Impermanence need not be a bad thing

13 January 2011 - 1:32am Comments Off

The truth of impermanence should make us determined to benefit others…

H.E. Tsem Rinpoche

There are many ways to understand impermanence. The gross or obvious kinds are those in relation to what we can see or experience with our sense faculties like our ears, our nose, etc. When we see someone lose an arm, their belongings, or when we see a tree being chopped down or a burning house, we have no issues about accepting the impermanence of those objects.

The more subtle form of impermanence is the change that takes place slowly, moment by moment, almost imperceptibly within us and all other objects. The biggest problem with failing to realise that all phenomena is subject to this form of impermanence, is that it deceives us into thinking that things are substantial and lasting.

Such a wrong view gives rise to desire and attachment for the object. We spend an enormous amount of energy trying to make sure objects stay the way they are, because we actually believe that they can be preserved in the form they existed when we first set eyes on them. Do we not try to do something about our face every time we look in the mirror? When we can no longer cover up the process of ageing, some of us resort to costly and painful surgical procedures. Reflect on the number of trial and tribulations we have been through as a result of our desire for things to remain permanent – reputation, status, relationships, wealth, etc.

When we go against reality (in this case, the truth that nothing is permanent), we are headed for frustrations, suffering and disappointments.

A little direct, but it gets the message across!

When we accept this truth, we will not be so fixated with objects of desire. This allows us to enjoy them in the same way we enjoy the transcient beauty of a rainbow or a sunset; when it disappears, we do not chase after it. This is a higher form of pleasure that is without attachment or hatred.

Buddha advised that we should live our life seeing all things and experiences like a dream. It will allow us to enjoy our fleeting, temporary existence on earth without being stuck on any object; it frees us to enjoy everything that our human form and environment can provide.

Most importantly, such a correct view will increase our motivation to help others. Since our existence and material possessions are only temporary phenomena, we should not waste our time and energy on meaningless pursuits, to want more and more, to argue over petty issues or to always want to win.

At the time of death, only merits or good seeds from our virtuous actions can help us ensure good rebirths. It is the only path to lasting happiness for our present and future lives.

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