Buddha Standard Time: Awakening to the Infinite Possibilities of Now

Buddha Standard Time: Awakening to the Infinite Possibilities of Now

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by Surya Das

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We're all given the same twenty-four hours a day. We can spend our time feeling hurried and harried, overwhelmed by chores and demands, distracted and burned out . . . or we can awaken to Buddha Standard Time, the realm of timelessness where every choice, every action, and every breath can be one of renewal and infinite possibilities.

Buddha Standard Time

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We're all given the same twenty-four hours a day. We can spend our time feeling hurried and harried, overwhelmed by chores and demands, distracted and burned out . . . or we can awaken to Buddha Standard Time, the realm of timelessness where every choice, every action, and every breath can be one of renewal and infinite possibilities.

Buddha Standard Time shares one of the great realizations of Buddhism, an insight that anyone can learn to apply. The minutes and hours of our days do not simply march from future to present to past. Rather, each moment is intersected by a fourth dimension. By learning to live in this dimension—Buddha Standard Time—we reduce the amount of stress in our lives and find greater focus, fulfillment, creativity, and even wisdom.

Drawing on Tibetan Buddhism and other great wisdom traditions, as well as on neuroscience and holistic traditions, renowned teacher and national bestselling author Lama Surya Das shares real world examples, practical exercises, and essential techniques.

The pace and pressure of today's world feels relentless. That is why, now more than ever, we need the ancient wisdom contained in Buddha Standard Time. Far from being at the mercy of time's demands, we will finally realize that we have, in fact, all the time in the world.

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Editorial Reviews

With his well-received bestsellers Awakening the Buddha Within and Buddha Is As Buddha Does, Lama Surya Das has earned accolades as one of the most accessible and insightful Western Buddhist teachers. Buddha Standard Time sustains that reputation, offering a path of timelessness that requires no great imaginative leaps or sleight of hand. Editor's recommendation.

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HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
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6.12(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.85(d)

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Buddha Standard Time

Awakening to the Infinite Possibilities of Now
By Lama Surya Das


Copyright © 2011 Lama Surya Das
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061774560

Chapter One

Awakening to Natural Time
ROSALIND. I pray you, what is't o'clock?
ORLANDO. You should ask me what time o' day; there's no
clock in the forest.
—Shakespeare, As You Like It

FROM SWITZERLAND—The beautiful neutral land of high Alpine
mountains, pristine lakes, and charming handicrafts—comes this bizarre story:
The clockmaster A. P. Simmerling yesterday wrecked his own
business, causing damages of two hundred thousand dollars to his
clocks. According to insiders, Mr. Simmerling was a perfectionist,
and he always tried to synchronize all the clocks in his shop. The
introduction of summer and wintertime, in which all the clocks
had to be periodically set backwards or forwards, proved to be too
much of a challenge to bridge. It became Mr. Simmerling's
self-appointed mission to smash the entire interior of his shop with
a pre-war German cuckoo clock. Miraculously, the little birdie
survived the massacre. Until at least an hour after the carnage,
a Frisian standing clock also continued crying for help. Luckily,
there was a funny farm nearby where not only the patients but the
clocks ran late. After all the clocks were silenced and her husband
was led away, Mrs. Simmerling confided to local authorities of a
great relief.
An obsession with order and time can drive us mad. Clocks, like mod-
ern society, are impersonal and mechanical, and sometimes they make us
want to rebel. Although most of us will not wind up smashing our clocks
to pieces like poor Mr. Simmerling, the first step toward living in Buddha
Standard Time is learning to release ourselves from the tyranny of artificial
time. When we harmonize with nature and the rhythmic flow of Natural
Time, we rediscover the cycles of growth, change, decay, and regeneration
in the world around us, bringing a better sense of awareness and
connectedness to our busy days.
Since the earliest humans learned to tell the days, months, and years
by observing the heavens, we have been imposing order on the flow of
time. Calendars, zodiacs, and other inventions helped us calculate the
rising and setting of the sun and moon and connect the dots between the
stars and our earthly fortunes. The Egyptians invented the sundial and
water clock, the first timepieces, contributing to the orderly functioning of
early civilization. The Chinese gave us the sextant, allowing nautical timing
and measurement by the motions of the stars and the celestial clock.
The Indians conceived the kalpa, an immeasurably long eon, beautifully
defined as the time it takes a rare Himalayan bird to, stroke by stroke, wear
down Mt. Sumeru with the brush of a silk scarf in its beak. The Maya, the
greatest timekeepers of antiquity, left behind seventeen calendars, including
the Long Count, which runs out in 2012. The Incas kept time upon
intricately knotted strings, some of which survive. The Romans gave us the
Julian calendar and leap year. The British bequeathed the time zones and
Greenwich mean time, the Swiss the cuckoo clock and bejeweled watch,
and the Americans the atomic clock and the big bang, the theoretical start
of it all.

