A brief Talk on Impermanence in Buddhism

Given at Hong Kong Buddhist Tri Virtues Advocate Centre on July 31st, 2011

Namo Fundamental Teacher Shakyamuni Buddha!
The Dharma, infinitely profound and subtle,
Is rarely encountered even in a million kalpas.
Now we are able to hear, study, and follow it,
May we fully realize the Tathagata’s true meaning.

Dear Dharma masters and Dharma friends,
Good evening! Tonight we are gathering at Tri Virtues Advocate Centre, and I’d like to talk about the Buddhist view of impermanence.

I. The Significance of Meditating on Impermanence

Impermanence plays an important role in everyone’s daily life. For those who regularly meditate on it, impermanence is not far away at all, instead, impermanence lies in everything that happens around us. Therefore, it is a key for us to understand and meditate on impermanence. It is one of the most essential ideas among all kinds of dharma practices.

The Buddha once said in Mahaparinirvana Sutra, “Just as among the footprints of all the sentient beings, the elephant’s prints are the greatest; thinking of impermanence is the best among all thoughts.” The Buddha also said in other sutras, the merits of making offerings to one hundred enlightened beings such as Sariputra and Maudgalyayana are huge, but still less than that of meditating on impermanence for one moment.

Because the meditation of impermanence is so essential, we Buddhists shouldn’t treat this pith instruction lightly, or even completely ignore it.

In fact, everything around us is a perfect example to demonstrate impermanence. I remember in 1993, H. H. Wish-Fulfilling Gem Jigme Phuntsok came to Hong Kong and gave the great empowerments of Vajrakilaya and the Great Perfection of Manjushri. Now H. H. the guru entered into parinirvana. I also remember, at that time, Lama Chodak was at the Palyul Center of Hong Kong, and a couple of days ago when I just arrived in Hong Kong, I was told he entered into parinirvana, too. At that time H. H. Penor Rinpoche was still alive, but now left us. More recently, the great guru in Tibet, H. H. Lama Achuk also entered into parinirvana. So what do all of these tell us? All of these great masters and virtues have experienced impermanence, not just us ordinary sentient beings.

I’m sure many of us here tonight will not be alive twenty or thirty years from now, and more certainly, none of us will be in this world after one hundred years. This is the natural law of life. Therefore, keeping impermanence in mind, I wish all of us not to cling to this life. Lama Tsongkhapa said in The Three Principles of the Path, “Developing the awareness of the difficulty of obtaining this precious human rebirth and the impermanence of life will turn us away from fantasies about this life; reflecting upon the immaculate relationship between actions and their inevitable consequences and the sufferings of cyclic existence will change our fantasies about future lives.” If we can completely get rid of our attachment to this life, renunciation and Bodhichitta will arise in our mind and make us a real dharma practitioner.

Maybe some of you took refuge many years ago, while others are novice Buddhists and not familiar with the teaching of impermanence. In either case, we should know that, impermanence is the truth and unaltered objective law in this world.

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II. The Embodiment of Impermanence

In Buddhism, impermanence is mainly described in four aspects, often called the “four edges of impermanence”, which are:

Whatever is stored up is bound to run out.
Whatever rises up is bound to fall down.
Whatever come together is bound to fall apart.
Whatever is born is impermanent and is bound to die.

Many Buddhists can repeat these four sentences, but the question is whether you meditate on them or not. If not, you only understand them verbally and miss their profound meaning.

Actually, our life shows the four edges of impermanence at all time. Many people work hard in their whole life to accumulate wealth, but then exhaust it all at once. Many skyscrapers are very magnificent, but they fall down quickly.

Like the World Trade Center Twin Towers in the US, 1 WTC fell down in 102 minutes, and 2 WTC in 56 minutes after the attack by terrorists. Even a 110-story skyscraper cannot escape from impermanence, not to mention others. Some people got used to staying in high positions and became extremely arrogant. In just a few years, they lost their reputation. As long as there is birth, then there is death. People may die at a young age, a middle age, or an old age, or may even suddenly die of disease. For all of us, the date of death is uncertain, but death itself is for sure. Even though many people wish to live forever, Qin Shi Huang is a good example in particular, however, he died at the age of 49.

