Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.I've been thinking about this quote for a couple days.
Having been raised in a moderately waspy household and attending a very waspy private school, this is new to me. (My father was raised as an Irish Catholic, but converted to Protestantism when he got serious with my mother. I think he was happy to do it though. He resented his Rhode Island Irish upbringing.) Like many white, upper middle-class Americans, I was subjected to an unfortunate mixture of Calvinism and New Thought. Or, in other words, I was supposed to be fearful of sin and damnation while allowing my mind to rest easy with the metaphysics of positive thinking and the endless pursuit of material gain. Honestly, I've never really feared a "hell" per se, but who hasn't wondered if and how they'd be evaluated in some form of an afterlife?
The Buddhist notion of letting the past stay where it is and the future unfold at its own pace is somewhat hard to swallow. Pop culture has told me to cherish forgiveness and reconciliation, so letting the negative aspects of the past go is easy, but it is asking me to let the great times of the past go as well? Is this a "don't live in the past" kind of thing?
It's one thing if I'm refusing to let go of something or someone and that attachment is hindering me in some sort of personal, emotional or professional way, but I don't think cherishing the past is a negative thing. That said, I understand what Buddha is saying. Hanging on to memories --whether they're good or bad-- will certainly tarnish the desired perfect reflection of the Buddha that we are supposed to see when we look in a mirror. After all, Buddha became enlightened only after he decided to forget about his royal background and we should do the same.
That's hard, but I don't think it's as hard as not dreaming about the future. I dream about the future everyday. I dream about the end of the workday. I dream about my plans for the weekend. I dream about where I'll watch the World Cup and I also dream about my pre-America trip to the Indo-Gangetic plains and the Ganges River where I'll visit the holiest sites for Buddhists.
While I get what he was saying, I dig hope. I dig it a lot.