Life and Death in the Present Moment

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By Claud Vaduva

Ramana Maharshi has said, “There is nothing to be attained. The attainment is merely jnana [inner knowing], therefore, is the experience free of ignorance.”

Attainment is not a state outside of what’s happening here, in the present moment, right now. It is a form of awakening from ignorance—jnana means knowledge, specifically a direct knowledge of Reality. It is not a mental conception but an experience of being free from ignorance.

One way to start tasting this experience during our daily life—which means to practice Karma Yoga in its most expansive expression—is to see this present moment as the only thing that is truly alive, as the only thing that you can genuinely experience right now.

A Moving and Dying Reality

Even your thoughts about the past or future occur in the present. While the content involves a concept of “past” and “future,” the actual experience of thinking is a living, present-moment experience. You could be thinking about the sky, a flower, or about the future or the past; no matter what the concepts and the content are, the experience of thinking is happening right now.

The Present Moment is a slice of Life, which embraces the entire Universe, and in this slice of Life, there’s a constant process of rebirth and dying. So, we can look at death and rebirth as a continuous progression within the Present Moment.

Imagine listening to the sound of the ocean. Waves are continuously moving in and out, crashing and fading. The sound is continuously being formed but continuously dying as well, leaving space for the next sound.

Our experience of the present moment unfolds in the same way. This unique moment, right now, is constantly dying; we’re dying in every present moment, and there’s a constant rebirth in every present moment.

If you only take the time to see this, experience this, and contemplate this, then you’ll wake up to the undeniable truth that you yourself are constantly shifting. Form never remains the same. This present moment is unique and it’s beautiful, and it’s alive right now—and then, it won’t be. A new set of forms will appear, and the old ones will be gone.

It is only your mind that decides to keep a seeming idea of stability by focusing on specific aspects. The body, it seems, is still here, but the body also changes every present moment. Your thoughts are here, but they also change. Your emotions are here, but they too are alive, constantly moving: whether laughter or sadness, anger or joy, it’s a moving reality, never stagnant.

You may focus on a rock or mountain that seems to be stable, but as you look, the rock and the mountain are held by the sky and clouds, by the sun that rises and sets in the sky, or by the moon or the stars, or the sounds of the ocean. So even those hills and those rocks are held in a present moment which is constantly moving, constantly changing.

What Is Death for the One Who Knows Life?

When you wake up to this realization, then what does “death” mean?

When you wake up to this realization, wouldn’t you wake up to the beauty of the present moment in its uniqueness, with such a profound gratitude to be alive, with a profound joy of celebration of this Now as it constantly dies in our Awareness and constantly gets reborn in our Awareness?

Isn’t this Unconditional Love? Isn’t this understanding a true letting go of any grasping?

What are we grasping onto? What is there to be attached to? We are getting older in every present moment. We are moving towards our death in every present moment. Won’t this flowering, this movement, this turbulence that we call our physical body, our mind, our emotions, our entire individual existence, eventually come to a dissolution very soon?

So, as a human experience, what can we do? We can only love, celebrate, and live in a state of gratitude for this experience, for this version of Life through these eyes, through these ears.

Bowing in Recognition of the Supreme

This slice of the present moment is constantly here, and here in a flux of form. But this present moment, this present human experience, is seen in something and held in something. All these forms are held in an Awareness, in a space of Awareness. These forms are moving against the background of Awareness, which is still.

If you begin to start shifting your ideas, your awareness, your sense of existence, eventually the Being of the experience itself, the Beingness of the Awareness itself; if you start directing your attention to this background, tasting Life not as that individual focusing on a form with concepts and labels about it but as the present moment itself, the entirety of the present moment in which all these forms appear and disappear, then in time this jnana, this shift of understanding from ignorance to knowledge, this lived experience of Reality, will arise.

So you can practice in this way. You can practice seeing that there’s nothing to hold onto. You can practice gratitude every moment. You can practice celebration every moment. You can practice waking up to the Background, recognizing the gift of your human life.

A transformation comes to the physical body, mind, and emotions when we view Life in this constant dying and rebirth. It becomes a sense of transparency, a bowing of this physical body and this human mind in devotion to that Supreme Reality.

Not bowing out of necessity or religiosity, not bowing because it’s a spiritual practice, but a bowing that comes out of deep recognition.

So today, contemplating Death with this gratitude in our hearts, with this constant surrender, understanding that form is constantly shifting, you can practice letting go. You can practice love, and you can practice bowing out of recognition.

The fear of non-existence and dissolution is supported and held by this Love and by this bowing. That fear of non-being as an individual, of non-being as a personality and as all the endeavors in which we’ve invested ourselves, would be held by the Love that comes as recognition, by the Background of Compassion, Love, and clarity of the Truth.

Claud is a Hridaya Yoga teacher and contributor to our blog.

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