Until the Renaissance, humans operated mostly on Natural Time in
sync with the daylight and darkness, the seasons, the tides, and other
terrestrial and celestial cycles. But in perhaps the greatest time innovation of
all, with the Industrial Revolution, not only were handicrafts displaced by
more efficiently manufactured goods, but time itself became a commodity
and an increasingly scarce and valuable one at that. The world has
been shrinking and spinning faster and faster ever since, as everyone works
harder to produce more in less time.

Starbucks recently shaved eight seconds off the wait time at its counters
by waiving signatures on all credit-card orders of less than twenty-five
dollars. It saved another fourteen seconds by introducing a larger scoop so that
baristas need to dip into the ice bucket only once to make a large Frappuccino.
If you are waiting in a long line, as I have, for your early-morning pick-me-
up, you appreciate the minutes saved. But multiply this breakneck example
many times over and it becomes clear that we're growing accustomed to a
lightning-fast lifestyle that ultimately puts stress on us all.
From early morning to late at night, from preschool to retirement,
responsible citizens that we are, we rush through our lives in order to
scrimp on time. But what if time did not control us? What if we felt that
our time and our lives were our own? The first step toward reclaiming them
is to awaken to Natural Time, to get back in touch with the rhythms that
humans observed until just a couple of centuries ago, and that some
traditional societies in undeveloped countries still observe. Those clans, tribes,
and nomads may be trying to modernize and progress both materially and
technologically, but we have much to learn by getting back in touch with
their respect for the timeless and primordial rhythms of Natural Time.

Buddhist Time Management

I think I've been studying time my whole life, but looking back, I see I was
not always connected to Natural Time. As a kid living in suburban Long
Island with a restless spirit mostly channeled through a love of competitive
sports, I grew up tethered to the clock and stopwatch. By age twenty,
though, I was thousands of miles away, in dusty, windswept Rajasthan,
India, where I sat in silent meditation for ten days in a Buddhist shrine hall.
Always a bit of a control freak with an inborn sense of responsibility not to
waste a single hour, minute, or second, I suddenly had to surrender to days
divided into twelve- to fourteen-hour-long meditation sessions, punctuated
only by temple chimes; hours spent in total silence except for periods
of chanting and one fifty minute Buddhist discourse from the meditation
master each evening. To my initial dismay, there were no meals after midday.
But there was plenty of time to ruminate from noon till breakfast the
next morning. In that extraordinary environment, I heard and experienced
what Buddha said: to enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one's
family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and refine one's mind.
As for myself, I was sitting there partly because of the turmoil back
home. The '60s had turned the world upside down. With bombs falling on
rice farmers in Vietnam and peaceful Buddhist monks setting themselves
on fire—my first image of Buddhism—I didn't know any longer how to
live my life. So after college I gathered together money I'd received as
graduation gifts and money I'd saved from my bar mitzvah and summer jobs,
sold my guitar, my typewriter, and my textbooks, and got on a plane to
India. My brain was whirling with questions. In that topsy-turvy era when
four young working class rockers from England were the world's highest
authorities on love, peace, and the meaning of life, authentic answers were
in short supply. I didn't realize yet that I had come to India, following in
the footsteps of the Beatles, to learn about time, spaciousness, and eternity.
I had traveled not only five thousand miles across the globe but also
a century or two backward, to a forgotten world. First I lived in India,
a Third World country on the cusp of modernity, then ended up in the
Himalayan world of medieval Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism. The ashrams
and monasteries I studied in over the next twenty-five years were still
operating according to centuries old Tibetan Buddhist traditions, without
newspapers, telecommunications, central heating, and in some cases
even electricity or plumbing. Yet those of us who lived in joyous fellowship
there, studying and practicing the Great Way of Awakening, felt grateful
and serene, and rich in an abundance of innate resources. Nor did our
simple quality of life seem temporary or merely preparatory, but complete
and sufficient unto itself.