Since everything cannot escape from impermanence, it is meaningless to strongly cling to anything that we temporarily possess. If we understand impermanence deeply, our life and dharma practice will get much better. Otherwise, if we are completely unaware of impermanence, all of our diligent efforts will become the cause of rebirth in higher realms.

Compared to ten years ago, today’s Hong Kong has made fast advances in materials, especially in architecture. However, dharma practice does not seem to make much progress. Ten years ago, many people were fascinated by empowerments and worshipped the Buddha just for wealth and high status, as well as good health and peaceful life. After ten years, it seems nothing has changed. Actually, the fundamental motivation of Buddhism is not for worldly well-being, otherwise Buddhism is not distinguishable from other religions and mundane theories. So what should be the fundamental motivation for us to practice the Dharma? As we see the true character of samsara, i.e., all sentient beings in the three realms undergo suffering and almost no happiness, we wish to root out suffering of others and ourselves through dharma practice.

The way of rooting out suffering only exists in Buddhism. Why? It is because only the Buddha possesses ten powers, four kinds of fearlessness, and eighteen distinctive characteristics. Just like Einstein who discovered the theory of relativity and Nobel who invented explosives, both of whom had uncommon wisdom, our Fundamental Teacher Shakyamuni Buddha recognized ignorance as the root cause of samsara with his distinguished supreme merits. Only by cutting off ignorance can one attain ultimate happiness. Thus, if we want to help all sentient beings be happy and apart from suffering, we have to rely on Adhyātmavidyā, i.e., the inner studies of Buddhism.

Therefore, I wish all of you Buddhists, especially the young people, to study the Dharma and pray to Buddha not just for the accumulation of merits for health, wealth, family harmony and social status. As our life is just a few of decades, even if you attain all of these with Buddha’s blessings, they are all temporary happiness and are not worthy of the whole life’s efforts. Being a Buddhist, one shall practice the Dharma for this and future lives, for the benefits of oneself and others. Otherwise, the fundamental motivation is going in the wrong direction.

Sutra of Condensed Dharma says, “All compounded phenomena are impermanent, like water bubbles that never last; therefore, one should perform virtuous deeds and benefit this and future lives.” I like this teaching very much.

Regardless of either the material world or living beings, no compounded phenomena can last forever, and will fall apart as quickly as a water bubble. Either strongly attached love or deeply yearned-for wealth, all of these keep changing. At a certain point when their causes and conditions completely evaporate, their results will automatically disappear.

Some may ask, “Since everything is impermanent and so are our lives, we should use our time for enjoying instead of worrying about other things.” This attitude is incorrect. Life is much more than physical body itself. After your current body dies, life will continue with another body and form your afterlife.

There is a very good analogy to explain the existence of afterlife. As I call someone with my cellphone, the procedure is, my voice is transformed from sound waves to electromagnetic waves, and then transmitted by satellite and reaches the receiver’s cellphone. The voice is then transformed from electromagnetic waves to sound waves, thus he hears me.

Similarly, when our body of this life dies, our consciousness will be free from the dead body and form an intermediate state, just like sound waves being transformed to the electromagnetic waves. Then after some time, as being transformed back again, the intermediate state of consciousness will combine with a new body to form the next life. Although physical body has a gap, life remains existent and never perishes. Once we understand the truth of consciousness, we are sure that all sentient beings are going along with cyclic existence without a beginning or an end. Physical death is not a complete end, but rather a new start.

Of course, influenced by the normal education in our society, some of you may still have doubts about the eternity of life. Keeping such doubts is very harmful to your dharma practice. Therefore, I want to remind you that, we must study the Dharma diligently! The more you learn, the less doubts and wrong views you have. Only through studying the profound Dharma can our faith and wisdom increase day by day.

