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Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.
Food For Thought Wednesdays: Past, Present, and Yet-to-Come
(See that A Christmas Carol reference? :))
This quote has a very simple meaning, a very moderate tone, but hides a very strong message. One may look at it and say, “Well, alright, it just means that we should look to the future and not let the past weigh us down, right?” That’s correct, but that kind of perfunctory interpretation fails to really examine what this means.
Yes it says, “do not dwell in the past.” That’s the first part. As I pick this apart, it has sort of a different connotation. It doesn’t (or shouldn’t) mean to completely forget about the past. It is important to remember the past. Remember that last statement.
“Do not dream of the future.” On the surface, I could suppose that it means that we shouldn’t worry about what could be or what might be. Don’t spend any time wishing or waiting for something to happen. Do something. But as I see it, we should dream of the future. Use the potential future as motivation. Isn’t that what we use to set goals and plan? Keep note of that.
And the last part reads, “concentrate the mind on the present moment.” I get it. We want to finish one task before worrying about another. We don’t want to dwell on a negative past, and we don’t want to spend our time dreaming of the things we want to happen. But sometimes the one-track-mind approach can backfire. This is especially true with money. Many formerly wealthy people didn’t learn from their past mistakes, spent much of their fortune because the money seemed to be flowing in endlessly at the time, and didn’t invest or save for later, just in case. It’s okay to divide your attention.
An issue that still unfortunately continues to plague us here in the United States is the acceptance of diversity. Race, while slightly improved from the early 20th century, is still very much a big deal. Religion, is still very much a big deal in some parts of the world (including the United States). Ethnic/political unrest – still an issue. But what does this have to do with Buddha? Buddha wasn’t talking about race. He was just talking about concrete tasks…right? Well, I don’t know. I think this is one of those things that are supposed to be left up to interpretation.
I mentioned three key points in this post: Dividing attention in order to maintain balance, looking ahead to the future, & remembering and acknowledging the past. I think these can be applied to differences in the world. It is often said that slavery and the Holocaust and genocides of Native Americans are a thing of the past, and people need to move on. Well, yes…and no. Yes, we need to accept the past, acknowledge it as a part of our history, and forgive. But I don’t think we should forget what makes us who we are today. History is what makes things the way they are. Respect that. Look to the future. If there is no dream, no plan, and no goals, what is there to work for? If we can’t dream of a better world, where do we start? Where is the inspiration? Lastly, divide your attention. Don’t only focus on the fact that “things are better now than they were before,” seek improvements; not only in the world, but in yourself.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t disagree with Buddha. I think this quote just has many contexts. Like most profound expressions…
But! I am quite a believer in karma. I think good deeds eventually come back in blessings.
There’s my food for thought. Happy Wednesday! 🙂