The Future Is In the Present 

(On New Year Resolution)

Talk transcribed from Sunday Service at Zen Center, 12/31/2006 (Part One)

So this is the last day of the year 2006. What are your New Year Resolutions? It is a good idea to set your goals, spiritual goals in particular. Even though the Diamond Sutra says, "The past mind is intangible; the present mind is intangible, the future mind is intangible." We try not to hold on to the past; we try not to fantasize the future; we try not to cling even to the present. Sometimes people get confused about this point: we should live in the present moment. Does that mean we don't plan the future? No! That would be a misunderstanding of this teaching. The Buddha, before he became the Buddha, definitely had a goal. His goal was to liberate all sentient beings. That was his motivation which drove him diligently to seek a solution. To seek the truth. He certainly had plans.

So what is the difference between setting a goal and planning the future, and clinging to or fantasizing about the future?

[Answer from audience: To fantasize about the future, you don't actually do the work necessary to bring the result you want.]

Right! We should think about Causality: cause and effect. If you want something to happen in the future, you need to bring about the right cause and conditions. That's how future relates to the present. That's why the future is in the present. That means now, there is something you should do.

So if you want to finish school, be successful in business, or become a Buddha, you need to know what it takes to get there, you need to put in the right effort now.

So to fantasize about the future, to have unrealistic expectations about the future, to cling to the future means you don't understand cause and effect; you don't work on the cause, you don't put in the right effort, but you expect something to happen in the future. That won't work.

If we want a good future, a good new year, we need to think about what we should do in the present. Buddha wants us to be happy, so of course we should think about the future. But we should be realistic, know what is possible. If you want happiness in the future, you need to know what is happiness. If you want to continue to be happy you need to think about what kind of happiness lasts. You need to know the path, the Way, to ultimate happiness.

You want to get enlightened? Think about what you should be doing now to achieve that goal. You should study and understand the path, know how to get rid of your delusions and bad habits, and act on it. You want to improve yourself. But are you really doing the things now to improve yourself? If not, where is that future?

So the future is in the present.

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