So back to Dosho’s question inspired by the passage from Genjōkoan on firewod and ashes:
When doing one thing, is there anything else? (i.e., is today just today?)
My answer to the question is: No.
When I sit today I just sit. Now is the only reality that exists.
My answer to the question is: Yes.
I sit with me and the results of my actions and choices I made in the past and all my potential for the future. They are all on the same scale of time that is non-linear. Today, yesterday and tomorrow are based on the human concept of time. We break time in manageable units but it is a human concept just like star constellations is not something that exists, it is a bunch of stars that we gathered together under the same name for convenience.
I feel something opening up in my chest and expanding when I think of this. My actions in the past were “necessary” to bring me into this moment and this moment is “necessary” for me to have done those actions in the past so I could “pull myself” to this moment, sort of like an acorn and the oak tree.
A few passages from Uchiyama’s book “Opening the hand of thought” and my experience during the sesshin when time existed for me (and moved extremely slowly) only when I chose to stay with the thoughts of pain, helped me better understand the idea of time that is all inclusive: “All that there really is, is now. As the scenery of the present, however, there is a past, present, and future. Let me say this again: within the present, there is a past, a present, and a future. The past and future are real and alive only in the present. This concept of time in Buddhist thought is very important. It is different from the notion in Western philosophy that time flows from the past, into the present, and onto the future in a linear way. According to Buddhist teachings it doesn’t quite work that way. The past, present, and future are all contained within the present.
…What is most important is right now.
But again, within “now” we have past experiences. Within the present, we have past experiences and directions toward the future that we face. W have to vivify our past experiences and face toward the future – all within the present. Only f we master the realities of the past can they function vividly and smoothly in the present. Only if we have learned to drive a car can we effectively use one to go somewhere. Doing exactly that is called genjō kōan, the koan of life becoming life. Genjō is the present becoming the present.“
“When we transcend time, or forget time, we actually meet the fresh reality of life. Time exists for us because we compare one moment with another, and in the welter of perception we feel time flowing swiftly. When we no longer compare, and just be that self which is nothing but self, then we are able to transcend this swiftness or comparison that we call time. ”
Photo: Johan Bencker