III. How to Understand the Impermanence of Life

Actually, meditating on the impermanence of life can bring us huge merits. Even if we can’t practice too much, only meditating on impermanence every day is already excellent. In Han Buddhism, the great master Yin Guang posted a big handwriting of “death” in his Dharma hall, to remind himself of death and impermanence from time to time.

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In Tibetan Buddhism, there is also a great master, who was asked about the most supreme Dharma by his disciple. At first, the master said nothing, and the disciple asked again and again. Finally, the master took his hand and told him sincerely, “I will die, so will you!” Maybe some of you think, “How can such easy words be the most supreme Dharma?

The guru should give more blessings or the highest empowerments, and those are the true Dharma we search for. But the words ‘I will die, so will you’ are so simple that everybody knows. If it is the true Dharma, our disciples can also give the same teaching to our gurus.”

However, the disciple had deep faith in his guru. He thought, “My guru is absolutely correct. Finally one day, the guru will enter into parinirvana, and similarly, I will die someday. At that time, I cannot even take care of this body, not to mention all other stuff. Therefore, I shall diligently practice impermanence and completely give up this whole life.”

As he practiced diligently in this way, the disciple soon got enlightenment.

Most of us, however, do not have such a deep faith. As I visited many big cities, from most people’s behaviors and the way they talk, I can tell that they never practice impermanence. This is very regretful. Although I am not a good practitioner, wherever I go, I have the feeling of impermanence. Every time I leave home, a thought will naturally occur to me, “This may be the last time of leaving home, and perhaps I will never come back.” From ten years ago till now, I keep the same feeling.

For example, when I am visiting Hong Kong this time, my feeling is that there will not be next time, and I will never go back. This is a habitual tendency through many years’ practice on impermanence. No matter what I am doing, I regard it as the last time. This cannot make me negative, but instead more positive, because it pushes me to do everything at my best.

Therefore, we Buddhist should not care for nothing due to impermanence, and should not regard everything meaningless due to the renunciation of samsara as it is full of suffering. This negative attitude is not reasonable at all.

Why don’t Hong Kong people have the concept of time? We started half an hour ago, but there are a bunch of people who keep coming in. In Tibet, people are very serious about dharma teaching. If it starts at seven o’clock, everybody will be here at seven, and nobody comes in late. Well, perhaps it’s due to the freedom in Hong Kong, which is not so good under certain circumstances. Never mind, you can come or leave as you like. I’m totally fine with it.

Today I can’t talk too much, but still have something to share with you. In fact, it’s not necessary to speak too much.

If you have faith and pay attention to dharma teaching, just the simple words “I will die, so will you.” can bring you huge benefits; otherwise, even though I spend all my time and energy, perhaps you just feel the speaker is too talkative, but have no idea of what he’s talking about.

Many years ago, the guru H. H. Wish-Fulfilling Gem Jigme Phuntsok came to Hong Kong and taught the Dharma. At that time most people only understood Cantonese, and we had to find a translator. Every time I spoke H. H. the guru’s teaching in Chinese, and then the interpreter interpreted them into Cantonese to the audience. Today, most of you seem to understand my teaching. So you see, your languages and habits also keep changing.

Today, we can gather here and talk about the Dharma, we should first appreciate the great Master Jing Xiong of Tri Virtues Advocate Centre, as well as the sangha’s efforts. They worked hard to create such a good opportunity for us to study the Dharma together. As we learned from the Buddhist texts, from the interdependent origination point of view, even the opportunity for us to have one lecture together is very rare. As the stanza I mentioned just now, “Whatever is stored up is bound to run out, and whatever rises up is bound to fall down”, it is so precious that Shakyamuni Buddha had to dig one thousand holes on his body as an exchange for the stanza at his causal stage. Now you need not such austerity or any hard work to get the stanza, and it is just due to your own merits.

