By Nhat Quan
Let's talk about Impermanence first. Many of you often hear the word impermanent or life is impermanent, so what is impermanence? What is the law of impermanence?
Listen to what the Buddha said:
- Everything that has formed in the world is subject to change, decay is impermanent.
Based on this idea, in the Buddhist Dictionary of Doan Trung Con, the definition of Impermanence is:
- Not often, not fixed in moderation.
If calling for the whole words, it is:
- Impermanent change.
That is, sometimes yes, sometimes not, sometimes other times, constantly changing. As soon as you see it, you will die; when you are young, you will be old; when you are strong, then you will be weak; when you are healthy, then you will be sick. In the world, all conditioned dharmas are born, die, change, and flow without the slightest bit of stability, so they are called impermanent.
So Impermanent means not permanent, not forever staying in a certain state, always changing shape; going from the state of formation to change and then disintegration... Buddhism calls the stages of change of an object: Formation, existence, destruction, and emptiness.
Impermanence is a Buddhist term, anyone who is a Buddhist has heard it. But in order to understand deeply, newcomers to Buddhism must also be anxious to see, want to know to see, to know. Impermanence is one of the Three Dharma Seals of the Buddha. In common sense, Impermanence is the opposite of what is normally happening. This happening, all developments of things, phenomena as well as people change every moment.
To have a clearer idea of impermanence, observe and reflect on your body, mind and the situation you are living in, then you will know. First of all:
- Body, from birth with a body of 3 to 4lb, but over time, month and year you grow, it is impermanent in the form of growth. And all from humans to other living beings are also affected by this, so to say impermanent is permanent.
- So are the mind and circumstances
For more clarity in the Nirvana Sutra, volume 10, Manjushri Bodhisattva told the Buddha that:
- Like things in the world, there were before and no now, there were and then they came back. Such things are all impermanent.
In the Bodhisattva Precepts Ritual there is a sentence:
- Human life is impermanent and changes faster than water flowing from the top of the mountain to the foot of the mountain. Although there is today, tomorrow it is difficult to keep.
According to the dictionary and the sutras mentioned above, the phenomenon of impermanence is divided into two types:
- Moment of impermanence: The word moment is only for a very short period of time and is very subtle, so it is difficult to see, in an instant through four generals of birth, stay, change, and death;
- One-time impermanence: The type of impermanence that occurs and you see it immediately, such as an earthquake or tsunami.
The reason Buddhism often talks about impermanence is to remind you to appreciate what you have, to understand the depth of the wonderful Buddhist teachings about impermanence, but for the purpose of showing the meaning of impermanence. positive. This is completely different from the world's way of thinking because when worldly people hear Buddhism talking about impermanence, they think Buddhism is pessimistic.
As said once, Buddhism says impermanence is to help you realize the truth of human life in the short term, to help you overcome distractions, and be diligent on the path to enlightenment and liberation. free from suffering. Help you soon realize the fragility of human life and appreciate life for meaning. Therefore, the doctrine of impermanence in Buddhism is not a theory or treatise but says that impermanence is about truth. This truth requires you to practice, contemplate and enter realization, through which in the Buddhist scriptures often images such as lightning, dew, and water bubbles are used to express the characteristic of impermanence, right in the place birth and death of all things. The Diamond Sutra says:
- All conditioned dharmas
All like a dream, like an illusion,
Like water bubbles, like morning dew,
Like lightning flashing in the sky.
And the Lankavatara Sutra says:
- The things that have formed are not real,
Change like lightning,
So it's illusory.
The truth is so, but not everyone sees and accepts it as the cause of suffering and consequences. So you have to practice to easily enter and realize this truth. The truth of things, although beautiful, is difficult for people to keep for long. What should come will come, what should go will go, it all depends.
You all understand that in this life you will have to interact with many people, and share many things with each other, but there is only one thing that no one wants to touch, which is impermanence. Author Dien Duy once wrote in Hoa Dien Nua Mau that:
- Regret is normal, loneliness is also normal, and people are born to savor suffering, born to see impermanence and change clearly.
Indeed, in life, there are people and things that are still the same a second ago, but only the next second has changed. Life is impermanent and permanent, you won't know what tomorrow will bring. The world is impermanent, so don't rush to despise people, don't rush to boast.
