Impermanence and Buddhism

At the heart of Buddhism are the three characteristics of existence; No-self, suffering/dissatisfaction, and impermanence, and it is very difficult to explain one without reference to the other two. Never mind all of the other elements of Buddhism, this is an eye opener whatever your beliefs, religious or otherwise.

My previous three posts gave some large examples of impermanence, two institutional and one scientific, so now let me turn to the personal internal relevance; Our skin is impermanent, our hair is impermanent, the number of brain cells is impermanent, our whole lives are impermanent. So far so good, everybody knows this. Next, our TOTAL body and mind are changing from the moment we are born. You are not the same person you were as a teenager, a university student, newly married, raising your children, middle aged; Everything about you has changed not only physically but also synaptically in your brain and ultimately your mind. Your knowledge, experience and values will have changed. Take a moment to think about this.

Now if we add suffering/dissatisfaction it can become clearer. We go through a great deal of our lives “suffering” from our dissatisfaction; some dissatisfactions are extrinsic such as wanting a new iPad, television, car, job etc and often this is impermanent suffering because we satisfy that craving one way or another. Then there are many “dissatisfactions” which are intrinsic because the source is inside us; aches and pains, illnesses, diseases, grief, as well as stress and anxiety caused by having an illness.

A personal example from myself was when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, I’d had pains and discomfort, blood tests, scans and a biopsy before visiting the urologist to get a diagnosis. After we left his office my wife said to me “you took that very calmly”! The reason was that I had considered likely outcomes for some time, researched treatments and prognosis, then mentally prepared myself by repeating inside my head “this is impermanent, it will resolve itself one way or another, all states of being are determined by mind”. I also repeated the whole process after my prostate operation, especially the night after the operation when I had a blood drain, a catheter and a great deal of pain. I continued this approach and mindset as I healed, and still repeat it as I have quarterly blood tests to confirm no return of the cancer. I’m sure you can think of other examples of your own you could consider this way. First understand the suffering/dissatisfaction, then recognise its impermanence, day by day. It works ….. for everyone, it got us through Covid too and it’s working now as I “talk” to the peripheral neuropathy in my lower legs and other “dissatisfactions” 🕉

All states of being ARE determined by mind.


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