Why this (and only this) moment is the exclusive possibility to see things as they really are?

2 Answers 2


The future is only just an imagination at best as it has not happened and the past is only an memory. You cannot see the in details anything other than what you remember or things yet to unfold.

So present moment is what you can study to get a understanding of reality at the subtlest level.

  • Is this answer opinion? Where in the canon, sutra, or scripture is this supported? Please cite your references. Feb 14, 2015 at 18:03

From the Diamond Sutra, Chapter 18, speaking to Subhūti, the Buddha imparts,

...I know the mind of every sentient being in all the host of universes, regardless of any modes of thought, conceptions or tendencies. For all modes, conceptions and tendencies of thought are not mind. And yet they are called 'mind'. Why? It is impossible to retain a past thought, to seize a future thought, and even to hold onto a present thought.

This insight connects directly to clinging and attachment, which in turn, connects to dukkha (suffering; dissatisfaction with the way things are, were, or will be).

From Samyutta Nikaya LVI 11 (translations vary),

The First Noble Truth with its three aspects is: "There is suffering, dukkha. Dukkha should be understood. Dukkha has been understood."

Loosely, the Pali word, dukkha, means "incapable of satisfying" or "not able to bear or withstand anything": always changing, incapable of truly fulfilling us or making us happy.

This is a very skilful teaching because it is expressed in a simple formula which is easy to remember, and it also applies to everything that you can possibly experience or do or think concerning the past, the present or the future.

The past is a construct of a clinging mind attached to what was. The future is a clinging construct of mind attached to fantastic possibility. The present moment is all that is real and actionable.

Put another way, one can not act in the past or future. One can only act in the now (present). Attempting to act in a past or future moment ("coulda", "woulda", "shoulda") is not Samma (to slightly abuse pali) -- meaning 'not proper', 'not whole', 'not thorough', 'not integral', 'not complete' and/or 'not perfect.' And thus, out of step with the Eight-Fold Path.

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    Great post. As one relinquishes attachment towards the ultimate end, one moves closer to now- pure unsullied experience. I've always imagined that highly advanced practitioners might even 'process' events closer to now, ie faster, but I have no science for that. I have a feeling we may eventually see science prove meditation has this type of effect though. Feb 16, 2015 at 4:39
  • Welcome to the site. I like this answer. Especially the past, present, future-part. We also have a Help Center with useful resources that you might like.
    – user2424
    Feb 26, 2017 at 23:11

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