IV. The Issues That Today’s Buddhists Are Facing

Nowadays, for all dharma centers and monasteries, either in Hong Kong, mainland China, Tibet, or other countries and regions, the most important thing is to be in harmony with each other. If the disciples of different gurus keep quarreling and fighting all the time, they can only hurt, or even destroy the whole Buddhism, instead of benefiting anybody.

Till last century, people had been solving big issues through wars. Nowadays, as the whole world is called “Earth Village”, making friends and seeking common points while reserving differences are the main principles among different countries. Being Buddhists, why shall we compete among different groups? As we know, Theravada Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism or Han Buddhism, they all originated from Shakyamuni Buddha, so it is unreasonable to compete with each other. If we can’t maintain harmony among Buddhists, the whole Buddhism cannot make any progress.

In fact, the development of Buddhism in both Hong Kong and Taiwan has a very open space, where many eminent masters hold great dharma activities very frequently. No matter which school they belong to, I myself just deeply rejoice, because they bring many people to Buddhism this way.

Yesterday I visited the biggest Buddha Statue in Hong Kong. Known as the biggest Buddha of Asia, there are a lot of tourists. Some went there just for curiosity. Regardless of their purpose, as long as one sees Shakyamuni Buddha’s statue or image, the seed of liberation will be planted in his or her mind. Therefore, in history many great virtues used different approaches to create the link between sentient beings and the Buddha. We should deeply rejoice in such good deeds.

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Meantime, we should be aware of the fact that there are always some people who cheat their followers in the name of Buddhism, either Han or Tibetan Buddhism. We have to observe carefully different gurus or monks with our own wisdom.

Otherwise, simple fanaticism could cause huge remorse.

Nowadays, some behaviors brought very bad influences on Buddhism and made many Buddhists distressed. We should know that, those are personal behaviors and not the fault of Buddhism itself. For example, some people pretend to be Buddhist gurus to carry out special dharma rituals, such as empowerment. Many people are also using this way to engage in illegal activities to make money. These behaviors greatly mislead the public so that they believe this is what Tibetan Buddhism does. Of course, this is not true, as nobody can find these faults in the doctrines of Tibetan Buddhism.

Therefore, we Buddhists should be responsible for our behaviors to the whole Buddhism, to all the sentient beings, and to our own gurus. Some behaviors, especially collecting money, may not do good to Buddhism, since most people usually care more about their wealth and are very sensitive about their money. If our Buddhism is mainly showing nothing but collecting money from the public, for sure it will not have a bright future.

Being Buddhists, we have the only goal of seeking liberation above anything else. Keeping impermanence in mind, you will not desire any worldly wealth. I remember that, in the Sutra of Noble Mindfulness of Pure Truth, it is said that, “Everything is impermanent, including beauty, caste, wealth, and all other joyful things; therefore, wisdom should not run after them.” This teaching is very good. For those who really have wisdom, they won’t desire and cling to beauty, wealth, luxury houses, or temporary enjoyment, since all of these are impermanent. Compared to liberation, they are meaningless. Of all ages, so many great virtues and eminent monks regarded them as unreal and illusive and completely abandoned them. Similarly, even for some laymen today, after practicing to a certain stage, they realized running after materials is meaningless. Then, how should our renouncing practitioners seek that?

Therefore, being a Buddhist, one should be aware of his or her own behavior. Otherwise, you may not contribute to the development of Buddhism, and will destroy it instead. This will be bad for you. So I want all of us to think more about the propagation of Buddhism, and how to spread the Dharma widely in your perspective. If we are to shoulder this mission, we should first protect sentient beings’ minds by avoiding any behaviors that will easily lead the public to the misunderstanding or defamation of Buddhism.

Everyone has such responsibility, not just our monks or certain gurus. All of us Buddhists here may be compared to Christians to see how they stick to their religion. They take care of all their personal behavior for the benefit of their centers and beliefs. Why do we lack such cohesion?

