Chapter 6: Now Is Not Part of Time
Yesterday is no more. Now what is the difference between a real yesterday and an imagined yesterday? There is no difference because both will exist only in your mind - the real and the imagined. Both will be imaginations of a sort. What will be the difference between a real yesterday and an unreal yesterday? There is no difference because both are unreal. They both exist only in your mind and nowhere else. All past is illusory; all future is illusory because it is not yet; and between the two is the present. Hence in the East we call the whole existence illusory, maya - because between two illusions how can reality exist? And today is also going to be yesterday; today is continuously passing into yesterday. The present is continuously becoming past. How can the real become illusory? The future is passing into past, and the present is just a gate, nothing else. Future is illusory, past is illusory; just on the gate things appear, for a single moment, to be real.
What type of reality can this be? That too is illusory. Hindus say it is only appearance, not real. Real is that which subsists. Real is that which is always eternally there. Real is that which is beyond time. Unreal is that which is within time. The past is within time. It will be difficult to think of the present as unreal, but start from the past. It is easy to think of the past as unreal, because whether it happened or not, what difference does it make? It may not have happened at all. It may be just in your mind, it may be just your idea that it happened. It is very easy to think about the past as unreal, and about the future also. Between the two is the narrow bridge of the present. How can something real be between two unrealities? How can the middle be real, when both ends are unreal, and when this real also is continuously turning into unreality and illusion? No, all that is experienced is imagination; it is dream stuff. Only the experiencer is real, only the observer is real. The observed is dream; the observer, the witness, is real. That is one of the greatest discoveries of human consciousness in the whole of human history.
There is nothing to compare with it. All other discoveries are just childish. This one discovery is the base of all religion: the witness is real. One thing is certain; that you are, you as a witness. Even for a dream to exist, a dreamer is needed. The dream may be a dream, but the dreamer cannot be a dream. Even to be deceived I would have to exist; even to fall into error, I will be needed. Without me the error cannot exist. This witness is the search of meditation.
So don’t be bothered about how to recognize past life experiences from illusion, madness. There is nothing to recognize. There is no need.
I have heard..
Mulla Nasruddin was telling his wife about a dream he had experienced the night before.
“It was terrible,” he said. “I was at a birthday party at Joe’s house. His mother had baked a chocolate cake three feet high, and when she cut it everybody was given a piece that was so large that it hung over the sides of the plate. Then she dipped up some homemade ice cream. She had so much of it that she had to give each one of us our share in a soup bowl.”
“What was so terrible about the dream?” asked his wife.
“Oh,” said Nasruddin, “I woke up before I could get the first taste.”
We are continuously waking up from the past. Each moment is a wakening. But we are continuously falling asleep into the future, so each moment is again a moment of stumbling into darkness and sleep. So the real distinction that has to be made is between waking and sleeping. No other distinction is of any value.