Enjoy the power of now!
We were at a house concert recently. Rajasthani folk singers from Barmer, who are called Manganiyars, were performing. It was a privilege to listen to them live, at such close quarters. A lady sat next to me. She kept requesting the singers to sing a song of Reshma’s (a Pakistani folk singer who was born near Bikaner, Rajasthan), particularly, the number Lambi Judaai from the film Hero (Subash Ghai, 1983, Laxmikant Pyarelal). The Manganiyars politely declined to sing the song requested by the lady saying they don’t sing film songs. But the lady kept extolling Reshma’s virtues – she started to discuss Reshma’s voice, the music of Hero and the haunting impact the Lambi Judaai song left on the listener. All this, even as the Manganiyars went on to perform more native songs from their community. The lady’s banter was very distracting for me. So I moved away from her and immersed myself in the Manganiyars’ performance. A few songs later, I tried to check on the lady. She was still singing paeans in Reshma’s praise. She was simply not present in the Manganiyars’ concert!
I found a very important spiritual takeaway from the lady’s behavior. She is, to me, but a metaphor. She reminds us that we are all often never present in our nows. Our human mind thrives only in the past or in the future. Which is why it drags us back to the past – which is dead, which is over – or pulls us into imagining a future – that is still unborn, yet to arrive. But Life is always happening in the present moment, in the now. So, when we obey the mind, we are missing living in the moment. We are missing the beauty and magic of Life. This is what was happening to the lady – she was missing the scintillating, live performance of the Manganiyars, she was clinging on to Reshma and to Lambi Judaai – not that they are bad memories, but in the present moment, they were clearly irrelevant!
In Buddhism, the mind is referred to as the Monkey Mind. This is to emphasize the point that there is a constant churn of thoughts, most of them unsettling in nature, that is happening in the undisciplined mind. With a mind that is steeped in anger, grief, guilt, fear, anxiety, worry and such wasteful, debilitating thoughts, where is the opportunity to live in the moment? One Buddhist scripture quotes the Buddha even describing the mind thus: “The human mind is like a drunken monkey that has been stung by a bee.” This is so apt. So powerful a metaphor that I can totally relate to.
The mind is powerless in the present. So, when you are trying to relax, for instance, watching TV or a sunset, the mind will remind you of a sunset that you watched with your girlfriend. And your thoughts will go to a time in the past that is so painful because your girlfriend and you had a messy break-up. Or it will drag you into the future, to a worry about some unpaid bills and the lack of cash to meet them – which includes not being able to pay for your DTH TV connection coming due next week! When your mind wanders, it will stop being in the present. So will you. Which is why all of us are leading incomplete lives – lost in mourning about the past or worrying incessantly about the future. This is why we suffer.
I have, over time and consistent practice, learnt to tame the drunken monkeys in my mind. To expect thoughts – the drunken monkeys – not to arise in your mind is futile. As long as you are alive your mind will be churning out thoughts. Intelligent living is the ability to tame the drunken monkeys and make them powerless by staying in the present. This then is the state of no-mind. We must try to be in this state for as long as possible each day. That’s the only way to not be held hostage by the past or be fearful of the future. That is the only way to live in the now!