Lesson
21

Moment of Each Moment

Using the whole body and mind, simply go forward, focusing your attention on each moment of each moment. What, you may ask, is this moment of each moment?

Whether we’re conscious of it or not, we have thousands and thousands of these nens all the time. And one thing zazen enables us to do is to slow down our processes so that what has been taken for granted or not even been in our awareness becomes accessible.


Nen nen ju-shin ki

 Nen nen arises from mind

Nen nen fu ri shin

 nen nen is not separate from mind

from the Kannon Sutra

When we think of the mind as some possession of ours, we’re missing the whole point. These moments of mind  are what give rise to consciousness. These moments of mind are nothing but our life itself. And they are mind. They don’t occur in the mind. They are the mind. So where’s the mind? Whose mind is it?

We know that the teachings tell us there is no fixed entity we can call the self. We’re told there is no self; it’s just an illusion. Does that mean we don’t exist or that it’s some incredible hallucination? Not really. Our experience of ourselves from moment to moment, from one nen to another, is quite real. The experience is real. But it’s just experience.

Consider, for example, sitting on a sand dune at the beach.

And so it is with ourselves. You think you were born on such-and-such date, live in such-and-such cit or town, have such-and-such history, such-and-such memories.

Sure, it’s "you." "You" are the one who’s remembering all "your" life.

But as we think about this more carefully, let’s consider that we are, like the waves, products of the ocean. The whole universe is waving me, waving you. And so you arise and appear to move forward in time but actually it’s moment by moment by moment the universe arising and subsiding.

Eventually the energy of the wave dissipates and returns to the ocean. Does this metaphor of waves and waving apply to thoughts?

All phenomena arise, have their time, subside and create the causes for new phenomena

But is there not actually a wave?

Think about what happens when we go to a movie. We may go in knowing about the technology of film, but once we’re watching the movie we become absorbed in the story and we lose sight of the fact—voluntarily—that we’re seeing a great number of still pictures (24 per second) — stilled moments — moving through time so rapidly, one after another, that they create the illusion of continuity and movement. If we slow down the number of frames per second, they appear jerky, and we then can actually recognize that what we’re seeing is a succession of still images. When we speed it up, the jerkiness goes away and things seem lifelike and real! And we can forget about the technology and simply enjoy the story.

And so it is in our lives.

When we’re operating at our normal neurotic speed, everything seems very convincingly real. It seems, that is, to have its own trajectory through time and to be discreet, consistent, coherent.

And what we are, really, is a collection of moments in which phenomena appear and disappear.

And our thoughts are moments of mind, a collection of mind moments.