The story of Han Tin's humiliation under the groin probably everyone knows. At that time Han Tin was very poor, but everywhere he went he carried a sword with him. When he was in trouble, he had to beg. At that time, a butcher said to Han Tin:
- You have a large and tall figure, and you like to wear a sword, but your liver is very small. Do you dare to stab me with your sword? If you don't dare, then crawl under my groin!
Han Tin really crawled under the butcher's crotch. But things are impermanent, many years later, Han Tin becomes a general, but the butcher is still just a butcher. Impermanence is a normal occurrence of life, you never know what will happen a second later. But you have to believe that nothing is bad forever, and nothing is good forever, this is impermanence.
When a person's life is up and down, it's undulating like waves, it's hard to avoid, and adapting to it is the right attitude. Su Tung Po (1037-1101), is one of the most prominent great poets of Chinese history during the Northern Song Dynasty. He was once falsely accused by Vuong An Thach, forced to leave the capital, and exiled to live outside. During the deportation, Su Tung Po again considered nothing, he and his friends picked vegetables, caught fish, and brewed wine. When imprisoned in Hoang Chau, he once wrote:
- Truong Giang flows around with beautiful fish,
The dense bamboo full of the mountains gives off a fragrant aroma.
Although this place was sparsely populated, the town was desolate and backward, he happily accepted, built a house, planted vegetables, dig wells, plows fields, and enjoys the landscape. Although he became increasingly frustrated with his long exile, he fell in love with this remote land and spent most of his time composing poetry and calligraphy. After being exiled to Huizhou again, Su Tung Po writes:
- Eat three hundred lychees every day,
Not afraid to be the people of Linh Nam.
He consoled himself, that even though life was bad, there was good food to eat. No matter how difficult life is, he does not care about winning or losing, according to the circumstances to live.
In this life of yours, impermanence is always your friend, when you encounter difficulties that you do not know how to solve, it may be difficult to accept at that time. But after a while, you suddenly feel like everything is in order.
So understanding that impermanence is permanent, and is the normal state of life, you will feel comfortable. The truth is, there is no life that does not change, and there is no life that is the same every thousand years. The most obvious thing you can see is a year with four seasons of change, different weather, and life of mixed joys and sorrows, everything is experienced. And impermanence often comes when no one expects it, maybe when a flourishing career suddenly collapses, sometimes when two people promise to be together, reluctant to leave, sometimes a life partner companion suddenly disappeared… Or maybe, being poor and struggling suddenly luck came, and got out of poverty, and became a billionaire
Everything goes according to nature, you can maintain inner peace and quiet in this impermanent world. Do not cling to perfection, because the moon has a full day and a waning day, everything is transformed, fresh flowers will wilt, and water will overflow. Therefore, to say that impermanence is permanent is the normal state of life, it cannot be avoided, nor can it be hidden. That is why the venerable ones often say:
- The Buddha taught that all worldly dharmas are impermanent, but if all are impermanent, then that very impermanence is already a very permanent factor.
The Buddha's teaching is very reasonable, and so even the statement that all is impermanent contains content or a permanent reality. In fact, the problem is how you are contemplating the object and understanding what is normal. For example, the same question as above can also be applied to factors such as suffering, affliction, etc. From beginningless beginning to the present, sentient beings have always suffered, have always been immersed in afflictions, and so on. suffering and afflictions are also very common factors. But certainly, when teaching about the impermanence of all things, the Buddha did not mean to deny that suffering or affliction is permanent in this sense.
So, being permanent or impermanent is not the result of discriminating from words, but it is a quality, a real state in life, and each of you must feel and contact it yourself to be able to do so cognitive ability. Within the interpretation of words, you often rely on the elements of time and persistence to say the permanence of an object. These factors can be measured or estimated, but they are only approximate values. So your perception of such a permanent quality is always in the realm of relativity.
For example, every day you cross the bridge, the bridge, and the river's water is the same, but in fact, today's water is not yesterday's water, in that short day, it is always changing. changes in every day, every hour, but you do not notice to recognize…
Therefore, the longer the duration of an object's existence, the more difficult it becomes for you to perceive its impermanence. Looking at a mountain, a river… you never think that they will change or even disappear. But in fact, science has recorded many cases where the world transforms deep lands into hills, rivers change the flow, mountains sink deep into the sea...