Hence, no matter which school you belong to, either Han Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism or Theravada Buddhism, all of us should care for Buddhism’s future and make efforts to prosper it. As shown in any sutra or shastra, the Dharma contains the wisdom that can dispel all kinds of suffering and the great compassion that can benefit all sentient beings. However nowadays, many Buddhists just demonstrate the noble Dharma with very poor behavior. It is such a pity!

Why are so many people fascinated by Vajrayana today? What are their initial motivations? Very possibly, they are looking for good health and wealth. In fact, no matter how profound and precious it is, such motivations already deteriorate the noble Dharma. Venerable Atisha had a disciple who was practicing Hevajra, but in the end, he fell into the cessation of Hinayana. Why? Due to his incorrect motivation, even the supreme Vajrayana Dharma led him to an unexpected ending.

Therefore, whether one practices the Dharma well or not mainly depends on the practitioner’s motivation.

Because of the lacking in systematic study and solid theoretical background, nowadays many people don’t have a good understanding of the vastness and depth of the Dharma teaching. No matter what they do, such as chanting sutras, making prostrations, offering incenses, they all consequently become superficial behaviors. Even being Buddhists for many years, they cannot make any progress this way.

We should know that, Buddhism really has two aspects, wisdom and compassion. If we want to grasp the essence of Buddhism, we have to go through a systematic study. Some intelligent young people are very devout to the Three Jewels, as they actively collect merits and zealously take part in dharma activities. However, they do not want to study or even talk about the theory of Buddhism. Some even believe that, learning those theories will make one’s conceptual mind more complicated and thus cause more obstacles to one’s liberation. Actually, all the sutras are from Shakyamuni Buddha and all the shatras are from those great Bodhisattvas such as Nagarjuna, how can they hinder our liberation? Some people just don’t understand the obscurations of liberations and have such unreasonable ideas. On the other hand, if one knows nothing about Buddhist theory, his practice must be blind and have no direction, which is the biggest obstacle of liberation.

Some people have been Buddhists for eight or ten years, however, they mainly keep asking for empowerments from different gurus and never complete the preliminary practice. Especially in Hong Kong, being a very open city, the advertisements of Dharma transmission or empowerment are all over the place. Some may have received a large number of empowerments, but they only chant mantras as daily homework, having no idea of sticking to their vows, and are not interested in Dharma learning at all. This is a big problem for their practice.

If you grow up in a Buddhist family, like our Tibetans, then even without very good wisdom, your faith can be strong enough. However, in today’s society, people have all kinds of thoughts. Being a Buddhist but not knowing the Dharma teaching, one might lose his faith when encountering certain circumstances. If that happens, he would have nothing to rely on and just feel perplexed. On the contrary, if one learns Dharma systematically, the right view of Buddhism will be powerful enough to destroy any doubts or incorrect thoughts, which is very important for today’s dharma practitioners.

V. Guide Your Dharma Practice With Impermanence

For all of us, meditating on impermanence is the fundamental dharma practice. In Open the Door to the Mind, there are many instructions on how to practice impermanence. In one of his teachings, Padmasambhava used an analogy to explain impermanence. A person accidentally fell down a cliff, and suddenly he grasped a bunch of grass on the cliff. He held it firmly, and there is a deep abyss under him. After a while, a white mouse came and took away a piece of grass; then a black mouse came and took away another piece. Thus the two mice took turns to take away the grass, which diminishing what was in his hand. At that time, he saw a tree full of fruit nearby, so he started to eat the delicious fruit joyfully and completely forgot his dangerous situation.

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What does it mean? Our life is just like the grass; the white and black mice are day and night, by which our life gradually decreases; the fruits nearby are worldly fame and wealth; and the deep abyss underneath is the three lower destinies of afterlife. Simply speaking, our life is quickly approaching the end, and if we still deeply delve into the trivial happiness of worldly desires, then once this life is over, the rebirth of our next life will be nowhere but the three lower realms.

