Dharma: Nothing is permanent, except impermanence
When asked what was the most important message of his 50 years of oral teaching, the Buddha replied these words.
“Everything is transient, live and work diligently to appreciate and experience your impermanence.”
There were his last words a few minutes before dying from mushroom poisoning.
The key teaching of Zen is the teaching of impermanence also called transiency.
Look at yourself and around and you will see that everything changes continuously and forever.
Around 300 million cells died every minute in your body. Not 100% of them are replaced, this is aging.
No living beings, no mountains, no oceans, absolutely nothing stays as they are.
Oakville Zen will not last, nor its members and teacher(s).
Evolution is an unstoppable change with no beginning and no end, just an endless circle.
This is the fundamental and basic truth of the universe and life.
All the Zen teaching is condensed within this fundamental reality:
Our biological life and behavior, thoughts, and feelings will not be possible without change.
They come and go, then come back in various forms, endlessly, and w/o any possibility of control.
What should we do then?
Practicing awareness of impermanence is key in facing various situations such as:
Dealing with bad times, and negativities:
While practicing awareness and acceptance of impermanence, it becomes easier to accept and
deal with our bad times, and other negativities which are affecting us....since they are transient.
Dealing with good times, and positive emotional attachments:
Unfortunately, we have the tendency to believe & behave that good
times, and positive feelings will last, and, therefore, little effort is needed for their maintenance.
They are taken for granted. Yet, the most powerful enemy against good times and attachments
is their transient nature.
Should we control them? Of course not! My point here is not to suppress them. On the contrary:
While practicing awareness and acceptance of impermanence,
we must enjoy good times / positive feelings, and any attachments in a better way every min.,
that is: Not to fall into the trap of complacency/contentment, routine, and lack of effort so frequent
in our relationships either intimal or professional.
Thinking /hoping that things will last such as “ we have time” is a terrible delusion,
and a great source of potential suffering since you do not possess nor control time,
Dealing with self:
Impermanence should help us to keep a genuine understanding of who we are that is:
a transient, interdependent living entity. Being transient is also telling us that we are not
indispensable despite what our ego says. Not being indispensable is necessary to achieve serenity.
Practicing awareness of impermanence should make us better in every moment of our lives
with ourselves and others. The impossibility to tell how long we are going to live is not a morbid or
pessimistic view, it is very Zen that is down-to-earth, realistic, and pragmatic.
Dealing with time:
The present moment becomes past, and the future becomes present, but the NOW is always there.
Being mindful to the permanent NOW may help in dealing with impermanence.
In summary: We have to be conscious of this “permanent impermanence”, and accept it with all its
consequences, including the fact that constant change is totally beyond our control.
Late Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki former head of the San-Francisco Zen Center wrote
in his book Zen Mind, Beginner’s mind:
“ When we realize the everlasting truth of everything changes and find our composure and serenity in it, we may find ourselves in Nirvana which is a state where all delusions and sources of suffering are gone.” Thank you.