Free Press Journal

Can the human mind ever live in the present moment?

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Past impressions create roadblocks in our physical and metaphysical advancement, writes RAVI VALLURI.

Romance was in the air as India attained freedom from the British yoke. The period was 1950s as India embarked upon the socialistic pattern of to revive the country which inherited an impecunious economy.

Two bright students from Coastal Andhra landed in a rain washed Delhi University to pursue their dreams. They were moonstruck at the sight of Luytens Delhi, Connaught Circus and were of course treated to the customary ragging.


The strapping youngsters were apprehensive and anxious as to what the future bode for them and were simultaneously reminiscing about the sylvan grasslands of Andhra Pradesh.

 In order to remain  connected  with  their  past, they made recurrent  trips to the New Delhi Railway Station to receive students arriving in droves from their state and revive those nostalgic moments. Why it is repetitively said, “Those good old days!” In one stroke we send a signal to our Universe that the present is not congenial. The Universe in turn will resound with an antipathetic response. This is not conducive or healthy for the mind.

As Buddha says, ‘The mind is everything. What you think you become.’ If we live in the past we keep fretting and fuming about the missed opportunities and those past impressions create roadblocks in our physical and metaphysical advancement.

On completion of their studies, the more aspiring one stayed back and the less enterprising returned home. The person in Delhi
aspired to be a civil servant like his more illustrious siblings and their children. But destiny had carved out its own plan. His friends and acquaintances qualified for the coveted job, a sinecure that eluded him. So the mind became envious of his siblings, their children and friends and started implanting his failed mission upon his children much to their discomfiture. They were impelled to fulfil the dreams and passions of their covetous father.

Buddha further says.’ Do not dwell in the past; do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.’

How does one reach that state of Present Moment? Before dwelling on some techniques, it will be gripping to read a fascinating Buddhist parable.

One afternoon a Buddhist monk was carrying a bucket filled with water in a dense forest. Suddenly he heard a rustle. It was a tiger, smacking its lips and intently looking at the potential prey. The monk ran for his life, with the tiger in pursuit. The monk reached a precipice and had a choice to make, either be devoured by the ferocious tiger or jump off the cliff. Death stared in his face. The monk jumped and fortuitously clung on to a branch of a strawberry tree. He ate the strawberry considering it to be his last meal and thoroughly relished it. The sweetness, the texture all were partaken with total concentration at ground zero. The monk had never had such a meal, as he was absolutely in the present moment.

A simple yet profound technique of Sadhana is to be a witness to all the actions and activity which take place. The actor in us becomes the spectator too. This is what is espoused in the esoteric philosophy of Ashtavakra Gita (a classic dialogue between King Janaka – who himself was a Raj Rishi and the sage Ashtavakra).

But this erudite technique demands a thorough examination of the human mind.

The ancient breathing and meditation technique of Vipassana is yet another method which enables an individual or a seeker to transmute or metamorphose the mind to the present moment. In the silence, an individual finds several answers to his botheration.

The Art of Living, through the Happiness Programme and the Advanced Meditation technique also attempts to quieten the mind. The fulcrum of both these programmes is the unique breathing technique of Sudarshan Kriya. The rhythmic breathing pattern when practised unfailingly purges the mind of avarice, passions, greed, jealousy and unfulfilled desires.

Pranayama, Yoga and Meditation are all steps to achieve the objective of culturing the mind and transforming it to the present moment. It enables to cultivate right attitude.

‘Happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes’, writes Hugh Dower.

Any individual, householder or a seeker needs to inculcate habits of equanimity, equilibrium and equipoise to remain calm, whatever be the circumstance or situation to be contended and remain in the present moment.

The protagonist who stayed back in Delhi could fulfil his dreams only partially. His son did qualify for the civil services. But could not join the service of his choice; this was due to excessive pressure applied by family members already in the elite services. Consequently he fell prey to alcoholism.

 Perhaps it was because both father and son were not grateful to the Universe and did not adhere to the Law of Gratefulness. Thus lives were ruined. All plans and strategies go astray when we do not follow the universal commands – feeling abundance, feeling blessed and feeling grateful in life. These three attributes are the cornerstones in converting a recalcitrant mind to be in the present moment.

Meanwhile the friend who returned back home did not lose his way in the sands of time. He became a successful trade union leader and politician, taking one step at a time and living in the present.

‘Life is one big road with lots of signs. So when you are riding through the ruts don’t complicate your mind. Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy. Don’t burry your thoughts, put your vision to reality. Wake up and live’, sang Bob Marley.