“Life can be found only in the present moment.
The past is gone, the future is not yet here,
and if we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment,
we cannot be in touch with life.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
“The greatest discovery of any generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering the attitudes of their minds.”
~ Albert Schweitzer
Ordinary human consciousness is conditioned consciousness;
it is pure Awareness conditioned by conceptions.
And our conceptual conditioning determines our condition.
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“If the doors of perception were cleansed
everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.”
~ William Blake
Forgiving the Past to Live in the Present
Mystics and some scientists say that our thoughts or beliefs about our ‘reality’ and self-identity determine our earth-life experience; that those thoughts or beliefs originate unconsciously with very subtle mental impressions (sometimes called in Sanskrit vasanas or samskaras) which through reincarnation are carried by the soul from lifetime to lifetime; that we can radically change our lives and behaviors by changing our thoughts about who or what we are; and that we can become “enlightened” only by transcending all mental conditioning.
Thus, according to twentieth century Indian sage J. Krishnamurti,
“Our problem is how to be free from all conditioning . . When the mind is completely unconditioned then only can [we] experience or discover if there is something real or not. . [A] mind . . filled with beliefs, . . dogmas . . assertions ..is really an uncreative mind; it is merely a repetitive mind.”
Our mental conditioning operates our physical body, like computer software systems operate computer hardware platforms. And, like computer software systems, all mental conditioning comes from the past – from this or prior lifetimes.
But, habitually abiding or operating with beliefs or tendencies from past experience, or projecting them into the future as fear or worry, prevents us from living spontaneously and authentically in the present moment – from fully being here NOW.
Past is history and future’s mystery, while Life is never then – it is only NOW.
“Life can be found only in the present moment. The past is gone, the future is not yet here, and if we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment, we cannot be in touch with life.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Thus, Buddha taught that:
“There is only one time when it is essential to awaken. That time is now.” . . . . .
“That which is timeless is found now.”
Only by wiping the slate clean from past conditioning and resulting thoughts or concerns, are we are fully freed to live in the present – in the eternal NOW. Thus our spiritual evolution is furthered by any activity or practice which helps us live moment by moment in the precious present, spontaneously and authentically without mental pre-conditioning.
My life experience following a dramatic midlife spiritual awakening confirms these teachings. As gradually I have recognized and eliminated or changed beliefs and paradigms which no longer seemed valid or useful, quieted my mind, and more and more self-identified as spirit, my life has become more spontaneous and magical, and I’ve experienced ever more happiness, peace of mind, and gratitude for this precious life-time.
For me, it has been a process of mindfully witnessing inappropriate or obsolete behavioral patterns with intention of changing or eliminating them through grateful remembrance that I am not merely a separate mortal entity but universal spirit experiencing a blessed human life.
The more that I have gratefully and mindfully self-identified as spirit – as Universal Awareness – the more I have experienced fulfillment, insight, empathy, and creativity and the less I have manifested unhelpful habits and reflexive behaviors.
I have found that this transformative process of mindful spiritual self-identification has been accelerated through meditation and other universal practices of perennial wisdom traditions which help clear mental conditioning. So I’ve dedicated SillySutras.com to exploring and sharing universal wisdom principles and practices which can help us all live happier lives, as they have helped me.
During Jewish High Holy days, I am reminded of certain practices other than meditation, which may help free us from past conditioning:
1. Non-judgmental forgiveness or atonement of supposed transgressions or ‘sins’ by or against us. [see “Forgiveness And Atonement Of ‘Sins.’”] ; and,
2. Annulment and rescission of obsolete and unhelpful personal intentions, resolutions, or vows.
The Jewish High Holy Days are ten days of religious introspection and repentance, concluding with Yom Kippur [“day of atonement”]. During services, congregants communally repent past “sins” while repeatedly acknowledging that
“Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins,” [ Ecclesiastes 7:20 ]
The Yom Kippur observance begins with “Kol Nidre” (“All Vows”), a powerful prayer with a hauntingly beautiful melody which is chanted and recited in ancient Aramaic, and which for many Jews is the religious highpoint of their year.
