Don’t recall. Let go of what has passed.
This is the first of six nails or teachings of a Buddhist monk Tilopa.
How profound? Can we do this? Not to recall; let go of what has passed. The human mind is conditioned to avoid pain and seek pleasure. So, it consistently tries to create conditions to avoid pain and get pleasure. Is it not? Just pause and reflect, what happens when you go through a normal day. How many times we recall past things that are pleasurable and avoid negative experiences.
Couple of years back I had moved to the city of Ahmadabad in Gujarat – a western state of India. Ahmadabad is famous for many things. But I am attracted to the snacks made from gram flour here. Fafada and Dhokla are these snacks. Fafada is a fried one while Dhokla is a steamed one. When I first came, I ordered fafada and enjoyed it thoroughly. So much so that I started ordering it every Sunday as a breakfast menu. I do enjoy it But the law of diminishing returns has kicked in and the joy has somewhat diminished. What I was doing here? I was trying to create the same joy when I ate Fafada for the first time. I am clinging to the memory of that first experience and want to recreate that experience again and again.
Sometimes back I had a heated discussion with my then boss. When I came home , I ruminated on it. I recreated the scene in my mind. I thought about what would have happened If I have argued the point I was making, in a different fashion. I felt the regret, the strong emotions again, even though the incident has happened earlier.
Have you experienced this? Do you try to recreate your happy experiences again and again? Or do you remember your awkward / shameful moments and think about how you could have avoided those?
Many travel companies lure you to buy holidays at exotic destinations by tapping into your need for creating happy moments in nature. Is it not? Think about it.
What is wrong in all this? You will notice that your mind gets conditioned to seek happy experiences and avoid unpleasant experiences. You loose touch with the reality. You are not present there- where actually you are. Have you experienced- that you enjoy planning your holidays. Then when you actually are on holidays – you start worrying about your return journey plans. Or you are seeing an awesome Sunset and instead of soaking into the sight, you become busy in taking a photograph of that view, so that you can share with your friends on Facebook/ Instagram.
All this takes you away from the present moment which is the real source of peace and joy. Hence Tilopa says let go- Don’t recall. Remain in present.
Tell me how can you practice this.
This again reminds me a beautiful Zen story.
A senior monk and a junior monk were traveling together. At one point, they came to a river with a strong current. As the monks were preparing to cross the river, they saw a very young and beautiful woman also attempting to cross. The young woman asked if they could help her cross to the other side. The two monks glanced at one another because they had taken vows not to touch a woman.
Then, without a word, the older monk picked up the woman, carried her across the river, placed her gently on the other side, and carried on his journey. The younger monk couldn’t believe what had just happened. After re-joining his companion, he was speechless, and an hour passed without a word between them.
Two more hours passed, then three, finally the younger monk could contain himself any longer, and blurted out “As monks, we are not permitted a woman, how could you then carry that woman on your shoulders?”
The older monk looked at him and replied, “Brother, I set her down on the other side of the river, why are you still carrying her?”