Releasing the Past, Embracing the Now

Guilt and blame tie us to the past. Remembering the past and learning from it is important but I don’t think we really learn from the past when we are reacting to it, still psychologically tied to it. The past, our experience is what it is; the present moment is a consequence of the preceding moments and yet it is unique, fresh. Being tied to the past stops us experiencing this freshness.

We cannot be free if we allow our now to be defined by our past. I think Krishnamurti said that we hang on to the past because we fear the unknown I think we also fear the freedom and responsibility that letting go of the past entails.

Without the past, without being defined by the past, we cannot compare ourselves with others. It is said that some people have to ‘hit bottom’ before they change; that they have to lose everything. Of course this is not a good strategy for anyone wanting to change as ‘hitting bottom’ often kills you. I think we have to free ourselves from measure or comparison whether that is is with others, with a past self or with an idealised self.

In the act of accepting and giving forgiveness we let go of guilt and blame and create a discontinuity with the past. This was the fundamental insight of Jesus who prayed ‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us’. Jesus is not proposing some sort of deal with God or suggesting that God might follow our example; he is saying that forgiveness is there anyway but we can’t accept it until we forgive others because our dwelling on their sin keeps us tied to our own. We are told that when someone hits us we should ‘turn the other cheek’. From a materialist point of view this doesn’t work but from a spiritual view the thing is over and it’s a new moment; an material person would be hurt, shamed, but to the spiritual person it’s just another moment. Krisha, intrestingly, says the same thing but comes at it from a completely opposite angle; when Arjuna says he doesn’t want to kill his relatives in a war Krishna points out that he cannot kill their essential selves, the Soul (the Atman). It’s the same thing, spiritually, because from this perspective it doesn’t matter if your attacker kills you or you kill him .. No hard feelings anyway.

The parallels and complementarity between the teachings of Krishna, Patanjali, Buddha and Jesus are interesting. They are all about making a complete break with the past and fully embracing Reality.

Letting go of the past is not just letting go of the past but of our past projections or fantasies about ourselves in the now or in the future.

Matthew 6:34
Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

What Jesus and the others are saying is on a spiritual level; not a material level. On the material level we may have to plan but we are not worrying about it. Just doing it. Buddha in talking about letting go of desire is also talking on a spiritual level. In the material world there must be desire but we don’t have to be tied up with it spiritually.