When I attended Jewish services, during adolescence and later irregularly as an adult (before I became a “born-again Hindu”), the Kol Nidre ritual was for me emotionally memorable, even though I don’t recall knowing the meaning of the prayer until much later receiving a translation in an email message.
So, on ultimately learning the translated meaning, I was quite surprised and puzzled to learn that Kol Nidre enigmatically purports to disavow and annul until the next day of atonement all past and/or future communal or individual oaths or vows, viz.
”Let all our vows and oaths, all the promises we make and the obligations we incur to You, 0 God, between this Yom Kippur and the next, be null and void should we, after honest effort, find ourselves unable to fulfill them. Then may we be absolved of them.”
Since Judaism emphasizes the honoring of promises and obligations to others, I wondered:
“Why does the holiest of Jewish high holy days begin with a communal disavowal of all oaths or vows, which in Jewish tradition are regarded as ethically important?”
Also I began wondering why the Kol Nidre prayer has been so emotionally powerful, even when its meaning is largely unknown. After reflection and research I concluded that:
Kol Nidre applies only to personal vows to oneself or God, not affecting promises or obligations to others; it is not an unconditional request for Divine absolution from guilt for dishonored vows or obligations to others.
Many people – not just Jews – make resolutions or vows concerning their intended future behavior which are unfulfilled or become inappropriate or unhelpful as times change. And often they feel consequent frustration or guilt.
Rather than harboring guilt or frustration for this, Jewish tradition recognizes that it is best to wipe the mental slate clean. Thus, observant Jews can be spiritually uplifted and mentally cleared by communal participation in High Holy Day rituals of forgiveness or atonement of “sins”, and rescission of unhelpful personal resolutions.
And I believe that Kol Nidre has been especially powerful for even those unaware of its meaning, because subtly or subconsciously it invokes Humankind’s universal – yet paradoxically impossible – aspiration to be in this world beyond inevitable human frailty and suffering, beyond “sin” or ‘missing the mark’.
So, perhaps Kol Nidre and its haunting melody, invoke an Eternal inner voice which reminds us of our true nature – ever immanent Divine LOVE – with which we are ultimately destined to merge.
On holy days and every day, may everyone everywhere be blessed to remember their affinity and identity with Divinity; and, may we thus wipe clean the slate of past behaviors or attitudes which impede living in the precious present.
And so, may everyone everywhere be eternally happy –
Ron’s Commentary on Forgiving the Past to Live in the Present
In lunar equinox seasons of major theistic religious ‘holy days’ – Jewish (days of awe); Moslem (Eid Al-Adha); Christian (Feast of St. Francis); Hindu (Navaratri) – we are often reminded that central to all major theistic religions is the goal of psychologically returning to “godliness”. Moreover, all major religions – Buddhist-Hindu-Moslem-Christian-Jewish – teach a common message of Love as the supreme “unifying principle of Life. . . . the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate Reality.” [Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.]
Yet, often in the name of religion, our world remains rife with discrimination, violence and killing which must be transcended for survival of Human life as we have known it.
Whether or not we are ‘religious’, we are all experiencing a mythological perennial process of returning to a psychological state of self-identity and “at-one-ment” with Universal Awareness, our ultimate Essence and destiny – an evolutionary process of gradually living more and more in and as the timeless NOW.
The above essay, Forgiving the Past to Live in the Present, encourages our harmony with this crucially important perennial process.
As gradually we mindfully observe and change behaviors, beliefs, and paradigms which no longer seem valid or useful, and as more and more we commonly self-identify as ONE Eternal spirit, which is LOVE – not just as separate mortals – our lives become more spontaneous and magical, enabling us to synchronistically experience ever more happiness, peace of mind, and gratitude for this precious human lifetime.
And so may it be!