now as it was then


Bodh Gaya: 04.00 hours, this is where the enlightenment took place. I’m in a hotel not far from where it happened, early morning and the window is open, sitting on a cushion with mindfulness, watching the breath. There’s a sense of, it’s just over there, out the window and over to the right a bit; yes, it was there that the event took place. I’m near to the epicenter, ground zero. From here, it spread outwards to the people close by and dispersed among everyone who had a mind to listen. Then, in the course of time, reaching out to all parts of the world, so that visitors from Tibet, China, Japan, Korea, South East Asia and other places eventually came here to see for themselves. Ordinary lay people came, conversions from Hindu castes, bearded sannyasis with matted hair and white marks smeared across the forehead, and monastics came from all over Asia, robes in shades of ochre, maroon and grey; chanting … namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa … various intonations and melodic rhythms altogether in a pleasant discord.

How much of this is the same now as it was then, 2,600 years ago? The sensation of the breath is the same. The air gently touching the inner surfaces of nasal passages and throat and the consciousness that arises with that feeling. Through my own humanness and in a subjective sense, I can recognize the humanness of the bodhisattva. As well as the same blue sky, brown earth; green foliage, and even though the outer objects I can see may not be the same, changed over the centuries, the process of seeing is the same. The consciousness that recognizes this is the same for me as it was/is for everyone, and the ‘me’ and ‘mine’ I experience is not in any way different from anyone else’s ‘me’ and ‘mine’ who lived at that time, or now, or will live any time in the future.

You could say it’s just a sense of history that’s present whenever you enter a historical site, or a building or museum. It’s possible to know how the people, who lived then, felt and understood the world; the things they looked at and what they heard, smelt, tasted, touched and their mind responses; all of that is the same for me now, here in this place where the bodhisattva walked 2,600 years ago. I’m connected with the outer world by consciousness, in the same way the people at that time were; the conscious experience of what is seen is the same for me as it was for the bodhisattva – simply that function. And the environment I’m in, the outer world, may be different from how it was at that time, but the body/mind organism that receives the experience is universal. All beings are caught in this conscious experience. There’s no need to add anything else. The sense of ‘now’ that’s the same today as it was then could be the sounds I hear, the feeling of sunlight and the gentle wind blowing in my face; an awareness of the ever-present sensory data telling me outer and inner are the same and I’m an inseparable part of it all.

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Where there is the mind, where there are mental phenomena, mind-consciousness, things to be cognized by mind-consciousness, there a being exists or the description of a being. Where there is no mind, no mental phenomena, no mind-consciousness, there a being does not exist nor any description of a being. [SN 1.65]

Photo: prayer flags, Sravasti

One thought on “now as it was then

  1. Pingback: world without end | dhamma footsteps

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