Liberation in One Lifetime?

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The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Why P’howa?”

We have to look from the point of view of realism. What does this mean for us if we are to approach Dharma in the way that we are approaching it now— very casually, very gently, very much without pressure, kind of interested in it but no big deal.  If we are to approach Dharma in a way as to hope that it will be convenient in order to fit into our lives, then of course there cannot be much hope for the kind of extraordinary result of liberation in this lifetime.  Because the effort, literally that we put into our attainment, will equal what we get out of it.  If we are casual, haphazard, no big deal about our practice, the result will be, of course, not stunning, not unusual, but casual.  Not thorough and completely accomplished, but pretty much there, kind of, and that’s the way our result will be. But of course when we are talking about Buddhahood, when we are talking about liberation in one body, we are talking then about the most supreme result, the ultimate result. You could say it is the ultimate gift that keeps on giving in the sense that having attained liberation, one need not move through the same kinds of passages that an ordinary samsaric being moves through.  While one may take on the appearance of some passages, one is not literally stuck like a fly in glue the way ordinary sentient beings are stuck in samsara.  One will only demonstrate those characteristics, habits and appearances that will relate to those sentient beings who they are trying to help; and one will engage in those for the sake of sentient beings, so the result is different.

The difference, if one were to attain liberation, would be like a non-smoker who spent oh 85 years in the room with other people who smoke. You also have to consider that this non-smoker is extremely genetically healthy, set up differently than the others, so that upon taking in the smoke there may be some effect in that it’s not the optimum environment.  There will be some inhalation so one might feel tired, not as energetic as if one were getting the oxygen that one would want.  Do you see what I’m saying? I’m playing up this analogy so that you can understand a difference that is literally inexplicable, but perhaps you can understand it in a common way.

Now the person who is an ordinary samsaric being would be one of those smokers, so the ordinary samsaric being would come out of that situation afflicted you see.  They would be the ones that were smoking, taking in the smoke, inhaling deeply, having ordinary genetic physical makeup and very little with which to resist the horrible sentence that we are laying on ourselves.  But the one who has attained liberation would be the nonsmoker who is in that room for a period of time with some margin of safety.  That nonsmoker will come out of the room smelling like a smoker, but they will not be a smoker and the result will not be the same.  But the samsaric being will come out of that room with the result of that kind of smoking.

So you see the analogy that I am trying to create for you?  It’s not that all enlightened beings literally sit on cushions and float around in the air doing high and wonderful things that none of us can explain.  It isn’t like that.  It’s that each of us attains liberation, and upon attaining liberation, if that liberation is a true liberation and has within it the awakening of the Bodhicitta which true liberation must have, then one would return for the sake of sentient beings, and one would appear as a sentient being for the sake of the understanding of sentient beings.

So in order to prepare our minds for this sort of extraordinary result, we have to first think in our mind that we want that extraordinary result.  To backtrack, those of you who are hearing teachings like this, this particular teaching, this Phowa, those of you who have accomplished Phowa practice and have actually had the physical signs that go with it, you must understand that this is a practice that could literally, if truly practiced and truly adhered to at the time of death, could change the course, will change the course, if it is practiced purely at the time of death, of your entire experience as an individual being to date.  Literally, it would be like running, running, running, running down a very long journey and running, running, running, only relying on your own two legs and your whole body. Then suddenly you meet up with kind of a greased pole and you find a way through instruction, to run into that pole, make yourself go whrum whrum whrum around that pole and spin off, much faster and in a completely different direction than you’re going in right now, having more than your own steam as an individual to go with.  It’s a little bit like that, and sometimes can be even more dramatic because there truly is liberation in the bardo state for the practitioner that has sincerely and in a dedicated way practiced for that moment to the degree that one can return simply from that, as a nirmanakaya form, that is to say, a physical emanation form of the Buddha in order to benefit sentient beings.  One would come back in a way that one would be able to rescue sentient beings.  So this is literally possible with this practice.