At first, the hour long meditation sessions, the afternoon long lectures,
and the chanted ritual liturgies seemed interminable. But after a while I
stopped marking how the day moved ahead—the hours, minutes, and yes,
even seconds on my watch. The more settled and concentrated my mind
became, forty-five minutes, an hour, an afternoon would go by imperceptibly.
Then, several days would vanish without a trace. I learned to observe
the inhalations and exhalations of my breath, and focus only there—in the
immediacy and freshness of the now—while letting everything else come
and go. Breathing in and out, and becoming simply aware of it. Watching
the breath . . . becoming the breath . . . being the breath. No time, no space
or location. Nothing needing to be done. No one trying to get anywhere.
What peace, what harmony, what bliss.
The more I practiced meditation, the better I got, until one day I sensed
myself outside of time. Everything was perfectly at rest and in complete
harmony, just as it was. After that fleeting yet unforgettable breakthrough
experience, it became a little easier for me to meditate, but it would take a
long time to unwind the superficial complexities and conditioning of my
former self. Eventually I learned how to just sit, breathe, and be—present,
lucid, and aware. Transparent to myself. Seeing Buddha, Being Buddha
became my motto. Sitting still, slowing down, taking the time to breathe
and observe my surroundings—in short, meditation—was the key to
awakening myself to Natural Time.

Through countless hours of meditation, I uncovered a secret: the more
concentration and awareness I managed to achieve, the more time disappeared.
It's not time that we lack in our rushed lives, but focus. The more we slow
down our speedy, obsessive thought process and sustain mindful awareness,
the better listeners and friends, mates and coworkers we become, and the
more clarity, serenity, centeredness, and direct immediacy of experience we
discover within ourselves. We have more time to evaluate and respond
intelligently to things rather than just blindly reacting. Clearer forks emerge in
our path. Heightened awareness sharpens and nourishes us, and renders us
fully capable of embracing life rather than feeling overwhelmed by it.
Over the following years, I continued to feel the benefits of Buddhist
mindfulness meditation through numerous retreats and regular daily
practice, and ultimately made a momentous decision. I would commit to
a long, very long, cloistered retreat in southern France to be trained as a
lama—a Tibetan Buddhist teacher, meditation master, and spiritual guide.
As prescribed by Tibetan tradition, the training period would last three
years, three months, and three days. During these eleven hundred days, the
entire energy system—including chakras and internal energies as well as
spiritual consciousness—is entirely regenerated and revitalized.
I was scared by the prospect. But as it turned out, it was similar to my
earlier experiences in the Indian desert: the first year stretched out a bit, the
second year went faster, and by the third year I no longer wondered which day,
which month, how long; I wasn't constrained by concepts of past and future. I
was, at last, able to be intensely present in each moment. The eight subsequent
years I spent at that forest cloister passed swiftly in a peaceful flow.
All of those experiences changed me and taught me that time is mainly
in the mind. When we stop our minds, even for a moment, we stop the
universe: no time, no space, no conditioning and compulsions. Just limitless
peace and harmony. In Zen, this "taste" of enlightenment, fleeting yet timeless,
is known as satori (breakthrough). It is a momentary illumination, the
sudden appearance of a bright star on the horizon or in your heart that will
guide you the rest of your days. By following the lessons in this book, beginning
with awakening to Natural Time, you will, I hope, experience satori, too.