Because these changes take place over such a long period of time in your life, you are almost incapable of perceiving them. However, no matter how difficult to discern, changes and transformations of this kind are still only one aspect of the meaning of impermanence taught by the Buddha. Moreover, they are also considered gross impermanence, also known as transient impermanence, meaning that they are easy to recognize because they occur within the range that you can observe and measure. There is also subtle impermanence or momentary impermanence, which is much more difficult to perceive. It is the impermanence that lies within your thoughts. They continuously arise and pass away every brief second.
So are your thoughts or feelings. They arise and pass away in very brief moments, but their unbroken continuity makes it feel like a continuous and steady stream of thoughts or feelings. That makes you always mistakenly perceive them as solid, consistent elements.
It is only when you have a pause, that is, taking some time to meditate and reflect within yourself, that you will be able to realize the fragmentary, fragile, continuous arising and passing away of each thought or feeling. But what would such true perception mean?
First of all, they help you to see the fragility, instability, and constantly changing and perishing nature of all things as well as even the perceived notions of such things in your mind. This fragility and constant change is the true meaning of impermanence. And when you understand it like that, you will no longer doubt that impermanence is a very permanent factor. Simply because you can clearly see that the impermanence itself is fragile and constantly changing from moment to moment, they don't have anything solid or stable to be considered permanent. Similarly, the suffering and afflictions that all sentient beings are immersed in since beginningless time are also not permanent, for they are also fragile and constantly changing, with nothing solid or steadfast. Of course, the succession of impermanent factors cannot create a permanent element, but it goes on repeating for all individuals, for all situations. Understanding that, you will see that impermanence is permanent.
Recognizing the impermanent nature of things also helps you to free yourself from many attachments in life in a different sense. You are greedy, clinging to one or more objects in your life simply because you see them as solid entities of lasting value. Whether it is a big house, a new car, or the fame of a revered person… all these things are perceived by you as objects that are and will last with lasting value, therefore you think they will be able to bring you satisfaction, happiness.
          But really, whether these things bring you happiness or not, is not discussed, but the process of trying to get them, or maintain them after having them is always a process with no hope.
Why? That's because the fragility, and the pseudo-combination of those things, is not what you want, but it always happens. Any material achievement you get after much effort, eventually, changes perish. Due to the wrong perception of not seeing the impermanent nature covering them, you keep falling into suffering and unsatisfactory because reality always goes against your wishes.
When you truly realize the impermanence of all things, you will have a more correct attitude and inclination to behave. The attachment will not be able to arise as strongly as before, as well as regret and pain of loss will no longer have the motivation to arise. You can accept the realities that happen to you as they really are as impermanent, fragile, and unstable.
          You see that from birth to death, your body has changed countless times, but it does not change one thing for another, just like the previous one. One cell dies, another takes its place, and the following cells are younger than the former... And just like that, your body goes from young to old, from life to death!
          The Buddha, when he was still a prince, lamented with Princess Da Du in the palace of joy, thinking of the impermanence of the human body... We will then be old, weak, and ugly. Time will cover our heads with silver ash. Oh! your clear and blue eyes will be opaque! Your red lips will eventually fade!... I hear in me, in you, and in everyone, every day breaking, under the ravages of time, all the precious things in life. .. we hold desperately, the treasures within us, like holding a shadow, like grasping a scent!
Be a wise man! A noble and young man, next to a gentle wife serving early in the morning, but still wise enough to see the law of impermanence destroys what is considered beautiful in human life! Those poignant words, not only have awakened Princess Da Du but also awakened those who are still infatuated with the temporary life, birth, old age, illness, and death, embodying the law of impermanence. If you have a body, you will have to bear the burden of birth, old age, sickness, and death, and cannot last forever.
Although they know that the body is impermanent, many people because they want to nourish and serve the body, cause so many terrible crimes! Because they want to eat and nourish themselves, many people have to kill weak animals and execute innocent animals before dying in a horrible way.
As I said, impermanence is a very real quality, and if you really have the practice to reflect on it, at some point you will realize impermanence, not through other reasons argument, or analysis, but a perception like when you feel the heat of the noonday sun or feel the coolness in a light breeze or the bitter cold on a winter night. All descriptions will no longer make sense because they are limited and never fully tell about reality. Only with the perception that is no longer through descriptive words can you truly understand the nature of impermanence as permanence. You from the time your parents were born, then grow up, grow up, and then start getting old, get sick and finally die. That process of birth, standing, dissolution, and cessation are impermanent, taking place in every moment. You grow up day by day also means you die day by day, which means you are being changed by impermanence. Because you of today were not you of yesterday. Buddhism calls this change, not one, not another
Just like looking down at the river, you see the river has not changed. The river is still the same, but if you reflect, you will see that all the water in the river a moment ago is gone, but has been replaced with a different amount of water, the water of the river is different. So is your body.