This practice is the practice that makes it realistic for us to say in this modern time, 1995, that it is literally possible to attain liberation in one lifetime.  See, most of us are not going to have caves to go retreat in and most of us are not going to be able to get off the hook about supporting ourselves.  We have to remain engaged in the world.  We have to do that.  Also we’ve taken on other responsibilities.  We have families that we wish to support, and other projects that we are engaged in that are important projects and they are part of our lives. So many of us will not have the kind of opportunity that it would take to practice unceasingly in order for us to attain liberation in this lifetime other than through the Phowa.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The Stupor

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The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Why P’howa?”

Even though we may have practiced some preliminary practice and received some preliminary teaching, still the delusion hangs on. One of the things that is characteristic of samsaric beings or beings that are caught in the wheel of death and rebirth—that’s everyone here—is that samsaric beings tend to kind of fall into a stupor. A stupor.  And we fall into a stupor about every, oh, 30 seconds or so.  We can be temporarily reminded, and those of you who are practicing Ngöndro, which are actually those very preliminary teachings that we are going to discuss today, will notice that you can practice Ngöndro, meaning that you can read those lines, turning the mind towards Dharma, reading them oh so carefully.  What happens here is that repeatedly we are falling into the same stupor.  We are just losing it.  We just constantly lose it.

If I were to say to you now, O.K., you’ve finished your preliminary practice and you’ve accomplished your Ngöndro for today, so now we are going to go into Phowa practice, you have to organize your mind and your thinking and direct yourself so that you understand very clearly why we should practice, how Phowa is suitable for you and why it is necessary to put so much effort into this one particular practice.  The student who is not reminded, in the traditional way, how to approach these teachings, even though they have just been practicing their Ngöndro, will literally forget.  Or they will have that other wonderful remarkable trait that samsaric beings have which is to be able to literally repeat the text back to the teacher and say, this is why, du du du du du du, dudu dudu dudu, and they give you back exactly what they have just read.  But nothing is happening.  Those words are somehow coming out the mouth, not going in the brain.  They are simply not being internalized, and that is another kind of stupor that we fall into.

Therefore, in order to have the best result from our teaching, from our Phowa retreat this week and in order to keep in tune and in harmony with the way the teachings are traditionally taught, we will cover and re-cover some of the most fundamental traditional teachings in order to prepare ourselves; but we will do this in a condensed form and almost kind of conversationally because I have found that westerners who have the intention of absorbing a practice in order to utilize it in their everyday lives, in order to mesh it into their everyday lives, respond better to being taught conversationally, to being spoken to in a way that they are normally spoken to, not in a strange and archaic way.  Then they are able to knit things together much better. So that’s the way that we will approach our teaching for today and it will be useful for those of you who are not intending to pursue Phowa.

For those of you who are curious about what Phowa may be, Phowa is actually the science and the how-to, the traditional Buddhist teaching, the Buddhist view, on death and dying.  It is literally how to die.  The Vajrayana path, which is the path that we are on, is a subsection of the Mahayana path which is one of the many ways in which the Buddha has taught It is considered that our path, the Vajrayana path, is the only way that one achieve liberation within one lifetime.  Using any of the Buddhist teachings, one can surely attain liberation, but in Vajrayana one can attain liberation within the course of one lifetime.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Opportunity and Responsibility

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The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Take Control of Your Life”

When we go to another country and we see they are poor, maybe they have no prayer, we shouldn’t think, “Oh, I’m high and you’re low.  Therefore I will teach you.”  We should think like this: Lord Buddha has taught me that you are the same as me.  You are Buddha but you have forgotten.  Let’s remember together.  This is the way.  Let’s wake up together.

I promise you I will not abandon samsara so long as there is one student with one connection, however small, and difficult to return for.  But I also promise you that you must do your part.  You must practice Dharma every day.  You must awaken to the true nature of your mind.  You must create the space in your life to awaken. This is the way of happiness; this is the way of benefit. And this is what our perfect teacher has taught us.

I’m telling you these things in American words, in American ways, because I’m speaking to you.  Therefore, I’m offering you the opportunity and the responsibility of hearing.  So please listen and please practice,  And please accept the entire banquet, not just the crumbs under the table, not just the dessert—as though you can take the dessert and not the rest of the banquet. Don’t fool yourself.  Practice.  Practice.  Practice.  Change your mind.  You are here to be changed.  You are here to be changed.  Dharma is meant to change our ordinary minds.

