The light of our individual consciousness passes through the film of deep rooted past memories (Vaasnaas, tendencies, dispositions, undigested desires, etc.) and throws images on the screen of our brain. Because of the conditioned or deluded state of our brain, what we perceive is distorted and tarnished by the feelings of likes and dislikes.
Since all memories are in the transient mind, what is remembered cannot be Real. The changeless Reality is in the eternity of the “Now”, not in the memories of yesterday or the worry of tomorrow.
In this regard, the injunction in Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) is very succinct — don’t dwell on the past, live in the present, explore better options now, improve the thinking (Soch-ਸੋਚ) by learning Giaan (Wisdom), and future will take care itself.
- ਜੋ ਕਿਛੁ ਕਰਹਿ ਸੋਈ ਅਬ ਸਾਰੁ ॥: Whatever you have to do – now is the best time to do it (sggs 1159).
- ਸੁਣਿ ਮਨ ਮਿਤ੍ਰ ਪਿਆਰਿਆ ਮਿਲੁ ਵੇਲਾ ਹੈ ਏਹ ॥: Listen, O my mind, my friend and darling: now is the time to meet (your Mool). (sggs 20).
- ਆਗਾਹਾ ਕੂ ਤ੍ਰਾਘਿ ਪਿਛਾ ਫੇਰਿ ਨ ਮੁਹਡੜਾ॥: Look ahead; don’t turn your face backward (sggs 1096).
- ਵਤ ਲਗੀ ਸਚੇ ਨਾਮ ਕੀ ਜੋ ਬੀਜੇ ਸੋ ਖਾਇ ॥: The opportune time to sow the True Naam (Giaan or Wisdom) has arrived. He who sows it will eat its fruit (sggs 321).
The sense of time-space-causation arises when the illusioned mind engrossed in “Parpanch” (i.e., duality, affairs of this fleeting material world, deception, ostentation, trickery…) is in movement from past to future. In other words, the illusion of time-space-causation comes into being only if we hold on to the memory of the past and the future. The moment our mind stops intermingling between these two, the illusion of time ceases to be. The only Truth is the eternity of the present moment. It’s called by many names in the Gurbani such as “Ik Shinn”, “Ik Khinn”, “Ek Khinaa”, “Ik Pall”, “Ek Palak”; “Abb”, “Ih Velaa”, “Vatt”, etc. Whosoever keeps his consciousness focused unto this eternity of the present moment (or NOW), day and night, becomes liberated while alive (Jeevanmukta).
But the phantom of the compulsive and instinctive mind tries to live in the past or the future and makes everything look like permanent — from our pains, children and spouses to our dogs and cats…
The transient nature of all phenomena is a universal truth. The Gurbani asks us to be mindful of this universal truth. That is, the impermanence of everything we see.
- ਦ੍ਰਿਸਟਿਮਾਨ ਹੈ ਸਗਲ ਮਿਥੇਨਾ ॥: All that is seen is an illusion (sggs 1083).
However, a doubt-ridden (Bharam) mind objects to the truth that the nature of all phenomena is transient. As a consequent of this faulty thinking, we cause ourselves to suffer when we try to cling to what’s fleeting and make it permanent. “Why it is like this?”. Or, “Why it is not like this?”. Or, “Only if it was like this.” Thus the list of complains goes on and on.
There must be a sound reason as to why the Gurbani time and again reminds us of the temporary nature of everything we see in this world!
For one, understanding impermanence of people and things helps us appreciate the time we spend with people and things we care about.
For example, if we know somebody will disappear in a few days, wouldn’t that help one appreciate the time of those few days he spends with that person he cares about?
Thus, understanding and awareness of impermanence of people and things helps us live in the present moment. Otherwise, the phantom of the mind will pull us into the memory-lane of the past, and fictional reality of the future — project us into the future to worry about things that may or may not happen. Because this phantom of the mind is never satisfied with the present moment — it will always desire something else.
- ਆਗੈ ਪਾਛੈ ਗਣਤ ਨ ਆਵੈ ਕਿਆ ਜਾਤੀ ਕਿਆ ਹੁਣਿ ਹੂਏ ॥: No account can be made of the future or the past; who knows what (we) were or what will be? (sggs 1238).
- ਹਮ ਜਾਨਿਆ ਕਛੂ ਨ ਜਾਨਹ ਆਗੈ ਜਿਉ ਹਰਿ ਰਾਖੈ ਤਿਉ ਠਾਢੇ ॥: Ham jaaniaa kachhu… (sggs 171).
Life presents itself to us only one moment at a time. In other words, as the Gurbani says the life comes one breath at a time!
- ਹਮ ਆਦਮੀ ਹਾਂ ਇਕ ਦਮੀ ਮੁਹਲਤਿ ਮੁਹਤੁ ਨ ਜਾਣਾ ॥: We are human beings of one breath and we do not know the duration (term, limit, etc., of our life) and the moment of our departure (i.e., death). (sggs 660).
Thus, the length of a man’s life is measured by the breath! Therefore, the present moment or the present breath is all we ever have! This present moment or the present breath is where life unfolds. If we look back, nothing exists! For we cannot go back in time.
Therefore, except for this present moment, there is simply smoke on both sides (i.e., past and future).
Accordingly, the Gurbani asks us to live in the present moment and focus attention on each breath “ਸਾਸ ਸਾਸ”. If we constantly observe breath, by and by we will realize that we (as Mool, Jot Saroop…) are different from the breathing. Thus constantly observing breath will keep the mind under constant watch.
- ਸਾਸਿ ਸਾਸਿ ਸਿਮਰਹੁ ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ॥ ਮਨ ਅੰਤਰ ਕੀ ਉਤਰੈ ਚਿੰਦ ॥: With each breath, remember “Gobind” (Mool…). (So that) worry within (your) mind be erased (sggs 295).
The Gurbani tells us that our Mool (Jot, Source, Pure Presence, Original Blissful Nature…) is here and now — not after death, or some other time (past or future), or “up there”, or “there yonder”!
- ਸਭ ਕੈ ਸੰਗੀ ਨਾਹੀ ਦੂਰਿ ॥ ਕਰਨ ਕਰਾਵਨ ਹਾਜਰਾ ਹਜੂਰਿ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: (The Lord) is with all; (He) is not far away (from anybody). He is the Cause of causes, ever-present here and now — Haajraa Hajoor ||1||Pause|| (sggs 987).
Thus living in the eternity of the NOW is the highest state of the conscious mind. The person who lives fully in the “now” is a true Giaanee or the Gurmukh: the Enlightened Being who sees beyond duality (Doojaa Bhaav, Maya) and knows the oneness of All. Such person remains undisturbed in all situations.
Truly so contented within (Sat Santokh), he accepts the life as it presents itself to him (Bhaanaa or Hukam Mannanaa). Like the river water, he flows freely with the life, finding his way around the “ups” and “downs” of the life, and letting go of everything that blocks his energy. He faces everything in the Light of the eternity of “NOW”, not in the darkness of the past or the future.
But, the Gurbani time and again confirms that such people are very rare in this world!
- ਨਾਨਕ ਬਿਰਲੇ ਪਾਈਅਹਿ ਜੋ ਨ ਰਚਹਿ ਪਰਪੰਚ ॥੫॥: O Nanak! Rare are those, who do not create “Parpanch”. ||5|| (sggs 297).