You contemplate your body in the same way, not to see this body as impermanent and unstable so that you neglect or destroy it. Such understanding is a misunderstanding of the doctrine of impermanence. You clinging to this body is often still a wrong view, and this body clinging to its cessation is also a wrong view. The Buddha taught you to reflect on the body as impermanent, it is easy to lose so that you don't cling, don't get attached to take on suffering. On the contrary, you must use this fragile body that is difficult to find for the purpose of seeking liberation, nor because of this temporary body that creates unwholesome karma, causing long-term suffering in the future. You must use this body like using a boat, called the boat of dharmakaya, to swim across the river of birth and death, by doing meaningful deeds, benefiting yourself and others, leading to peace and happiness.
Through the Buddha's teaching, you see that not only painful feelings are suffering, but even pleasant feelings are impermanent, so they are also suffering, and all feelings are suffering. However, this teaching of the Buddha causes confusion when thinking one way. Because suffering or not depends on human perception. The fact that dhammas are impermanent, which is said to be permanent and unchanging, is the cause of suffering. In fact, things and phenomena are always changing that you think are permanent. You want it to stay the same, like wanting to stay young forever and many other desires. It is this wrong perception and desire that gives rise to suffering. You suffer not because all species, all things are impermanent change, decay, but you suffer because you are subjectively attached to the things you love and craving does not last long with you.
According to Buddhism, cultivation is turning bad karma into good. That is a valuable lesson from impermanence. Practicing, and contemplating impermanence is permanent, can help you with a few points as follows:
- Seeing clearly that impermanence is permanent, you realize that what you have in the present moment is precious. You should cherish care and nurture.
- When you see that the current situation is not satisfactory, you are not discouraged. All is impermanent is permanent, if you know how to transform, tomorrow the situation will change.
Seeing that impermanence is the permanence of all things, you can eliminate craving and keep your mind calm in the face of unexpected changes in circumstances. Having peace of mind, not looking for temporary pleasures, and seeking true, permanent happiness.
- Contemplation on impermanence is the permanence of all things that has the function of eliminating delusion. You don't dislike everything but touch and deal with everything with wisdom, that is, without attachment and attachment.
The life of impermanence is permanent, but not short-lived, but continuous. Thoughts, words, and actions today will determine the form of life of each person in the future.
In short, in the view of Buddhism, human life is impermanent is permanent. Because of these properties, everything is always capable of transformation, changing for the better or for the worse. The good is not necessarily good forever, the not-so-good, has the opportunity to improve to become good. The problem depends on your conception of life and life values.
Indeed, before the reality of life's suffering, you always look for yourself happiness, a way of life for yourself. But really, very few people have found the cause of suffering and the way leading to the cessation of suffering. Therefore, the aspiration to be free from all suffering, to achieve peace and happiness, and to be free in the midst of the eternal stream of birth and death is the constant desire of the world. Because the goal of life is happiness right here, and the value of happiness is the highest of all the values ​​​​of life. Understanding people and the world is understanding the path to true happiness. Buddhist teachings always have real value, all for the liberation of all sentient beings, a peaceful Nirvana.
Life is always in motion, constantly changing, but the truth is final and immutable. Therefore, contemplating in order to have a correct perception, and have a true view of the world, life in this world is imperfect, always longing, being a slave to the craving, birth, old age, illness, and death are a process the law of creation, of human life from which to achieve enlightenment and liberation as Bhikkhu Bodhi asserts:
- The attainment of Nirvana comes with the opening of insight and brings about absolute peace, pure happiness, and tranquility of all mental formations. Nirvana is the cessation of all desires. It is also an island of peace amid the raging currents of old age, sickness, and death.
What is more true than that, the Buddha himself realized that old age was hidden in youth, the germ of disease was eating away at health and death was creeping into every corner of life. With such wisdom and awareness of people, the Buddha and his disciples are always at ease and free in the midst of the changing world. And you, are wandering travelers. Perhaps you should also stop and return to your inner world because real happiness is here and now.
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