In Asian cultures, that’s an accepted idea, but here we resist.  And so I beg you to reconsider your habitual tendencies and to go within and to practice self-honesty.  You will have to look at your unfortunate qualities.  But when you look at them, don’t look at them like “I’m bad.  I hate myself.  I hate somebody else.  I hate something.”  Just look at them and say, “Oh, that’s that habit again.  I see that habit.  Yuck.”  Remember the kids rolling over in their beds.  You want to roll over in your bed, but you’re saying, “You know, that’s my habit.  I think I’ll go check around and see if there’s anything wrong.  Just go check around.”  In other words, you’re growing a new habit.

Expect to change.  Expect to be uncomfortable at times.  Expect to deal with the issues of individuality and democracy.  Because in America we love individuality and democracy.  But not here.  This is Dharma. And in Dharma, we have to trust our teachers. We have to trust the Three Precious Jewels.  We assume that our teacher has crossed the ocean of suffering and can show us the way.  Therefore, practice.   Don’t be foolish, taking the attitudes and posturing like Dharma but not practicing Dharma.  Because what you’re doing is looking at a feast of delicious food but choosing to eat the imitation plastic stuff from K-Mart that little kids play with—little pretend food.  That’s what you’re eating.

Instead, practice Dharma.  And if you are filled with concern for yourself and your own path, remind yourself that all beings are equal.  If you are raising yourself up to Buddhahood, thinking that you can do it without raising others up to Buddhahood, well you’re wrong.  It’s foolish because there is no separation.  To get lost in your own little Dharma world, in your own little practice, in your own little thing is only more self-absorption.  Sure, you’re practicing a little Dharma, but you’re also practicing a lot of self-absorption.  And so the way is to benefit others, to reach others, to benefit others, to test your limits.  Unfold your wings.  Help others to break through and to achieve some virtue, some merit, whether they are Buddhist or not.  Be a real practitioner. Let everything you do, everything you think and everything you say be something that contributes.  Have respect for others—animals, humans, even those beings that cannot be seen.  You can assume that they are there, and you pray for them too.

These are the recommendations that I am making to you.  And I’m asking you, practice sincerely.  We’ll see each other a lot more if you reach for the enlightenment that is your nature.  If you reach for the Three Precious Jewels, they will respond.  But you must reach. This is the removal of obstacles between the student and the teacher.  You must call out.  You must reach.

Honor the Three Precious Jewels.  On the inside this temple is clean, but on the outside it’s falling apart.  The Stupas were falling apart until we started fixing them.  What respect is that?  What loving kindness, what care for sentient beings is that? Even His Holiness house is simply falling apart.  I’d like to see one of you be a real sucker, a real dope.  Out of just pure compassion and devotion, I’d like to see you take a toothbrush and start cleaning that house.  What a sap, you’d be telling yourself.  Here I am on my knees with a toothbrush, cleaning that house.  Who could be stupider than me?  That’s what your ordinary mind would be telling you.  But on the inside, your heart is going, “Yes, yes.  This may look stupid.  But I am practicing Dharma.”

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The Soothing Balm of Virtue

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Take Control of Your Life”

To cultivate a joyful mind, we should cultivate virtuous habits. We are happiest when we are busy creating merit.  We don’t realize this because the words are so dry.  We think cocktail. I like that word!  Merit? Ugh.  Happy Hour?  That sounds good!  Practice? Ugh.  That’s our ordinary thinking that we have to dispel because it’s wrong.  It’s wrong. Cocktail means ‘poison’.  It means drunk.  It means alcoholic.  It’s never been good for you and it never will be.  It’s an unfortunate addition to your body, when you can do without. Merit, on the other hand… To practice merit and joyfully meritorious behavior, to soothe the mind rather than constantly inflame it with all your manic stuff, and to be a stimulation junky…  That’s what we are.  Stimulation junkies.  It’s like psychological sugar.  We can’t get enough of it.  “Gimme something! Anything!”  That how we are psychologically.  And yet the mind is happiest when it’s relaxed, quietly joyful, mellowed out, thinking of the benefit of others, not absorbed in what I don’t have, what I want or what I think I got to get!

