Writings

Dhammalogue no.5


In today's Dhammalogue we'll discuss the topic of impermanence...
Dhammalogue no.5
Igor: Hi dear.

Jenny: Hi beard.

I: I would like to start a little series where we discuss some of the teachings of Lord Buddha. Not so much as a group of ideas that he came up with but more as the discovery of some of the basics qualities and characteristics of life itself. Qualities that would be accesible to see for anyone with enough curiosity and patience. I'll start today with the most basic one, the fact that all things that are alive come to an end at certain point and that for as long as they are alive they keep changing, inevitably moving to the moment when they'll cease to exist, at least in their current form. He called this Impermanece, Anicca in the language of his time. Would you care to explain in which way the clear realization of impermanece plays a central the spiritual teachings?

J: The Buddhist teaching is a teaching of happiness. Of how to be happy. The teaching rests on this premise, impermanence. Impermanence is fundamental to Buddhism as it is fundamental to happiness.
Nothing is still, nothing is without movement. Everything is in constant motion, changing as I write this and as you read it. Cells are dying and being born every second, You are not entirely the same now as now. Earth continues it's slow rotation, gravity's pull is not static. The slow corrosion and the budding growth we find in nature, is a perfect example of the permanent dance of impermanence. We know this, it's a scientifically proven fact and if we just take a little time to observe ourselves, we can also see it here. In the bigger picture we know that from the moment we are born we are making a, hopefully slow, journey towards death, this is perhaps our only birthright. What happens after that is still up for grabs, but this we are all aware of. Every second, without exception, is one second closer to death and further away from birth. No oxygen tent, detox or plastic surgery can change that.
In the smaller picture, the one we can more comfortably and easily relate to, we can for instance look at our mood. Our feelings, regardless of how strong and intense they are, inevitably always change. The most raging anger will eventually give way for hunger, or fatigue, or sadness, or...you get the picture, and even the most passionate love will at some point not be so passionate anymore. Our daily life regardelss of the effort we've put into perfecting a routine is never the same from day to day, neither are our relationships, nor our health, or our daily car ride. The 'same' meal at the same restaurant will be different from the one you remember. It is the most basic truth about life, it's impermanent.
If we know this and we have decided that we want to be happy, to grasp and try to hold on to anything, is futile labour and therefore our investment in the attempt to hold will with certainty bring dissatisfaction, unhappiness. Totally counterproductive to our desire to be happy. If we place our arrow towards happiness in a more superficial context and we for instance say that we need to have a partner in order to be happy, just knowing that impermanence is, is incredibly helpful. Since we know that things are constantly changing , we also know that the happiness we will experience with a partner, will also change. So a partner perhaps, will make us happy for now, but cannot provide that service in the long run. Impermanence brings us closer to truth. To how things really are. And if we want to create a life that is happy, it's good to know that ground rule. Saves us a lot of time and energy and it allows for intelligence to arise. Same principle naturally goes in the opposite direction as well. If we're feeling or experiencing something we do not like, if we remain aware of the fact that it without a doubt is going to change, all that energy and time we spend fighting, resisting or opposing our unwanted is directly making us unhappy. For happiness to be, we need to somehow find a way for it to be regardless of circumstance, since we've discovered that circumstance is always changing. This is why almost all Buddhist introductions kick off with impermanence, it's crucial that it's been understood and acknowledged, so we can stop lying to ourselves and get down to the business of real happiness.

I: In fact, as a teacher he was actually quite ruthless with this, he would occasionally take some of his students to the cemetery to see bodies decomposing and reflect on death, quite a bold teaching methodology... It seems then that this is the standing point of the teaching of detachment as recipy for happiness, we'll start with that next weekend, i think it's an interesting one, it's that alright.

J: Of course, you choose the questions honey.

I: Ok, let's go for dinner and guitar tunes then.

 

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