the present.
When you are doing one thing, do not think of another thing. It is the surest way to do everything badly and slovenly. If you are at the stove heating milk and if you allow the mind to wander over past and future, the milk will boil over. If you have spent a full fifteen minutes to make a good cup of coffee, and as you put the cup to your lips your mind goes astray into regions wild, you would have drunk the coffee without ever knowing that you did so. And in the process miss that refreshing feeling which you would have otherwise gained!
Or, let us suppose you are trying to do Mayurasan, the Peacock Pose, or even actually doing it and your mind takes a trip elsewhere. What happens? In a jiffy, you nose-dive into your Yoga mat.
Gurudev tells us the beautiful story of Krishna and Kamala. Krishna and Kamala were husband and wife. They were lying together on the same cot. “If I get a baby, where will I put it?” asked Kamala. “I will make space” said Krishna and moved a little to the side. “If I get a second child, what will we do?” asked the girl. “No problem” said Krishna and moved a little more to the side. “And should I get a third kid?” Kamala asked questioningly. “So what?” said Krishna and moved a little more to the side and fell down with a thud and sprained his ankle. It is a humorous story, but it carries a lesson.
Live in the present. Sri Krishna did not ask Arjuna to brood over the causes that led to the battle of Kurukshetra. Nor did He ask Arjuna to think about the future should he win or lose the battle. He pointedly told Arjuna to fight the battle that faced him, on the spot and with full concentration.
Fighting the battle means doing our Dharma, doing our duty. Doing our duties as they present themselves to us from day to day, from hour to hour, without thought of past or future is the highest Yoga. It is the Yoga of the Bhagavad Gita. Gurudev practised this Yoga with every breath of his life. And even today, his illustrious disciples are practising this Yoga with great devotion and dedication. May we follow in their footsteps and make our lives blessed.