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Episode 159 - Let Go Of The Past Present and Future

Buddhism for Everyone with JoAnn Fox

Release Date: 01/30/2023

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One way of practicing non-attachment can be expressed with the popular phrase, “Let go.” In verse 348 of the Dhammwpada, Buddha says, “ Let go of the past, 

let go of the future, let go of the present.” But what does it mean to let go? When we are attached to something, we are attached because of the way we’re thinking about it. For example, we don't suffer today because of what someone did to us in the past, but because of the resentment we are have thinking about it. If we worry about not having enough money in the future, it's not because that will actually happen (for how would we know), but because of how of we're thinking. To stop the suffering that comes with attachment to things of the past, present, and future, we first identify the obsessive or painful way we think about them. Then we find a new way to think about them that beings us peace and contentment rather than pain and longing. I like to call the practice:


“Let go into peace.”


This practice of non-attachment involves mindfully noticing the disturbing way of thinking, then replacing it with a beneficial way of thinking. In the example above with a past resentment, when we catch ourselves thinking about what someone did and it causing a painful feeling to arise, we change our thoughts to compassionate ones about that person who harmed us. We let go of resentment into something beneficial, compassionate. 


Some ways to practicing letting go into something beneficial:


  • Let go of the past: forgive yourself, forgive others. Let go into lessons learned.
  • Let go of regrets and guilt. If we understand impermanence, we know we’re not even the same person. Let go into compassion for our self and lessons learned.
  • Let go of the present; let go of expectations so you can enjoy. 
  • Let go of the present and practice contentment. Enjoy the wonder of the moment. 
  • Let go of the future and stop worrying. Have hope. Have faith that you can handle anything that comes. 
  • Let go of the future, wishing for something obsessively, greener grass, and enjoy what you have. Let go and practice gratitude and contentment. 


The verse Buddha spoke about keep letting go car from the story of Uggasena that follows. 


The Story of Uggasena


“While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered Verse (348) of this book, with reference to Uggasena, a rich man's son who fell in love with a dancer.


Once, a wandering theatrical troupe consisting of five hundred dancers and some acrobats came to Rajagaha and performed on the grounds of the palace of King Bimbisara for seven days. There, a young dancer who was the daughter of an acrobat sang and danced on top of a long bamboo pole. Uggasena, the young son of a rich man, fell desperately in love with this dancer and his parents could not stop him from marrying her. He married the young dancer and followed the troupe. As he was not a dancer nor an acrobat, he was not of much use to the party. So, as the party moved from place to place, he had to help carry boxes, to drive the carts, etc.


In course of time, a son was born to Uggasena and his wife, the dancer. To this child, the dancer would often sing a song which ran thus: "O you, son of the man who keeps watch over the carts; the man who carries boxes and bundles! O , you, son of the ignorant one who can do nothing!" Uggasena heard the song; he knew that his wife was referring to him and he was very much hurt and depressed. So he went to his father-in-law, the acrobat, and requested him to teach him acrobatics. After a year's training, Uggasena became a skilful acrobat.


Then, Uggasena went back to Rajagaha, and it was proclaimed that Uggasena would publicly demonstrate his skill in seven days' time. On the seventh day, a long pole was put up and Uggasena stood on top of it. At a signal given from below he somersaulted seven times on the pole. At about this time, the Buddha saw Uggasena in his vision and knew that time was ripe for Uggasena to attain arahatship. So, he entered Rajagaha and willed that the audience should turn their attention to him instead of applauding Uggasena for his acrobatic feats. When Uggasena saw that he was being neglected and ignored, he just sat on top of the pole, feeling very discontented and depressed. The Buddha then addressed Uggasena, "Uggasena, a wise man should abandon all attachment to the khandha aggregates and strive to gain liberation from the round of rebirths” (Daw Mya Tin, 1986).


Let go of the past, 

let go of the future, 

Let go of the present. 

Gone beyond becoming, 

With the mind released in every way, 

You do not again undergo birth and old age. (348)*


—Buddha, The Dhammapada 


References and Links


AccessToInsight.org. The First Noble Truth.


Buddha.The Dhammapada. Translated by Gil Fronsdale. (Kindle). Shambala, Boston and London, 2011. (Link)


Buddha (1986).The Dhammapada: Verses and Stories. Translated by Daw Mya Tin, M.A. (Website). Edited by Editorial Committee, Burma Tipitaka Association Rangoon. Courtesy of Nibbana.com. For free distribution only, as a gift of dhamma.


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