“The present moment is crucial. Just as what we have done in the past has led us to the present, whatever we do right now will determine our future. We have the power and resources to direct our future in a positive direction. At the same time, the present moment is not going to last—it is impermanent. Impermanence is an ever-present force in our lives. We are getting older, not younger. Death is getting closer, not farther away. So it is very important to start taking advantage of all that we have right now.
The great master Karma Chagme taught that the human body is borrowed from the five elements: space, wind, fire, water, and earth. That which is borrowed is not ours to keep; sooner or later we will have to give it back. As long as we are occupying a body, he continues, we ought to use it for spiritual purposes. We should use our hands to prostrate to images of the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. We should use our feet to circumambulate stupas, temples, and other sacred sites. We should use our tongue to recite prayers and mantras. And we should use our hearts and minds to cultivate loving-kindness and compassion for all beings. Karma Chagme teaches that if we use our bodies in these beautiful ways, when the time comes to leave them we will have no regrets.
Tibet is mountainous. Its climate is quite harsh, and wild animals and bandits roam the countryside. Particularly in ancient times, there were very few serviceable roads. Even so, Karma Chagme taught his students that when the opportunity for pilgrimage presented itself, they should take it—it may never come again. The great master used travel as a metaphor for the spiritual path.
Once we are on the path, we should not allow ourselves to be interrupted by what is not particularly important, or what does not require immediate attention. Many times, just before we are about to do a formal meditation session, we think, “I should check my email again,” or “this is a good time to re-organize my bookshelves.” If we take these thoughts seriously, enact them, and put off practice, what is this but procrastination? If we want, we can always find tasks to keep ourselves busy. But to what end? The teachings say that constant busy-ness is like a kitten chasing its tail. Even if it catches its tail, what does it gain?”
Ven. Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche
Photo of Ven. Khenpo Tsewang Rinpoche making offerings to the statue of Buddh Shakyamuni within the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya, India in 2010.
Watch Ven. Khenpo Rinpoche circumambulate the temple:
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