Buddhist Reflection: Impermanence


The concept on impermanence is a core teaching in Buddhism. This is because it has the most to do with the idea if attachment and suffering. Bottomline, if you can wrap your head around the truth that everything in life if ever-changing then you will eliminate most, if not all, your suffering.

Impermanence is not only a Buddhist concept, it is a universal concept. Impermanence is a universal reality. According to Buddhist understanding, everything in our material and conscious worlds that come into being purely as a result of causes and conditions, are ultimately of an impermanent nature. Nothing is stable and everlasting. But, for our ordinary human minds, many of the things that are around us appear to be stable and everlasting. We directly assume and cling to this view, when in fact, these things are not stable and not in a state of everlastingness. Inevitably, things change. Due to our false assumptions of stability and clinging to everlastingness, it brings psychological and emotional pain: Frustration, disappointment, confusion, mental confliction, and we are totally confused in that darkness.
When we talk about impermanence there are two types: Gross and subtle. One could say, visible and invisible. Gross impermanence refers to things and events that come into being due to causes and conditions, stay for a while, then disappear, or cease. For example, death or glass that breaks. The occurrence of the gross impermanence is dependent upon secondary causes that destroy the continuity of the life, or the glass. This is called gross impermanence because it is visible to the ordinary human mind and it depends on secondary factors or causes to destroy it. The subtle impermanence refers to anything that comes into being as a result of causes and conditions in a state of momentary changes, including ourselves. The very first moment of our life at birth is not very stable and is moving toward its cessation. This means the process of destruction is already at work, or has begun right from the moment of birth. In other words, one could say the cause of destruction is set in motion by the birth and, therefore, things are already in the process of cessation. This is called the subtle impermanence. When something breaks down or somebody dies due to external causes, it’s not a great shock for someone who has a profound understanding of subtle impermanence. Of course, ordinary people like us, who don’t have an understanding of subtle impermanence find this shocking.
Everything that exists in the world can be destroyed in four ways. 1) Birth will be destroyed by death. This means that the end of birth is death. 2) Our meeting with people, like friends, relatives, ends in separation. Mainly, we have problems with separation from friends, relatives, loved ones. 3) The accumulation of wealth and material possessions will end with exhaustion of our wealth and material possessions. 4) Everything that is constructed high above us and those in powerful positions will collapse. Also, everything that looks fresh and young will turn stale and old. If we look into our world from these four destructive ways, we can see the impermanent nature of the world, including ourselves.
According to Buddhism, the understanding and realization of impermanence is very useful, helpful and optimistic. 1) Because it allows us to see our whole world as a very temporary state. As a result, we are able to protect our minds from many of the unhealthy emotions that plague us. 2) It is a very necessary factor that is needed to accelerate one’s spiritual realization and practice


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