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  • Impermenance?

    Hi Ajahn Brahmali,

    Can I please ask you to explain in simplistic terms (which you always do very well) what 'Impermanence' means, but more so why it is so important to understand within the context of Buddhist teachings?

    Thank you with Metta


  • #2
    Dear Eamonn,

    This is a very big subject, and I would suggest you look for a talk on this website that addresses this particular topic. However, I shall give you a brief explanation.

    Impermanence is about understanding that everything, without exception, is subject to change and eventually to disappearing altogether. As human beings we tend to attach to things - in fact attaching to things is a natural and unavoidable result of having a sense of self. Because all things are impermanent, attachment always leads to suffering. That is, the things we attach to will eventually be taken from us. This means that suffering is inherent to human existence. Or to put it another way, suffering is just the flip-side of impermanence.

    When you start to contemplate impermanence, you see the danger in attachment and you understand suffering better. This in turn gives the motivation to try to overcome attachment. And attachments are overcome through the practice of the noble eightfold path.

    With metta.


    • #3
      Thankyou Ajahn.


      • #4
        Dear Ajahn Brahmali,

        How to contemplate impermanence? Or how does one realize impermanence(i.e. how does practice of the Noble eightfold path lead to realization of impermanence)? Is there some meditation technique which is specifically dedicated to develop the perception of impermanence(other than marananusati)?

        With Metts


        • #5
          Dear Abhishek,

          The suttas speak of developing the anicca-saññā, the perception of impermanence. You can develop this with regard to anything, but it really starts to bite once you focus on the impermanence of the things you are attached to. For example, remind yourself that your possessions are impermanent, that all your friendships and relationships are impermanent, that your social position is impermanent, that all your achievements are impermanent, etc. Anything you consider yours or somehow connected to you will change and eventually fade away altogether. When you often reflect like this, your grip on these things starts to loosen, and thus your attachments are reduced. This helps you in your meditation. As your meditation deepens, you see more clearly where your attachments are, which in turn allows for a deeper contemplation of impermanence. The deeper your meditation, the deeper is your ability to see impermanence, until eventually you can see everything as impermanent, and you let go of attachments altogether. This is all about samatha and vipassanā (calm and insight) working together.

          So that's the theory - over to you!

          With metta.


          • #6
            Thank You Ajahn Brahmali


            • #7
              Dear Ajahn Brahmali,

              I have one more question regarding impermanence. When one reaches blissful states of meditation,we tend to attach to them as well, so do we note that this is also impermanent? since this can take away the bliss. But I've heard please correct me if i'm wrong that we need to attach to the pleasures/bliss that come from meditation so that the meditation can progress.

              With Metta.


              • #8
                I am new to the forum and not sure if its acceptable for a non monk/nun to comment on these threads. I'll find out soon enough i guess.

                I find impermanence a very easy concept understand and accept. Its easy to observe impermanence in every day life. And all we have to do is develop the habit of recognising its universality. You can do this by thinking of all the things in your life you like a lot and all the things in you life that you dislike a lot.

                First thing that's impermanent is life itself. We are born and we die. We are gone. We know we are not here for ever.
                Second thing, a big thing, relationships. Even without parents, they die, often before us. So then its over. Friends, sometimes things happen and the friendship ends, but if it goes to the end of life, it ends when one of us dies. Love relationships, same as with. (So, the moral here, is not to take things for granted, don't be complacent, treasure your loved ones - they may be taken from you at any moment. But then knowing that this can happen, we have to be able to let them go easily since we know its going ot happen sooner or later anyway).

                Pain - mostly it doesn't last. So knowing that, it can help to cope with it better. Have patience.

                Things - they break, they get stolen, they wear out, and so on. Avoid getting attached to them and you will not suffer so much when they are gone.

                Literally everything is impermanent and it helps to run through things in your mind to recognise how they are indeed not with us forever and in so noting this, we can prepare for their eventual absence by not being attached to them now. It doesn't mean we can't value things, and people. It only means that we don't need to develop possessive attachment to things and people and ideas and well everything, because that is what causes suffering.

                Things you dislike - say you don't like you teacher at school. One day you'll grow up and not have them around. HOpefully before that you will change teachers the next year.

                Say you don't like the seat you've been allocated on the train/plane/bus. You know you won't be on the train/plain/bus forever and if you are unable to change it for the duration of the journey you need only focus on the fact that the situation will change soon.

                Its a good idea to cultivate patience with the knowledge of all things being impermanent.

                I love the teaching of letting go of attachments. Its very very liberating. However, some things still take determination and effort to master and in fact all of buddhism requires one to practice determination and effort.

                Learning to let go attachments makes us more adaptable and we adjust better in changing situations. Say you lose your job. You will be less devastated and find it easier to move on and find another if you did not have a deeply held belief that the job would always be yours in the first place. A lot of people hold this position unconsciously. Asked if they think they will have their job forever, most people (in my country at least) would say no, however they think they will have it for as long as they live according to this belief. Do not hold much of a conscious awareness that things could change in the company and they could lose their job quite suddenly. If they did, people would not take out such big mortgages.


                • #9
                  Dear Abhishek,

                  Yes, you note that even these states are impermanent. And you also note that you cannot control them. In fact, it is precisely by not controlling that the deepest of samādhi is reached. By understanding that you cannot control these states, you are actually undermining craving and attachment.

                  I don't think you need to encourage attachment, rather just try to understand the usefulness of these states. If you attach too much, you will also be encouraging craving, and craving is counterproductive if you want to attain samādhi.

                  With metta.


                  • #10
                    Dear Andrea,

                    Well said!

                    With metta.


                    • #11
                      Thank You Ajahn Brahmali, that was a satisfactory answer.

                      Thank You Andrea, Well Said!. I also have something to share with you which I heard from Ajahn Yaitko "We don't think that things are going to last forever, that would be completely absurd to us. But we keep thinking that things are going to last long enough that we don't need to worry about them and we keep thinking like this until it's too late."



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