I have been reading all day, confined to my room, and feel tired. I raise the screen and face the broad daylight. I move the chair on the veranda and look at the blue mountains. I draw a long breath, fill my lungs with fresh air and feel entirely refreshed. I make tea and drink a cup or two of it. Who would say that I am not living in the light of eternity? We must, however, remember that all these are events of one’s inner life as it comes in touch with eternity or as it is awakened to the meaning of “the now-moment” which is eternity, and further that things or events making up one’s outer life are no problems here.
From D. T. Suzuki, Mysticism: Christian and Buddhist (1971), pp. 124-125.
All major spiritual traditions point to the importance of living in the “here and now” as a way of actualizing a paradox that is at the heart of all the questions and paradoxes with which we are involved on a daily basis: the timeless now. In the light of this paradox, every experience is an opportunity to become aware of the unity at the heart of reality, because every experience can remind us that what we are experiencing belongs to a reality that transcends it. And we do not need anyone to tell us that this is so, because even a small child knows that whatever the various “ups and downs” of everyday life may bring, they are temporary: they are parts of the ever present and ever–changing flow of time. Whether what we are involved with brings us enjoyment or sorrow, clarity or confusion, it can be a way of keeping us in touch with the infinite (transcendent) reality within which the finite circumstances of our lives unfold.
All our major sources of spiritual wisdom also remind us that the reality of divine, or ultimate wisdom resides within us: we do not have to look for understanding or inspiration outside of our own ability to look deeply within ourselves at any given moment. Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895–1986) points out that our ability to look deeply within ourselves “is part of everyday existence; it is something that you have to do as you breathe, as you think, as you live, as you have delicate or brutal feelings.” And whether we refer to this kind of introspection as meditation, contemplation, or simply reflective thinking, it acts most authentically and creatively when it “has no goal, no end,” because it is indistinguishable from love.
Experience and common sense teach us that genuine love is a way of being that creates unity by overpowering any influences that urge us to act as independent individuals rather than interdependent persons. And ultimately, love is a way of being that eliminates all barriers to interacting meaningfully and creatively with anyone or anything. In this sense, pure or ultimate love is a power unsurpassed in its ability to support us in any situation. In Krishnamurti’s words, pure love embodies “all virtue … In the state of love, do what you will … without love we shall ever be at war with ourselves, and therefore with each other and with the world. It is love alone that transforms the mind totally.” [See: J. Krishnamurti, The Revolution from Within” (2009), pp. 291-293.]
The idea of “love and do what you will” harmonizes well with the moral teachings of our major world religions. But the idea that genuine love has “no goal, no end” is, I believe, a challenging one in the context of living in the goal-obsessed atmospheres of today’s technologized social/cultural environments. These environments create a pervasive predilection for organizing just about every aspect of our lives around personal goals, even our close relationships and spiritual beliefs and practices. And this predilection translates into a near obsessive preoccupation with developing and relying on various techniques for achieving personal, and all too often, primarily self-serving objectives.
Of course, we need to develop and sustain access to life-affirming techniques and objectives that support the well–being of ourselves and our relationships. However, just as accomplished artists transcend their technical prowess by forgetting about it when immersed in their creative activity, a truly love-empowered response to any situation is not about remembering to apply a certain technique or aim towards a definite objective. When we love wholeheartedly, we love unconditionally, which means that we embrace whatever conditions are present in any situation. The implication here is that the appropriate actions and objectives of a truly loving response emerge within the immediate living-out of any situation, because it is in the here-and-now—the timeless now—that we can connect with fundamental power.
To the extent that we immerse ourselves in what we experience in the present, we also immerse ourselves in the infinite reality from which all experiences emerge and into which they all return. As Aldous Huxley (1894–1963) reminds us, “the present moment is the only aperture through which the soul can pass out of time into eternity, through which grace can pass out of eternity into the soul, and through which charity can pass from one soul in time to another soul in time.” [From chapter XII, The Perennial Philosophy, 1944.]
When we live as fully as possible in the here-and-now as love-empowered persons, we are embodying our natural, common spirituality. Living in this way makes abundant sense in terms of our development as interdependent persons, because genuine love is both an absence of fear (of anything or anyone thought of as “other”) as well as a celebration of personal freedom.
Being fearful implies expecting something or someone may injure or interfere with us, and we feel we cannot control what happens. But when we abandon the need to be in control, the energy of fear has nothing with which to inflame itself. So, love is both an absence of fear and an experience of freedom, because it is a power that acts unconditionally, irrespective of circumstances and with total commitment. Love is what gives us the power to “just be”—the power to live as fully as possible in any circumstance, in any here-and-now.
In the light of the wisdom of living in the here-and-now, a number of pertinent questions arise for reflection. Among them: Do my memories limit my ability to perceive the present moment with sufficient clarity and insight? Do my desires curb my capacity for involvement with all of the things that enter into my everyday life? Am I more myself when I forget about who I once was or what I may want, and simply be part of “whatever is”?