Each Moment Is the Universe: Zen and the Way of Being Time
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It’s easy to regard time as a commodity—we even speak of “saving” or “spending” it. We often regard it as an enemy, when we feel it slipping away before we’re ready for time to be up. The Zen view of time is radically different than that: time is not something separate from our life; rather, our life is time. Understand this, says Dainin Katagiri Roshi, and you can live fully and freely right where you are in each moment.
Katagiri bases his teaching on Being Time, a text by the most famous of all Zen masters, Eihei Dogen (1200–1253), to show that time is a creative, dynamic process that continuously produces the universe and everything in it—and that to understand this is to discover a gateway to freedom from the dissatisfactions of everyday life. He guides us in contemplating impermanence, the present moment, and the ungraspable nature of past and future. He discusses time as part of our inner being, made manifest through constant change in ourselves and our surroundings. And these ideas are by no means metaphysical abstractions: they can be directly perceived by any of us through meditation.
and appear as particular beings in the phenomenal world. Because of constant reflection we feel that we exist as separate beings, and then we want to know the source of our being. We want to know it, but the source cannot be grasped by our human consciousness, so we are dissatisfied and we suffer. This deep aspect of duhkha is not exactly the same as the suffering you can see in everyday life; it comes from an unconscious effort to investigate the root of consciousness itself. Human beings
and sadness you see. Painters and poets try to express silence using materials or words, but they cannot do it completely. Whatever they do, they always experience a lack of complete satisfaction, because silence is not something that can be completely expressed by a painting or a poem. So a painter or a poet is never satisfied. Again and again they try to touch the truth and then express the deep meaning of their subject’s nature. They do this in order to show the meaning of human life in their
intimately, you see that the unity of being and time is the entire world. Grass is being, so each grass is the entire world, you are the entire world, and the whole world is the entire world. Nothing is left out; nothing is wasted. Then you can live with all sentient beings in peace and harmony. 16 TOTAL DYNAMIC WORKING Dogen Zenji constantly encourages us to go beyond our usual understanding of time and see real time. What is real time? Real time is seen as the harmony of twelve hours of
there is a beautiful world that can be seen with something more than our intellectual understanding. Seeing the vast expanse of human life is a target you can aim at—a destination. But you shouldn’t be crazy about reaching it, because everyday life is already right now, right here. Right now, right here is the present moment—time. Dogen Zenji tells us that even though we believe there is only the system of time that measures twenty-four hours in a day, this is not a complete understanding of
When the energy of ignorance is exercised as human will, it becomes formative forces. The functioning of formative forces is the energy that puts everything together. Put together, everything is interconnected. That is the world of the past. Then, in the world of the present, you accept five results coming from past causes: human consciousness; name and form; six sense organs; tangibility, or contact; and perception, or feeling. Human consciousness is characterized by dichotomizing,