What is a Buddhist Moment


Moment. Be in the moment. Live in the moment. Be mindful of each moment.

Just what is a moment?

Anyone who studies Zen, Buddhist meditation techniques or spent time in a martial arts dojo has heard about moments. Every Sensei, speaks about the importance of each moment. We have all had moments, ones of pleasure, pain, confusion, happiness, etc. and so on. We know what a moment is, don’t we?

“Very brief portion of time”

The Western definition of a moment from the Oxford Dictionary is “very brief portion of time” or “exact or particular point of time” isn’t very concise. There are nanoseconds, milliseconds, seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, centuries, you get the idea, yet a moment is . . . well, a moment. A thesaurus isn’t any more help when it equates instant, second, minute, flash, time, point in time, juncture, and stage with a moment. Looking at those words we know they don’t all mean the same thing so how can they all be a moment?

The thirteenth-century Zen master, Eihei Dogen broke the day down into 6,400,099,180 moments. That is a lot of moments. No one is sure how he arrived at the number but he made a moment real. 6,400,099,180 and we have a concrete number to work with. In Stanza Seven of The Moon in a Dewdrop, Dogen wrote, “In essence, all things in the entire world are linked with one another as moments. Because all moments are the time being, they are your time-being.” (Translation by Welch and Tanahashi)

Dogen quantified and qualified a moment.

He was making the point that in each day we have many moments in which to act. There are many of them every day and they make all things interdependent.

Some Buddhist dictionaries equate a moment with 1/75th of a second. In the Abhidharma scriptures, a moment is sixty-five instants. In the West, a moment is a nebulous idea of time. Eastern teachings take a moment much more seriously, but either way, it is not the number that is important, it is the knowledge that time passes quickly. A moment is the essence of impermanence.

Whether you practice martial arts or Zen there are many moments in which to act. It is the moment right now that you must focus on. Be mindful of this moment, not the one before it, or the one that might come after. It is at this moment that you have an effect. As each moment comes it is a successive opportunity to act.

When your Sensei says to be in the moment, be in THIS MOMENT. Living your everyday life, be mindful of THIS MOMENT.

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