Many Tricycle subscribers will be familiar with the clip below from Sunrise/Sunset, which screened at our film club about a year ago. In the clip, the Dalai Lama deconstructs the present moment, so often essentialized in contemporary Buddhist discourse. He is clear: without past and future, there is no present, as it only has meaning in relation to past and future. This flies in the face of our own habit of essentializing the present moment at the expense of conceiving of ourselves as contingent, historical beings. It is a kind of meditative instruction that has ossified into Western Buddhist dogma. 

It’s no accident that the idea that only the present moment exists holds such appeal. In a culture of seemingly no past, no future, we revel in a kind of eternal present that renders us incapable of learning from history and leaves us unconcerned, or unaware, of a collective myopia that finds vast expression in so many of our undertakings, from the shoddily constructed new condos that go up overnight to the ubiquitous, global destruction of the natural world. 

In the current issue, Jack Petranker puts this “present moment” to the test, posing the question “do we really know what we mean by it?” and looks back to the philosophers of antiquity to get underneath the cliché. Read that article here.


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