Life Is the Present

Each of us has a different life, different ways of being human and experiencing our life. Let’s talk about what life is.  

Whatever is happening is your life. It is not past or future, it is the present. Whatever you are experiencing right now is your life. Being married, not married, being a monk, being a nun, this is life. Maybe you could be one of the people who win the lottery. That is your life. Or maybe you are one of the people who does not win. That is your life. Regardless, whether good conditions or bad conditions, that is your life.  

The question is: Are you enjoying being in your life in this moment? We need to ask ourselves this question: “Am I enjoying this moment, being who I am, and embracing whatever is happening around me?” It is possible that somebody may be dying. That is his or her life. Or maybe somebody is becoming enlightened right now. That is his or her life. Life is the present.  

We must ask this fundamental spiritual as well as philosophical inquiry, “Am I enjoying this life?” This is a very profound inquiry. “Am I enjoying this moment?”  

We may discover that we are not enjoying this life in this very moment. What is the pattern behind that? We are being attached to the past, about pleasant memories, or projecting those grand illusory fantasies into the future. Maybe we are afraid or there is resistance to experiencing what is happening right now. Maybe we are resisting the thoughts, feelings, or sensations that are arising right now. Maybe they seem too detrimental or unpleasant to us. So we are going to the past or the future, not being in the moment, embracing the inner and outer life.  

However, embracing life means surrendering to all conditions, outside and inside, whatever arises. Escapism is the opposite of the sattva, the spiritual courage, because we are running away from samsara, we are running away from reality.  

Being a Bodhisattva is walking towards reality with great courage, appreciation, and joy. A Bodhisattva is somebody who has true spiritual courage, who is completely free from fear and hope.  

Bodhisattvas are unique heroes. Worldly heroes may have courage, but they always have hope and fear. Bodhisattvas always transcend hope and fear because Bodhisattvas perceive everything as a blessing. Everything is an amazing source of wisdom and knowledge. Bodhisattvas do not have fear of life because they realize fear is only a mental projection.  

Bodhisattvas have already awakened to the nature of everything in reality, they do not have a sense of fear and are ready to embrace everything. Also, every time a Bodhisattva goes through life’s challenges, it makes him or her even more compassionate. Situations enhance one’s commitment and practice.

Embrace Life 

Now you can see that our tendency to run away from life comes from being unable to transcend our own fear or resistance. This is the reason.  

So the Bodhisattva’s main commitment to practice is the promise to embrace life. All the principles and precepts of Mahayana can be included in this simple statement: embracing life, whatever may come.  

If you are dying, embrace it. If you are winning the lottery, perhaps that would be easier to embrace. Or if you were enlightened in this moment, perhaps it would be easy to embrace. If somebody is being unfriendly to you right now, embrace that, without any action, without trying to defend yourself. If somebody is really kind to you, embrace that. Embrace every moment.  

Whatever is happening to us is unavoidable reality. We can deny it, we can distract ourselves, but we cannot avoid it. When we are sick, we have to face reality in order to get well. In India, people can pay baksheesh (bribe) for anything, but not for impermanence and reality.  

 We have to go through an amazing change, the way we look at what we believe is happiness, what is good, what is beauty. We have to change completely, because our old perception is based on the dualistic mind or false belief systems, the ego. The ego is the prime factor in samsara, all the tragedies and sorrow we go through. We have to sue the ego, bring it into court, as the culprit for all our suffering. There is no culprit outside of ourselves that we can blame for this suffering. The ego, this one misperception, causes all samsara. Ego is the Pandora’s box.  

The main practice of the Bodhisattva is conquering the ego. Shantideva says if you conquer the enemy from outside, there will always be more enemies. But if you conquer the ego inside, you will be completely victorious.  

Imagine the earth is covered with thorns and we can’t walk it because it damages our feet. Then imagine trying to cover the whole earth with leather so we could travel in comfort. How absurd! It would be impossible! Instead, we only need to wear just enough leather on our own feet, then we can walk the entire earth without mishap.  

Dealing with ourselves, making our own issues the priority, eliminates so much of what is unnecessary. If we try to defeat death, misfortune, sickness, enemies, our perception of bad luck, we will die tired, broken, and totally unsuccessful. We can never defeat them all. We may defeat one but there will always be more.  

But, if we look inwardly and find the root of our resistance to reality, we can defeat the ultimate enemy. Then we will be the victorious one. That is what we call an arhat, conqueror, the one who conquered not outer enemies but inner enemies, the ego. This whole process is about subduing one’s own ego, which is the source of samsara. When we identify ourselves with this ego, we cannot recognize our Buddha essence, the nature of our minds, rigpa. We cannot unfold love and compassion for other beings. As much as we are able to eradicate our identification with ego, we come closer and closer to who we are, which is the authentic realization of love and compassion.

Source: Used with permission from