Among all the stories about Budhha’s life, the one which fascinated me most is the one which is of the time period after his death. Just a few months after his Mahaparinirvana. It related to his cousin and right-hand disciple Ananda.
Some time after Buddha’s departure, it was decided that all of Buddha’s teachings should be recited and preserved with first the Dhamma council. It was decided to form the council with 500 liberated monks. As Ananda was Buddha’s principal disciple during his last 25 years, the council was not complete without him. He was like Buddha’s shadow. Besides that, his memory was so sharp that he would remember things as well as a tape recorder. Ananda was all willing to help and everything was good except one thing: he was not liberated yet.
Though Ananda was not liberated, he had been helpful in liberation of the masses as Buddha’s assistant. Mahakashyapa, who was head of the council, told Ananda that he would hold the convening of council for a specific period of time. I think 30 days , and if Ananda did not attain enlightenment by then, they would have to proceed without him. It’s worth mentioning that Ananda was a Streamwinner at that time, which is the first stage of enlightenment.
Ananda tried and tried and kept on trying. He wanted to achieve enlightenment. Days passed, and then the last day of deadline came. He kept on trying the whole day and through the whole night, but with no avail. It was but a few minutes before the dawn when the deadline would be past.
Finally, Ananda gave up and said to himself while lying down, “I am not liberated, I am a streamwinner.” By the time his head touched the bed, however, he had achieved Nirvana/Enlightenment.
It’s a simple story but it tells so much about the power of now. All the time Ananda was trying, he was fixated on the future: “I want to be enlightened, I want to be enlightened.”
The moment he shifted his focus to the present moment and present truth that he was a Streamwinner, he achieved Nirvana.
Only when I tried to be in the present moment in my life, I realized how it’s easier said than done. There is this conditioning of jumping between past and future, without ever thinking if it makes sense or not.
If we analyze it further, we realize that it’s related to our tendency to react than act. Why we react? Because it’s easy to react than act. There is not much to react to in the present moment; but if you are focused on past and future, that’s all you can do. So it’s exclusively a territory for reactive tendencies.