Wednesday, May 7, 2008

It Takes Just a Moment

This moment—the one before us right here, right now—is a perfect moment.

We forget this sometimes.

We overlook the perfection of each individual moment because of a human delusion. The delusion is this: We think that a perfect moment must be one that satisfies our wishes and meets our expectations. If it doesn’t do those things, then we take it to mean that the moment is imperfect, flawed.

But the truth is that this moment can be nothing but perfect. It is perfect because this moment is the only possible effect resulting from staggering number of interweaving, interconnecting causes leading up to it. This outcome has been ripening and taking shape for a long, long time. Just because we dislike the moment doesn’t mean that it’s not a perfect one.

To use a cartoon-like example: to be crushed by a grand piano falling from an apartment building is an utterly perfect moment, because it follows a relentless and impersonal logic: if you are beneath a heavy, plummeting weight when it crashes to earth, you will certainly be crushed.

The genuinely frightening world would be the one where such immutable laws did not apply.

The truth is this: a lot of perfect moments will displease us enormously. This doesn’t detract from their perfection. A loved one who grows sick due to a mixture of flawed genes, suspect living habits, and environmental factors will make us quite unhappy, but there is still perfection in the fact that sickness grows out of this mixture of circumstances.

It is the inherent unpleasantness of many perfect situations that leads to change, in fact. Disgust with a polluted environment, unhappiness with disease, is what leads to cleaning up the environment and improving our living habits and caring for the ill, and so what could be more perfect than this?

A pretty startling thing happens if we can at any moment set aside our wishes and desires and acknowledge that one moment, any moment, is an utterly perfect one.

The moment you glimpse the inherent perfection of the moment, an enormous amount of tension is released, and an equally enormous amount of energy becomes available to us. You find yourself no longer fighting with the world, no longer disagreeing with it, but simply responding to it. Wanting and hating are replaced by simple clarity. There are no longer any problems, simply situations to which we respond, automatically and intelligently.

There is no starting line for such a quest, no particular path to seek. You can start whenever, wherever you are. You can even start with a moment of hatred or envious desire, because these things, too, are logical and perfect outcomes of myriad causes and preconceptions that have proceeded. And when you stop fighting even these things, they are suddenly exposed for their hollowness. Since they have already happened, they vanish, leaving you only with the next moment waiting for your response.

And if you can simply respond to a perfect moment—any perfect moment—you then may find yourself meeting the next perfect moment, and the next one after that. And the nature of that next moment may be much altered, since it will now be a consequence of a previous moment of understanding and intelligent response.

For those of you who are interested in such things, this train of thought is the essence of tantric philosophy, although the more studied among you will surely recognize that I have greatly simplified a complex system. In one school of Tibetan Buddhism, Dzogchen, this belief is sometimes known as “the Great Perfection.” The premise here is not so much that enlightenment can be achieved through highly disciplined and long-term effort, but rather that enlightenment in inherent is each moment, and our path is simply one of realizing what is already present.

We start, then, with whatever is present, including the experience of suffering. It takes some time to get used to the idea that an unpleasant moment, even a painful moment, may still be a perfect one, but there you have it. If this moment presents us with pain, who are we to say no?

We suffer not because we experience pain, but because we disagree with the nature of things. Another name for this is insanity, the cultivation of delusion.

Awakening isn’t an escape from pain, but developing the willingness to respond to each perfect moment rather than hide from it.

All it takes is a moment.


excavator said...

Thanks, Mercurious. That was a terrific post, and came at a very good time for me.

Glamourpuss said...

I accept your logic, but I'm struggling to find the perfection in this moment, sat, as I am, next to a braying Australian freelancer with a fake laugh who insists on spending her days on the 'phone. God help me.


Lori said...

I wish I had something either very deep or very witty to say.

But I know there is perfection in having neither at this moment.

Thank you for this post, Mercurious.

Anonymous said...

All it takes is a moment and the ability to "set aside our wishes and desires."

Pretty tall order, that one.

G said...

This is a wonderful reflection on the present moment, Mercurious.
That suffering comes not from pain, but from disagreeing with the nature of things is the heart of the Buddha's teachings on the Four Noble Truths. And, yes, this is a form of insanity that all of us fall victim to, but few ever recover from!

G at 'Buddha Space'.