By Chris McKeown
In Buddhism, impermanence refers to the idea that everything, from the smallest subatomic particle to the largest galaxy, is in a continuous state of flux, constantly arising and passing away. Things we see in our day-to-day life may appear solid and unchanging but examining that further will help us understand that it is not the case.
For example, if we were to pass a particular building each day, we are likely to think that it is solid and unchanging. But if as a thought experiment, we were to view the building over an extended period time of say 50 years, we would observe changes, and over a longer period we would eventually see the building disintegrate.
Impermanence applies not only to physical objects but also to mental states and experiences. Thoughts, emotions, and perceptions arise and pass away in the mind, just as physical objects do in the external world. Hanging onto objects and even people as if they will last indefinitely causes distress because these objects, experiences are impermanent. We have all experienced people we know and love becoming ill or even passing away and we know the distress that brings.
The Buddha in teaching the four noble truths, taught that the first of these truths is the truth of suffering, and the first part of the truth of suffering was the teaching on impermanence.
Impermanence offers a perspective on the nature of reality that can help us navigate the challenges and complexities of contemporary society.
In today’s world, we are often overwhelmed by the pace of change and the uncertainty that surrounds us. The Buddhist concept of impermanence reminds us that change is the only constant in life, and that nothing lasts forever. This can be a helpful reminder to let go of attachments to things, people, or situations that we cannot control, and to focus on the present moment instead of worrying about the future or dwelling on the past.
Moreover, the Buddhist concept of impermanence can help us cultivate a greater sense of gratitude for the people, experiences, and things that we do have. When we recognize that everything is impermanent, we may be more inclined to appreciate the people and things that are currently in our lives, rather than taking them for granted.
Additionally, the concept of impermanence can help us develop resilience and adaptability in the face of change. By recognizing that change is inevitable and that nothing lasts forever, we can learn to be more flexible and adaptable in our approach to life, and more willing to embrace new opportunities and experiences.
Finally, the improved understanding of impermanence of everything, including our own lives, will help motivate and inspire us to make better use of the time we have right now. It may indeed help us to seek a more complete understanding of the true nature of reality as expounded in Buddhist philosophy and the Path to Enlightenment.