All too often we ‘live’---if you can call it living---in either the past or the future. We all know that is not the way to live, but we all do it. Many books have been written in recent years about the importance of living in the now … so many books that you would think it is a new idea. It’s not. All the great religious teachers spoke of the importance of living in the now, as did others such as Seneca and Marcus Aurelius. I love these words from Seneca:
Marcus Aurelius had much to say about the importance of living in the present moment. He wrote, ‘When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.’ He also gave us this wonderful advice: ‘Confine yourself to the present.’ Yes, more than half of our problems would vanish---indeed, die from atrophy on the altar of life---if only we confined ourselves to the present.
Layman P'ang (Páng Jūshì [Ch]; Hōkoji [Jp]) (740–808) [pictured left] was a highly respected lay Buddhist monk in the Chinese Chán (Zen) tradition. A bureaucrat, he worked for the Chinese government of the day. He studied with a Zen teacher named Shítóu Xīqiān (Sekitō Kisen [Jp]). It is written that Shítóu asked of Layman P’ang, ‘’ P’ang is said to have replied, ‘My daily activities,’ by which he meant activities such as d
P’ang wrote much on the subject of ‘empty-mindedness,’ that is, on the need to develop what I call ‘a mindful mind of no-mind.’ Sounds goobligook? Well, in a way it is. You see, what we are talking about is a state of mind that is transrational. Anyone who meditates regularly will know what I am talking about. Listen to these words of P’ang:
The past is already past.
An ‘empty mind’ is not a dull or unintelligent mind. It is a mind that it so open to whatever be the content of the experience of life from one moment to the next it has penetrated the very core and essence of be-ing-ness. It is a mind that contains no 'shoulds' or 'oughts,' that is, beliefs and misbeliefs about how life ought to be. It is a mind that, so far as is possible, is free of all conditioning. In a previous post I wrote about the ‘empty mind’:
It does not mean the absence of mind, or absentmindedness, but rather a mind which is non-discriminating, uncoloured, fluid, unbound and free from deluded thought ... indeed, a mind where there is no conditioned thinking, desiring or controlling ... a spontaneous and detached state of mind characterized by inward silence and no knowing awareness ... a mind which effortlessly thinks what it thinks ... without there being any interference (judgment, analysis, etc) by some 'thinker' or 'ego' within the mind.
Here’s some more wisdom from Layman P’ang:
My daily activities are not unusual,
That’s what is meant by an empty mind.
So, what are you waiting for? Go empty your mind.
Calligraphy [below]: Mushin (empty mind).