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Impermanence and mindfulness


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An explanation of the spiritual concepts of impermanence, nonattachment, and mindfulness by Rev. Ed Geraty of the Universalus Interspiritual Community.

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Impermanence and mindfulness

  1. 1. Impermanence Rev. Ed Geraty The Universalus Inter-Spiritual Community
  2. 2. <ul><li>Impermanence is an undeniable and inescapable fact of human existence from which nothing that belongs to this earth is ever free. (This concept is known as Anicca in Buddhism) </li></ul><ul><li>there are five processes over which no human being has control and which none can ever change. </li></ul><ul><li>These five processes are, the process of growing old, of falling sick, of dying, of decay of things that are perishable and of the passing away of that which is liable to pass </li></ul>
  3. 3. <ul><li>Hinduism also believes in the impermanent nature of life. </li></ul><ul><li>Impermanence can be overcome by locating and uniting with the center of permanence that exists within oneself. </li></ul><ul><li>This center is the Soul or the self that is immortal, permanent and ever stable. </li></ul><ul><li>The Buddha differed radically with this most fundamental concept of Hinduism and in line with his preaching the early </li></ul><ul><li>Buddhists did not believe in the existence of a permanent and fixed reality which could be referred to as either God or soul. According to them what was apparent and verifiable about our existence was the continuous change it undergoes. </li></ul>
  4. 4. <ul><li>According to the teachings of the Buddha, life is comparable to a river. It is a progressive moment, a successive series of different moments, joining  together to give the impression of one continuous flow. </li></ul><ul><li>It moves from cause to cause, effect to effect, one point to another, one state of existence to another, giving an outward impression that it is one continuous and unified movement, where as in reality it is not. </li></ul><ul><li>The river of yesterday is not the same as the river of today. The river of this moment is not going to be the same as the river of the next moment. So does life. It changes continuously, becomes something or the other from moment to moment. </li></ul>
  5. 5. <ul><li>Take for example the life of an individual. It is a fallacy to believe that a person would remain the same person during his entire life time. </li></ul><ul><li>He changes every moment. He actually lives and dies but for a moment, or lives and dies moment by moment, as each moment leads to the next. </li></ul><ul><li>A person is what he is in the context of the time in which he exists. </li></ul><ul><li>It is an illusion to believe that the person you have seen just now is the same as the person you are just now seeing or the person whom you are seeing now will be the same as the person you will see after a few moments.  </li></ul>
  6. 6. Attachment <ul><li>Because we see ourselves as a permanent thing separate from everything else, we grasp and cling to &quot;other&quot; things. </li></ul><ul><li>Attachment in this sense might be defined as any mental habit that perpetuates the illusion of a permanent, separate self. </li></ul><ul><li>The most damaging attachment is ego attachment. Whatever we think we need to &quot;be ourselves,&quot; whether a job title, a lifestyle, or a belief system, is an attachment. </li></ul><ul><li>We cling to these things and are devastated when we lose them. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Impermanence & Change <ul><li>The seemingly fixed and solid world you see around you actually is in a state of flux. Our senses may not be able to detect moment-t0-moment change, but everything is always changing. </li></ul><ul><li>When we fully appreciate this, we can fully appreciate our experiences without clinging to them. We can also learn to let go of old fears, disappointments, regrets. Nothing is real but this moment. </li></ul><ul><li>Because nothing is permanent, everything is possible. Liberation is possible. Enlightenment is possible. </li></ul>
  8. 8. <ul><li>Thich Nhat Hanh wrote: </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;We have to nourish our insight into impermanence every day. If we do, we will live more deeply, suffer less, and enjoy life much more. Living deeply, we will touch the foundation of reality, nirvana, the world of no-birth and no-death. Touching impermanence deeply, we touch the world beyond permanence and impermanence. We touch the ground of being and see that which we have called being and nonbeing are just notions. Nothing is ever lost. Nothing is ever gained.&quot; [ The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching (Parallax Press 1998), p. 124] </li></ul>
  9. 9. Meditation Practice <ul><li>Beyond the ordinary experience of impermanence, meditation practice helps us open to the less immediately perceptible realm of impermanence, i.e., insight into the moment-to-moment arising and passing of every perceivable experience. With deep concentrated mindfulness, we see everything as constantly in flux, even experiences that ordinarily seem persistent. </li></ul><ul><li>Perhaps you have had an opportunity to bring mindfulness to a strong physical experience such as pain. We tend to see pain through our ideas about it. With very strong mindfulness, however, we find that we can’t pinpoint pain; as soon as we think we have located the pain, it flashes out of the existence and reappears a millimeter to the side. It becomes a dance of sparking sensations located in no particular place. </li></ul><ul><li>Pain that seemed solid is actually in constant flux. In this deeper experience of impermanence, we realize that it doesn’t make sense to hold onto anything, even temporarily. </li></ul>
  10. 10. <ul><li>There’s nothing that we can hold onto because everything simply flashes in and out of existence. We also realize that our clinging and resistance have very little to do with the experience itself. We mostly cling to ideas and concepts, not things or experiences in and of themselves. </li></ul><ul><li>For example, we don’t cling to money, but to the ideas of what money means for us. We may not resist aging as much as we resist letting go of cherished concepts of ourselves and our bodies. </li></ul><ul><li>One of our most ingrained attachments is to self, self-image, and self-identity. In the deeper experience of mindfulness, we see that the idea of self is a form of clinging to concepts; nothing in our direct experience can qualify as a self to hold onto. </li></ul>
  11. 11. <ul><li>As we see impermanence clearly, we see that there is nothing real that we can actually cling to. Our deep-seated tendency to grasp is challenged, and so may begin to relax. We see that our experiences don’t correspond to our fixed categories, ideas, or images. </li></ul><ul><li>Confronting impermanence profoundly, in this meditative way, can open us to liberation. The final, liberative level of impermanence is the movement towards letting go at the deepest level of our psyche. </li></ul><ul><li>Ajahn Chah once said, “If you let go a little, you’ll have a little peace. If you let go a lot you’ll have a lot of peace. If you let go completely, you’ll have complete peace.” </li></ul><ul><li>This release is sometimes called Mahasukha , the Great Happiness, which is said to be the only happiness that is ultimately reliable </li></ul>
  12. 12. Meditation on Impermanence