However, many people do not realize this. Like some old people, obviously they can’t live any longer, and will die after twenty or thirty years, at most. But they are still busy with their future planning, as if they could live for another century. On the other hand, young people think death is far away, as their bodies are healthy and energetic; but they don’t know death might come unexpectedly, as the old saying goes, “The netherworld is not just for the old.”

In this world, every minute and second so many people die. Some die from accidents, some die from disease, and some commit suicide. Therefore, death is not far from us, and it could happen anytime and anywhere. Nevertheless, normal people are very sensitive about the word “death”, and are usually unhappy to talk about it. However, Buddhists are different, since we regard death as the driving force of dharma practice. Like Venerable Milarepa, originally he went to practice due to the fear of death, and eventually, he could successfully rest in the state of no birth and no death and did not fear it any more.

There are also many senior practitioners in Buddhism, who keep meditating on impermanence in their whole life. “What should I do when I die?” “What should I do when I’m sick with cancer?” “What should I do when I get in a car accident?” If we always keep such thoughts, we are preparing for death. For normal people, either super stars or great leaders, they seldom think about death; once it happens, they just do not want to leave this world and can only cry, but none of that will help.

Therefore, being a Buddhist, we have to study the doctrine of Buddhism. If you just have a certificate of refuge and chant mantras in your spare time while having no idea of Dharma teachings, the practice is too superficial. At least, we should meditate on impermanence as our daily practice. Good practice of impermanence can spontaneously urge you to do virtuous deeds, since you are always thinking, “I shouldn’t be distracted or slack off in my practice, instead I should collect more merits and good karma diligently, because I may die very soon.”

Therefore, of all dharma practices, impermanence is the most important. So many great virtues previously said, if one meditates on impermanence deeply, he won’t have any difficulties in other practices; on the contrary, if one doesn’t keep impermanence in his mind, even the supreme dharma in Vajrayana cannot take him to liberation.

Here is one more thing that I want to mention, which is that, nowadays most people regard Tibetan Buddhism as Esoteric Buddhism and Han Buddhism as Exoteric Buddhism. It seems in both Hong Kong and Taiwan, for more than twenty years, such statements are getting very popular. It is actually incorrect. In Tibetan Buddhism, either Kargyu, Geluk, Jonang, Nyingma, or Sakya, they all stress the conjunct practice of both Mahayana and Vajrayana. Throughout the whole Tibet region, you can’t find a school that only practices Vajrayana without Mahayana. Similarly, regarding Han Buddhism simply as Exoteric Buddhism is also incorrect. As we see, in the morning and evening chanting liturgy of Chinese monasteries, there is the Suramgama Dharani, Dharani of The Most Compassionate One, Rebirth-To-Pure-Land Dharani, and so on. All of these are esoteric mantras, and in Buddhism there is no other stuff more esoteric than these.

Some may think, “In Esoteric Buddhism, empowerment is a prerequisite to read certain Dharma books, while in Exoteric Buddhism, it’s not necessary.” In fact, this thought comes from a smattering knowledge of Buddhism. In Exoteric Buddhism, some precepts for monks are also kept secret from normal people. So keeping secrets is not unique in Esoteric Buddhism.

In addition, it is not appropriate to assume all Tibetan monks with red robes belong to “Lama school”. “Lama” really means guru, and not every Tibetan practitioner can be guru. Similarly, it is not appropriate to call all Han Chinese monks “He Shang”, since not every monk is qualified with “He Shang”, which is an honorific title for monks with good practices and great virtues. Therefore, different titles represent different meanings. Maybe due to historical reasons, these special appellations are often improperly used in many cases.

Yesterday in the Chinese University of Hong Kong, I saw there are many Buddhist terminologies in their master and doctoral theses. So I just reminded them that, “When writing Buddhist papers in future, you’d better keep less self-approbation, and a couple of books are not enough to make you a Buddhist expert.” As many scholars with certain titles often presume that, they have studied Buddhism well enough through reading a few Buddhist books, and then start to run off at their mouths criticizing Buddhism. This is ridiculous.

