I saw an unusual sight as I stopped at the traffic light on my way home: a beggar musing on the pavement. As other beggars were swarming around cars as they usually do, this one middle-aged man just sat there, his eyes gazing blankly.
What was he thinking about? Was he thinking about his fate as a beggar? Or was he wondering if he’d better die than begging for money like that? May be the term ‘thinking’ here is not quite right. When you stay still with your eyes gazing nowhere like that, you certainly cannot be thinking.
I reflect on myself, and I find that I often do that: musing, standing or sitting still, eyes glazing. I did this several times even when I was in the middle of a class. One day, a mentee of mine caught me brooding near the window. She quickly dropped her stare the moment our eyes met. It was a nasty experience, and since then I have tried not to muse like that during a lecture session. . .
What is running in my mind? Many things, but most often it is about life.
This life is so transient, very temporary, not permanent. It is fleeting by nature. You have one experience, getting engaged in it, and before you are fully aware of what is actually going on, you move on to another experience. The future becomes your present, and then by a few blinks of eyes, it fades into the past. On and on it goes like that, until time finally ends . . .
Now, exactly because time is flying at the speed of light, what we see and have here cannot be eternal. They are all temporary. Sooner or later they will fade away, gone, vanish into thin air.
People can have two different attitudes toward this ephemeral nature of time. First, they would say: “Oh, ok, so while I still can, I will reap as much money, as much fame, as much power as I can possibly grab”. And then they go at all cost to gain power, amassing as much wealth as they can, knocking out and exterminating their enemies, and killing God as well. When they finally die, they think: “Fine, now I’m dead, but I’m glad I could enjoy all the materialistic prosperity when I was still alive.”
The second kind of people realize the temporary nature of life, and they begin to think: “These goods and these lovely people are not mine. Sooner or later I will have to leave them. These positions and high-ranks are not mine, either. Someday some other people will replace me. This beloved student and children are essentially not mine, either. Soon I’d have to say good-bye as they get married and settle down in their own lives. I, meanwhile, will become older and older, and finally I will die. So, while I am now still very much alive and wealthy, I’d better do things that make them happy.”
The first type of people attach themselves to material wealth, while the second type detach themselves from all mortal things and look forward to resting in vast realm of space where pure joy resides. The first may die in stress because they just cannot let go of their possessions, even at the very last moment of their lives; the second die peacefully, knowing that they have made other beings happy and now are heading toward eternal bliss in Heaven.