Update: 30/01/2022



Spring is around the corner and Tet is coming. Occasionally we can't help but reminisce about the old days. We call them old memories. Honestly, which memory is not old? The successes, the failures, ups and downs which can make us feel sad when recalling these memories. That's how life is, it's called "C'est la vie" in French - such is life! The word "la vie" is the brand name of La Vie mineral water that we often drink.

“Life is both suffering and joy”

It's spicy, bitter, and sweet all together."

(Cited from Bùn by the Venerable Master Thich Chan Tinh).

 We should not always focus on the past and forget about the reality of life. Past and future are both very elusive concepts. It is also just wishful thinking. Whenever it is an illusion, it is easy to lead us far away, wandering around and forgetting the way back. We ourselves are like that. And to reassure ourselves, we groped into the “Middle Length Sutra”, re-reading the Sutra “Bhaddekaratta” (Venerable Master Thich Nhat Hanh called it the Sutra of People Who Know How to Lead a Life of Solitude). We quote a short passage as follows:

"Bhiksu, I will teach you “Bhaddekaratta” -the Uddesavibhanga Sutra, its general ideas and special implications. Listen and ponder carefully. I will preach.

- Yes, the World Honoured  One!

Those Bhiksus respond respectfully to the Respected Buddha. The Buddha preached as follows:

Do not look into the past

Do not hold high hope for the future.

The past is over,

The future hasn't come yet,

Only the present exists.

Reveal the inner wisdom.

No movement, no shaking.

Realize the truth, one should practice the Dharma

Do it enthusiastically today,

Whether or not one will die tomorrow?

No one can negotiate,

With the great army of death,

Shelter in peace and safety,

Tireless through days and nights,

Chanting Bhaddekaratta,

A person of peace and serenity… 

This is a famous verse. We often let our minds wander and wander, searching for the future or the past. Meanwhile, we "be involved in" happiness or sadness. We lose the moment of mindfulness -an awareness of “the here and the now” moment.

The following passages describe attachment to the past, future, and present (excerpt):

“Bhiksus! What is the search for the past? It is me living in the past, and seeking joy in it (same expressions for feeling, perception, volition, and consciousness)".

"Bhikkhus! What is wishing for the future? May that be my life in the future, and find joy in it.”

"Bhikkhus! What is being caught up in the present? Whether contemplating the physical appearance is narcissism, or narcissism originates in physical appearance; whether contemplating the external beauty is a part of narcissism, or narcissism is a part of contemplating the physical appearance; (same expressions for feeling, perception, mental formations and consciousness)".

It is the remembrance and joy or sorrow in self-remembrance, which is the search for the past. It is the ambiguity and vague hope for daily life that is the future hope. It is the clinging to the five skandhas and being arrogant about it resulting in the attachment and the attraction in the present.

Remembrance, desire, and complacency are the three components that constitute lethargy and distraction. Therefore, the World Honoured One taught:

Do not look into the past

Do not hold high hope for the future.

The past is over,

The future hasn't come yet,

Only the present

Reveal the inner wisdom.

No movement, no shaking

Realize the truth, one should practice Dharma.

This verse was translated by Venerable Master Nhat Hanh as:

"The awakened one

Settled and relaxed"

We have the right to look back at the past or think of the future, as long as the experience supports concentration and wisdom to practice Dharma. Self-observation is also sometimes an elegant pleasure that we have lost in countless lifetimes. If you want to achieve something, you should first observe it. Wanting this body and mind to be peaceful, relaxed, free of suffering, one should start with this first step named reflection!

The last few days of the year is a "golden" time for us to reflect and observe both the good and not too good to change and improve ourselves. May our sharing about this sutra be a meaningful little gift for everyone, to light up love and awareness, so that the Buddha’s message about compassion – wisdom is spread far and wide throughout this beautiful world!

 Lecture delivered on an end-year day of 25 December (Lunar Calendar), the Year of Buffalo

Tâm Cung 

Translated into English by Thai Nhuoc Don

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