Yesterday when a person talked about Tathagatagarbha, he believed it is just the heart of Tathagatas, a very strange idea. Later during lunchtime, someone directly told him, “You’d better not make comments this way! From an expert’s point of view, Tathagatagarbha is not as simple as you explained.” Nevertheless, he still insisted that he was correct, and the Buddha exactly taught in this way. As you can see, nowadays many people prefer to understand Buddhism in their own ways, then spread their ideas all over the world and bring very bad influence on Buddhism. Therefore, as a Buddhist, each of us has the responsibility to protect and propagate the noble Dharma.

Meanwhile, we should be aware of the impermanence of life. We have met such distinguished Dharma in this life. It is not spontaneously coming to us, but due to the huge merits we collected through many past lives. Therefore, with such good causes and conditions, we should not waste our life or delay our dharma practice. Some may think, “I’m only 30 years old, and I’ll start my practice at 60.” This is a very absurd plan, since we never know which comes first, death or tomorrow? Nobody can guarantee one won’t die tomorrow. Thus we should keep impermanence in our mind to remind us to practice as soon as possible, instead of wasting our lives any longer.

It is true that we are so fortunate to have the chance of learning so many Dharma teachings such as impermanence, no-self, great compassion, Bodhichitta and so on. Many people around us are collecting bad karma every day and may never have a chance to hear the Dharma in their lives. We should cherish this precious life and diligently learn and practice the Dharma. By keeping doing this, we can eventually understand the Buddha’s teaching that “All forms are impermanent; all impermanence are suffering; all sufferings have no self.” Furthermore, it will not be difficult for us to realize emptiness.

In addition, if we realize the truth of impermanence, then no matter what happens, we can face it fully at ease. Just now, I met a lady who came to Hong Kong by air, more than seventy kilometers away from her home, to catch her husband, since she heard that he’s meeting with another lover in Hong Kong. She is very upset, saying that her husband used to love her so much, but now he completely changed. She asked me what she could do about it. Then I just told her, “Everything is impermanent. As he used to love you and now does not any more, this is exactly impermanence. On your side, even though you still love him, but after some time, you may be entirely disappointed and even want to kill him.

With impermanence, any impossible thing could become possible, so you don’t need to cling to the past so firmly…”

Not only our mind keeps changing, nothing can remain same and stable. So what else can we trust? Neither your house, your wealth, nor your body, can escape from the domination of impermanence. As you become older and older, with fewer teeth and more white hair and wrinkles, some people get more anxious. They wish to “mend” their bodies with high technology to retain their youth. Nevertheless, the footprint of impermanence cannot be clearly scraped off.

Therefore, we have to understand the teaching that all compounded phenomena are impermanent. It not only benefits our life, but also encourages our dharma practice. Keeping impermanence in our mind, the renunciation of this world can really arise, and furthermore, we can get enlightened with the emptiness of self and break free from samsara.

For some Buddhists, they have great passion to run after virtuous deeds superficially, such as chanting sutras and releasing animals; but do not worry about the eradication of ego. We should know that, having a human body and practicing the Dharma are not easy for us, and if this time we didn’t use them to free ourselves from birth and death, how much longer do we need to stay in cyclic existence to encounter the Dharma again? This is a big issue that each of us has to reflect on.

Therefore, we can’t keep dharma practice at a superficial level. As you can see, other religions also have certain rituals and charities to help people. This is just a small part of the Buddha’s teaching. More importantly, the Buddha taught us to recognize the true nature of mind through dharma practice and thoroughly break the chain of birth and death.

I wish all of you to make more efforts in this aspect, and treat it as the essence of your dharma practice.

