“May I respectfully remind you: Great is the matter of birth and death.
All is impermanent, quickly passing. Be awake each moment. Don’t waste this life.”
Ironically, this verse is usually recited in the zendo hall just before we go to bed.
What does it even mean to be awake?
It means being present, thinking clearly, listening.
Sounds simple, but it is not.
We are rarely present. Instead, we are distracted (by our thoughts, by others, by entertainment); we live in the past; we live in the future. We don’t think clearly. Instead, we are deluded by emotions and biases. And we do not listen. We talk and talk and talk.
If I am going to create my own path, it had better be the right path. As Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Otherwise, I am wasting my life and the lives of others.
So, from Dante to Whitman to Nietzche to Siddhartha – with him begins the real work of waking up.