Focus on the present, but don’t fragment it from the future
“Live in the present” is a popular self-help slogan that can enhance our concentration and contribution in whatever we do.
However, if this slogan becomes our sole guide, we may succumb to a shortsighted feel-good mentality that is blind to the present’s future consequences. If we eat a dozen fatty candies because they taste so good now, we may end up with stomach upset, obesity, even diabetes. The Bhagavad-gita (18.38) cautions that things which taste like nectar initially often taste like poison eventually – that is the nature of sensual pleasures.
In contrast, things that taste like poison initially often taste like nectar eventually – such is the nature of refined pleasures (18.37). Consider learning a new skill or subject. If we get caught only in the present, the difficulty in learning may overwhelm us – all the more so if, because of being caught in the present, we mistakenly imagine that things will always be as difficult as they are at present. But if we remember that the present difficulty is temporary and will give way to a whole new world of experience and enjoyment, we can summon the determination to persevere through the present. Such farsightedness is vital for our bhakti practice, wherein we need to persevere through the initial poison of purification to relish the eventual nectar of joyful absorption in Krishna.
Of course, we need to avoid the other extreme: idly daydreaming about the future without doing in the present. After all, it is the present – our diligent learning in the present – that will bring about that future.
By seeing the present as the essential way to the future, we can focus duly on the present while also staying encouraged by remembering that what we are learning is much richer than our present experience of it.
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