  • krish

    It is a fact that “everjy thing around us”. that is everything which this physical body of o;urs with its Skandhas (sense bases plus Mana) is changing and so perishes now or sometime later. This is not a discovery of Siddha Artha Gautama. Upanishats that is the ultimate part of Veda repeatedly assert this. All things created or from Prakriti change and cease to be. For example refer to 2.27 of B hagavad Gita. Buddha asserted and authenticated this truth. I am afraid so called Buddhists have not completely digested the implication of Meditating on Impermanence. In truth Impermanence is the complement of Permanence. It is true that withing the horizon of our cognizance nothing remains permanent. But, Can one say that there is nothing beyond this limited region of cognizance. If there is then that need not be subjected to the conclusion of impermanence. Would you declare that there is nothing beyond our cognitive capacity is very much an egoistic “head strong” thought. Nobody’s knowledge is perfect. It increases with time and experience and communication transmission. Hence, the region of cognition also increases. Your hypothesis is that nothing is permanent. Hence the region of cognition is also not a constant It changes; and as things once cognized will not get out of this region, it follows that the region of cognition of any being enlarges or expands., Expansion means that objects which were hither to not in it come into this region. Thus what you are unable to perceive today are likely to be perceivable in future and it may not be impermanent.
    Anatta or no Atma theory is based largely on impermanence theory. None said Atma involves in action or creates passion, hatred etc. They are all Prakriti generated and will pass or accrue in future. Atma is not the doer. Buddha says Mana (Consciousness) is the thing that takes form again is. Upanishat says Atma takes form again due to the stains it gathered while residing in the body. Atma carries these stains and to wash them off takes another form. What Upanishat said about Atma, Buddha says about Mana or Consciousness. Hence the difference is in the nomenclature alone, it seems. I am working on the truths behind Anatta Vada. I am beginning to be skeptical about the second and later generation students of Buddha and cavil-inclined Western scholars who painted and are eager to paint Buddha as a rebel from Sanaatana dharma. Bouddha is a part of Sanaatana dharma. dharma is that set of principles, not diktats, which allow one to lead a harmonious life with the rest of creation (Dharati iti prajaa iti Dharma)

  • The Dreamer

    I’m a hindu (from India) and in my opinion there are a lot of similarities between hinduism & buddhism , like the belief in
    re-incarnation , then our goal of liberation from the cycle of birth and death and so on . . . When we were kids we have been taught in school about Buddha and his teachings . And now as an adult , i try to follow some of them , especially the mahayana view of compassion towards all creatures and vegetarianism . According to the mahayana view , Buddha forbids flesh eating since all creatures of the animal kingdom were our blood relatives in the past .

    Now , i would like to know one thing . I’ve heard that the buddhists don’t believe in a soul . Is this true ?
    If so , then what exactly re-incarnates after death of the physical body ?

    From my extensive online research i’ve come to know that buddhists actually do believe in a soul but call it by a different name , like
    consciousness . According to the buddhists , after death the consciousness passes on to another life .

    Now let me just mention here what the hinduus believe when it comes to the soul .
    According to hinduism , the soul is eternal and is not impermanent like material things and it keeps changing physical bodies until it escapes the cycle of birth and death . After it escapes the cycle of birth and death , it travels from the material realms to the spiritual realms of the Supreme God and there he attains a place to serve the one true Supreme God from where we all came .

    In hinduism , we believe that we have 3 bodies in total .
    The physical body (sthuula sharira) ,
    The astral body (sookshma sharira)
    The causal body (karana sharira) .
    These 3 bodies are separate from the soul (atma) , and this soul is present near the heart of our physical body .
    So according to hinduism , after the death of our physical body , the soul leaves the physical body carrying with it two other bodies namely astral & causal , which too leaves the physical body .
    The soul powers all the 3 bodies (physical , astral , causal) … Without the soul none of the bodies would function . So when the soul leaves the physical body , it lays dead . The soul also carries along with it , the characteristics of the individual , like his memories , ego , feelings , attachment , lust , greed etc. This is why we often say that the spirit of the deceased still lingers near to his family because of attachment or feelings for his family and therefore he can’t cross over
    to the other side .

    Now i would like to know from the respected holy monks of Buddhism , about their views on the soul .

    Do they actually believe in the soul ? If yes , then do they call it in English by the name “consciousness” ?

    Thank You .