Buddhist Wisdom from a Catholic Priest

Fr. Richard Rohr reflects on a Buddhist teaching – being present to the present.

“The presence of God is infinite, everywhere, always, and forever. You cannot not be in the presence of God. There’s no other place to be. The only change is always on our side—God is present, but we’re not present to Presence. We’ll make any excuse to be somewhere other than right here. Right here, right now never seem enough.

But here’s the problem—we’re almost always somewhere else. We are either reprocessing the past or worrying about the future. If we watch our mind, it doesn’t think many original thoughts. We just keep thinking in the same problematic ways that our minds love to operate.

We can say that all spiritual teaching—and I believe this is not an oversimplification—is teaching us how to be present to the moment. When we’re present, we will experience the Presence. [1]

Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, a Buddhist monk and international teacher, left one of the three monasteries of which he was abbot to spend several years on a retreat journey. Following in the ancient tradition of wandering ascetics, he “wanted to explore the deepest depths of who [he] really was out in the world, anonymous and alone.” [2]

Here is part of the letter he left for his students before his departure:

“All that we are looking for in life—all the happiness, contentment, and peace of mind—is right here in the present moment. Our very own awareness is itself fundamentally pure and good. The only problem is that we get so caught up in the ups and downs of life that we don’t take the time to pause and notice what we already have.

Don’t forget to make space in your life to recognize the richness of your basic nature, to see the purity of your being and let its innate qualities of love, compassion, and wisdom naturally emerge. Nurture this recognition as you would a small seedling. Allow it to grow and flourish. . . .”

[1] Adapted from Richard Rohr, “First Sunday of Advent: To Be Awake Is to Be Now– Here,” homily, November 30, 2014 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2014).

[2] Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche with Helen Tworkov, In Love with the World: A Monk’s Journey through the Bardos of Living and Dying (Spiegel and Grau: 2019), 10.

Published by Mona

I am a wife, mother, and author. I taught high school for 27 years and I was a hospital and hospice chaplain until my health required that I retire. I miss my hospital coworkers and cannot imagine how terrible this year and last year have been. I want to be there for them in at least this small way.

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