Memories, Experiences and Living in the Present


My daughter has a penchant for capturing precious moments of life with her camera. She is particularly fond of photographing kids in action. She visited us recently from the US along with her 2-year old kid and went on clicking video shots of the kids in action. I think she is sentimental when she says: Life is all about experiences and memories which are best captured with video shots. Whenever she has leisure, she says, she spends time going through these captured memories.

I disagree with her on the question of whether life is all about memories. Being a fan of the great philosopher J Krishnamrthy, I have completely different views on the subject. Let me quote JK himself.  He says very profoundly: Memory is the residue of an unfinished, uncompleted experience, is it not? Watch your own memory and you will see. When you finish an experience, complete it, there is no memory of that experience in the sense of a psychological residue. There is a residue only when an experience is not fully understood, and there is no understanding of experience because we look at each experience through past memories, and therefore we never meet the new as the new, but always through the screen of the old. Therefore, it is clear that our response to experience is conditioned, always limited”.

JK implies that since we do not experience every moment fully, we feel the need to keep going back to the past so that we can relive the experience. But then memory is really not very helpful either. It’s very selective and is never a faithful reproduction of what actually happened in the past. Not just that. We are perpetually busy recording experiences and miss the live experience. It’s like the old joke about a Japanese tourist who visits many places and ends up seeing them all only through the camera lens!

Having seen J Krishnamrthy’s profound insight on the topic, let us take the case of Lord Krishna’s life. He always lived in the present. His childhood was spent in Gokul. Then he moved to Brindavan where the Gopikas (Cow herding girls) experienced the ecstasy of his spiritual love. From Bridavan, he moved to Mathura for a while to complete his unfinished task and then went on to become the king of Dwaraka. Once that phase was over, his next destination was Hastinapur where he played a crucial role during the Mahabharata war. Wherever he went he played his role to perfection without being overwhelmed by emotions. He was always present in the moment and never looked back or brooded over the past. For instance, when the time came to leave Brindavan, he left all the gopikas he loved without feeling sentimental about their relationship, although the gopikas pined for him with nostalgia. Nostalgia is a symptom of having had an incomplete experience.

When is an experience complete? It’s only when one lives in the present moment completely. One can learn about living in the present moment from children. Children live every moment so completely that they have no need for memories. Here are a few live examples. Recently my granddaughter took part in her school sports day function. She participated in the running race and stood first in two events. Here is a photograph of her after winning:

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Don’t you see the innocence in her face. There is no great excitement. She ran like anybody else and winning was not important to her or for that matter to any kid. Excitement was only for the parents. Children, in their age of innocence, do not develop any sense of competition. Since there was no sense of competition, there was no tension before running and  no excitement either after the event. Nevertheless, they all enjoyed every moment of the race. Perhaps after a couple of years of brainwashing by parents on concepts like  competition, winning, losing etc, they would behave like any other adult.

Here is another instance of the spontaneity of children. The pictures below are of celebration of the birthday of my granddaughter:

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One can see all the children playing spontaneously on their own without feeling inhibited. Unlike adults who have to be coaxed into playing, all the kids joined in to play games without anyone prompting then to do so .

To me, this is the meaning of living in the present moment which is completely different from living in memories and nostalgia.

 

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Published in: on January 9, 2017 at 12:10 am  Leave a Comment  
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