Bhaddekaratta Sutta: An Auspicious Day

You shouldn’t chase after the past
or place expectations on the future.
What is past
     is left behind.
The future
     is as yet unreached.
Whatever quality is present
you clearly see right there,
     right there.
Not taken in,
unshaken,
that’s how you develop the heart.
Ardently doing
what should be done today,
for — who knows? — tomorrow
     death.
There is no bargaining
with Mortality & his mighty horde.
Whoever lives thus ardently,
     relentlessly
     both day & night,
has truly had an auspicious day:
so says the Peaceful Sage.

~ Bhaddekaratta Sutta: An Auspicious Day

For me this sutta speaks directly to the practice of zazen. Cliched and overused as it is, living in the moment starts with recognizing moments as they arises and fall. Without that awareness what we determine to be the moment is just a narrative; built up from the memories of the past and from the hopes and expectations of the future. There is no foundation there. Only stories and fictions as ephemeral and untouchable as the mists on a mountain peak. Watching the breath is a simple, basic and profound practice. A preliminary stage that rises and falls as we breathe, one that begins with this life and continues until our last gasp. One always practiced but never mastered, never transcended. Pure breath, pure moments.

Seeing those pure moments, untouched by the discriminating mind, glistening with dew; those moments are the ones that train us in our practice. There are no auspicious days, no inauspicious days. No days that exist before realization and no days that exist after. There are no good or bad days.

Inside my little room, shaded by cottonwoods, I sit in the morning. With each breath in and each breath out, I feel moments. Each moment passing silently into my lungs, each soft breath, cough and rasp is a startling gatha reminding me of the moments that pass by. I lost a connection with body and with moments and as I sit, there is expressed an unwritten sutta on the sacred nature of each breath.

When the bell rings, it does not mark the end of a moment. It does not mark the end of our session. It is just a sound that rises and slowly falls away, punctuating a point that never gets made.

What we see is that the moments in meditation are not calm or relaxed, only genuine and clear.

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