Bring your whole, unified body and mind to this moment, fully knowing that this moment is impermanent. This moment arises and disappears in 1/62nd of a finger snap. That happens so fast we cannot catch it with consciousness, but we can notice the activity we are engaged in and completely do this one activity. Katagiri roshi describes this as the “I” merging with the “object” so that only activity is left. Now is the only true reality. It is the truth-happening place. In this way of living, we can bring the moment fully alive and let go of any sense of attainment or result. This is practice.
In reading about Mother Theresa, she often used the words Ek, Ek, Ek. This is translated into One, One, One from the Hindi. Mother Theresa herself insisted to the end that she was merely “a little pencil” in God’s hand, referring decisions to him case by case. One by One. Ek. Ek. Ek. One. One. One.
That reminds me of ichinen in Zen. One thought. Or One now. Or one moment.
In living life this way, we start to taste the freshness that the understanding of impermanence cultivates. We understand that in each moment, the 6,400,099,980 moments in the 24 hours, the whole universe arises and perishes. In each, Just arising, the whole world is fresh and new.
Impermanence brings forth in our understanding, the preciousness and fragility of life. What are we doing with our precious human birth? Can we appreciate this one day? As Dogen describes it, in each moment “the whole being of emptiness leaps out of itself.” Owning our precious human birth, we can begin to live life, one day at a time and as fully as possible. In Zen, we might say that living ‘one day at a time’ is appreciating the phrase from Dogen; live in such a way that every moment of the twenty four hours does not pass by vainly.
From Thich Nhat Hanh “Touching the Earth.”
Gatha on Impermanence
The day has now ended.
Our lives are shorter.
Now we look carefully.
What have we done?
Noble Sangha, with all our heart,
Let us be diligent,
Engaging in the practice.
Let us live deeply,
Free from afflictions,
Aware of impermanence
So that life does not
Drift away without meaning.
And the Evening Message from the closing of the Zendo at night:
I beg to urge you everyone,
Life and death is a great matter.
All things pass quickly away.
Awaken, Awaken, Take heed.
Make use of this precious life.