Time is Passing

tilak plate
November 3, 2007

The Dzogchen master, Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche, begins every teaching by reminding students: You are human. Time is passing.

I have written previously on Jaya Kula that obtaining a human birth is considered to be a precious opportunity to do spiritual practice or sadhana. That is the first aspect of Rinpoche’s reminder. The second aspect—time is passing—means you are going to die.

We so often have reasons why we cannot attend satsang, study with a teacher, sit for meditation, eat properly for our constitution, take care of our health, practice yoga, and so on. We promised someone we would see a movie. We are saving for a new car and can’t afford teachings. That ________ project must be done first, then we can begin. (Fill in your favorite project.)

We are very dramatic about our lives, attaching great importance to all of the little accomplishments and manufactured obligations. Somehow, death is much less dramatic and urgent, until we arrive at that moment! Then we wonder what happened, and we feel scared.

10432417045_af57a5b134_zSome human beings go to great effort, and even subject themselves to severe hardship in order to receive dharma teachings. Many more human beings are not even aware that such opportunities exist. If you are aware, this means you have great opportunity, and you should try to develop capacity by meeting that opportunity and taking it.

Fundamentally, this form of life you are in is going to end. It may end sooner rather than later. Either way, a single human life is over in the blink of an eye. Yet even in that blink, realization can occur. How great is that?

Spiritual traditions are not for just talking about or reading about. They are world technologies for Self-realization: you have to do something if you want to realize the fullness of Reality before you die.

I can’t speak for anywhere else, but here in the U.S. we love turning ideas this way and that way. We discuss, proclaim, and teach things even if we have zero actual experience with them. We derive a great deal of social pleasure, ego gratification, and career benefit from such activities.

Everyone wants to be respected for what they know. What you know seems to be more important than what you are—how you show up in the world, treat others, live your life.

Spiritual accomplishment is about how we live moment to moment, not what we’ve read and can analyze. It’s about what we understand with our whole being and manifest to others, not about what we know in an intellectual way.

At the moment of your death, you are not going to care about whatever you believe is stopping you from practicing in this moment. Nor are you going to be sustained by your intellectual ideas about spirituality, or your fantasies.

At the moment of your death, only embodied understanding of your real nature, the nature of Reality, is going to serve you.

It is also true that only this understanding will serve you in life.

Fortunately, every moment presents us with the opportunity to have greater realization. We can choose to live our lives with this as our conscious purpose, and we have many tools and teachers to help us.

If you are reading this, you can still choose.

In Ma’s love,