How refreshing, the whinny of a packhorse
Unloaded of everything!
As you begin to enter non-duality, you will see that the ideas you held to be self-evident in the past are . . . well, actually bordering on insanity. If we define insanity as ‘thinking that the unreal is real’ (as in the case of a person insisting that a pink elephant is running down the street), then we will soon see that our everyday concepts are just as crazy. We can use our concepts to enrich our lives, but we certainly shouldn’t take them seriously. Just as a ‘crazy’ person might think that your couch is a hippopotamus, so you will see that the idea of ‘tomorrow’ is just as crazy.
Your Couch is a Hippopotamus?
I once heard a teacher of non-dualism make a distinction between ‘the present’ and the ‘Now’. At the time I thought that was pretty dualistic of him – I mean, why divide the world into more concepts? After all, aren’t we trying to pull the carpet out from under our conceptualization?
But concepts aren’t bad in themselves. They’re only bad when we take them for reality, and give them sanctity. In fact, concepts can help our conceptual minds to break out of conceptualization – as long as we remember that they are only concepts, and use them to break down the foundations of our delusion.
I’ve now come to use the distinction between ‘present’ and ‘Now’ in my own life.
When I was young, I heard it said that the meaning of Zen was to be present. I’d spend great amounts of time trying not to dwell in the past, and trying not to think of the future too much. After all, I could tell the difference between when I was paying attention in class and when I was daydreaming about the date I had after school. Thus it was clear – being ‘present’ – the heart of Zen, meant that all I had to do was somehow stop my mind from thinking about the future or past. But no matter how hard I tried, I always failed. My mind simply wandered, and I lived in a chronic sense of frustration because I was unable to stay present!
If only I had realized that I had made up ‘past’ and ‘future’ in the first place!
The ‘present’ is an invention of the human mind. It’s a concept, and displays all the attributes of a concept – it has opposites, it confounds the mind when you think about it too deeply, and it only appears to be a separate entity, distinct from the rest of the world.
You see, when we try to be ‘present’, we are buying into the concept of present. And with the concept of ‘present’ naturally follows the concept of a past and a future. These are all things that don’t exist, which we’d see clearly if we were simply in the Now.
But as soon as we buy into the concept, then we begin the battle of trying to favor one portion of the concept over another – here arises preference and longing. We want to be in the present instead of the future or past, and we therefore battle to keep our wandering mind focused. This is exactly as if we had a couch and were insisting that it was our pet hippo. It is that ludicrous. We ignore reality (that we are in the Now right now, whether we want to be or not, and regardless of what we’re thinking), and overlay it with an imagination. Now we are confronted with the problems of feeding our couch, which we are imagining is a hippo, and getting it water to bathe in, and dealing with its health problems. All the while we fail to see that it’s really a couch, and that all of our hippo problems exist only because we are imagining that the couch is something other than what it is.
In the same way, all our problems with trying to be present, and carrying patterns from the past, and worrying about the future, exist only because we are imagining that reality is something other than what it is.
The Now can be directly perceived. There is nothing to believe in or accept. The fact is that you can’t help but be in the Now, because it’s all that there is.
Of course, you are free within the Now to imagine that you’re not within the Now. To imagine that you can dwell in the past or the present or the future.
To create a hippo out of your couch.