Buddha's Timeless Teaching
According to legend, King Suddhodana, Prince Siddhartha's father, groomed
his son to become a great warrior and succeed him as the ruler of a mighty
state in what is now Nepal. To steel his will in the face of life's tribulations
and keep him from both temptation and existential reflection, the king
protected his son from all sorrows, sufferings, social ills, and iniquities—in
short, all the ravages of time. However, one day young Siddhartha strayed
from the palace grounds and encountered an elderly man who was toothless
and blind. The cloistered prince had never seen anyone like this before and
was stunned to realize that despite his wealth, power, and knowledge, someday
he, too, would age and suffer. Then he encountered in succession a feverish,
tormented man lying sick on the ground with the plague, a corpse being
cremated as tearful family and friends wept and mourned, and a peacefully
smiling monk in orange robes with a shaved head.
Dazed, depressed, stimulated, and even exhilarated at his discovery of
old age, sickness, death, and the spiritual life, Siddhartha returned to the
palace and its facade of eternal splendor and beauty to discover that his
adoring young wife had given birth to their baby. Rather than being overjoyed,
the prince felt terror-stricken at the thought of what lay ahead for
his son. He now knew that time's scythe would ultimately cut everyone
down. Instead of taking his place as master of the household, completing
his martial-arts training, and preparing to wield the scepter of his earthly
kingdom, Siddhartha escaped from the palace so he could follow the path
of the peaceful monk and find deathless truth and eternal fulfillment—
what he termed "the heart's sure release." In a word, enlightenment.
Siddhartha went through many trials and austerities, veering close to
death more than once, and eventually came to terms with this now glorious,
now horrifying, but always transitory and ephemeral thing we call
life. After his enlightenment, he reconciled with his family and taught his
mother and son as well as countless others the secrets of timeless living.
Siddhartha came in contact with illness, aging, death, and the spiritual
life, which are known as the Four Sights. They constitute the essence
of the spiritual path—recognizing impermanence, coming to terms with
it, and overcoming the suffering it causes. Although Buddhism is widely
appreciated for its ethical teachings and attitude transforming techniques,
at its heart is a profound insight into the nature of time and how
to master it.


Excerpted from Buddha Standard Time by Lama Surya Das Copyright © 2011 by Lama Surya Das. Excerpted by permission of HarperOne. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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What People are saying about this

Joseph Goldstein
“Lama Surya Das offers a wise and sane way to navigate these times. This pragmatic book will be illuminating and helpful for anyone wishing to find the timeless amidst the rush of time.”
Wayne Muller
“If your life feels busy, frantic, desperately stressedplease read this book. Lama Surya Das is a rare and gifted teacher. I can think of few better guides in our time and he has given us a beautiful gift.”
Mary Pipher
“I felt myself calming down as I read. Surya Das expands upon important wisdom from Tibetan Buddhism as well many other spiritual traditions, and shares this wonderful Native American quote, ‘Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way.’ This book could be one of those blessings for you.”
Ram Dass
“If you want your future moments to sparkle with ecstatic awareness read this book.”
From the Publisher
"A wealth of inspiration and practical tips for enjoying the Kingdom of God, the Pure Land of the Buddha, 'now.'" —-Thich Nhat Hanh author of The Art of Power
Marianne Williamson
“Lama Surya Das is on our best teachers of universal wisdom. Buddha Standard Time is fairly dripping with insights. It’s like a treasure to keep near you at all times.”
Mirabai Bush
“We all want more time. Surya Das reveals the open secret that we already have it, hidden within each moment. Discovering it is simple but not easy, and he gives us the tools and reminders to actally do it. Now. So let’s have tea....”
Sylvia Boorstein
“This book is Lama Surya Das in his most tone-perfect Western guru voice: authoritative, inviting, generous, funny, poetic, imaginative and informative and totally accessible.”

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Buddha Standard Time: Awakening to the Infinite Possibilities of Now 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Informative, down-to earth, and well written. All that you would expect from the author of Awakening the Buddha Within--which is a superior book.