In Buddhist teachings, impermanence is a fundamental concept that lies at the core of Buddhist practice. Everything in the universe is impermanent, and nothing lasts forever. When we fully appreciate this truth, we can gain real peace and understanding. However, when we don’t, we suffer, as did the monks who descended into misery and despair at the Buddha’s passing. In this post, we will explore impermanence, change, and loss, and how they can serve as profound reminders of our existence.
Impermanence is the inescapable and essentially painful fact of life. It is the singular existential problem that the whole edifice of Buddhist practice is meant to address. To understand impermanence at the deepest possible level and to merge with it fully is the whole of the Buddhist path. The Buddha’s final words express this: “Impermanence is inescapable. Everything vanishes. Therefore there is nothing more important than continuing the path with diligence. All other options either deny or short-shrift the problem.”
The Pain of Impermanence and Loss: A Profound Reminder of Existence
Change isn’t just a fact of life that we have to accept and work with. Instead, feeling the pain of impermanence and loss can be a profoundly beautiful reminder of what it means to exist. As we age, we become more acutely aware of our own mortality and how everything changes around us. Impermanence is not just about death, but also the constant change that happens in our lives. Even something we have now will not remain the same forever. Impermanence is not just something that will happen later; it is happening right now. Impermanence is not just a loss, but it is also renewal and change.
Once a Japanese Zen master believed that impermanence is itself Buddha Nature. He saw impermanence as a path to fully appreciate and live life. Practice, is not about changing or improving our lives, but about fully embracing and appreciating the conditions of our lives, especially the impermanence and loss that come with it. When we practice, Buddha Nature manifests in time, and time is always ripe for this to happen because time is always impermanence.
Mindfulness and Impermanence
One way to embrace impermanence is through mindfulness practice. Mindfulness allows us to be fully present and aware of the current moment. When we’re mindful, we’re not worrying about the past or the future. Instead, we’re fully engaged with the present. Mindfulness can help us appreciate the impermanence of life and the beauty of the present moment.
Loss and Impermanence
Loss is an inevitable part of life. We will all experience loss at some point in our lives, whether it’s the loss of a loved one, a job, or a relationship. Loss can be painful, but it can also be an opportunity for growth and change. Loss reminds us of the impermanence of life and encourages us to live fully in the present moment.
Buddha Nature is the inherent nature of all sentient beings. It is the potential for enlightenment that exists within all of us. Buddha Nature is not something that we can attain; it is something that we already possess. Impermanence is a part of Buddha Nature. When we fully embrace impermanence, we can see the beauty and the potential for growth in every moment.