It turns out that what the Buddha said is true.  The life of meditation and mysticism and loving regard for others—a life of service,  a life planned to benefit others, a life in Dharma, Dharma so alive and so much a part of one’s mind that it is moist and sweet from the holy breath of the Dakinis… That is a life of joyfulness.

In a relaxed mind, colors are brighter. Did you know that? People who are locked in to their own personal phenomena, their own personal crazy phenomena, can’t see colors well.  They think they can.  They look and say, “Oh, I see red, you see red.  What’s the difference?”  But one red is different than the other.  A peaceful mind can smell better.  All the senses are purified and more alive, even though, because we are not yet enlightened they may still do the work of duality. Yet slowly slowly, we are training them in our practice.  And so the mind becomes more relaxed.  The mind becomes actually sensitized to quiet luminous joy—a state of restful luminosity that could be described as the very dance of bliss.  This is the relaxed mind, the virtuous mind.

Yet we cultivate these habits that keep us raw and inflamed.  I look at the expression on people’s faces. They’re all scrunched up because of all that inflammation, all that horrible feeling. When we suffer we say, “I feel so raw”.  No kidding.   That self-absorption, that constant selfishness and non-virtue and inflammation… It would be like taking Brillo and just constantly rubbing it on one’s skin.

And yet the joyful virtuous mind actually is more like putting a soothing balm on this same skin and allowing it to heal.  This is the reason for happiness.  This is the way for happiness.  This is the method for happiness.  Each and every one of us experiences unhappiness due to our previous non-virtuous habits.  When we switch tracks, we begin to pave the way and to move on the journey towards personal happiness, happiness for all beings which is our highest priority, and towards making the world a better place, literally.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

The House is On Fire

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Take Control of Your Life”

The Buddha teaches us tenderly and gently, as though we were his own children.  There’s a story about a king who had many children. He loved his children dearly, but they were children, you know, children involved with children things, bright shiny play objects and things that make them happy.  So the father left the children, hopefully in good care; he had to go off and do something in his kingdom (I think I’m telling the story right, I hope so. Om Benzar Satto Hung. So he goes away for a while and when he comes back to his house, his house is on fire. It’s a big house and his children don’t even realize it.  The children are comfortably asleep in their little children beds.  The king is outside. He can’t get to his children and he’s hollering, “Come out children. Hurry up. Get out of that burning house now. Quick wake up. Run.”  The kids, they’re not used to being in trouble.  They’re the king’s children.  They’re used to being safe; and they have that habit of being safe in their beds so they’re not worried about anything.  They hear somebody shouting, but they just turn over in their covers and go back to sleep.

The king becomes frantic. They’re his children!  So he says, “Children come out now or I’ll beat you with a stick! Come out or I’ll go in there and I’ll just beat you with a stick and knock your heads off.  So come out right now.”  And the kids go, “Oh, that’s dad.  You know, he’s not really going to beat us with a stick, because we’re the king’s kids. He’s just saying that, so we’re not too worried about it.”  And so the kids get out of their beds and they start playing with their toys. The king is making so much noise, and they’re in the back room and they’re just playing with their little toys, preoccupied, you know, the way we are, and playing with little things.  And then the king goes, “Children, I have beautiful toys for you out here.  Treasures.  Beautiful things.  I have a grand elephant for you to ride.  I have a whole herd of horses for you to enjoy.  I have beautiful umbrellas and shiny jewels and so many objects for you to come and play with.”  Naturally, the kids are attracted by that and go running out of the house. At which time the father, being part Italian goes, “Aye!”  (That would have been me.  That’s not what the father did.)  The father embraced his children and said, “Oh I’m sorry I had to lie to you.  I’m sorry I had to promise you things.  I’m sorry I had to threaten you.  But see, your house is burning.”

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

Taking Account of Our Minds

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The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “The Habit of Bodhicitta”

We rarely empathize with the needs of others. We may become aware of them on an intellectual level. And there is a great, vast difference between that and actually empathizing with the needs and hopes and fears of others. We rarely enrich our own life experience by really merging, really blending, really empathizing with the conditions of other people’s minds. Due to our self absorption and self- cherishing, and our inability to relate to the situation of others, we find ourselves able to entertain hostility, anger, pride, selfishness, all of those things that are really detrimental to us. We are able to maintain certain habitual tendencies that we honestly cannot see about ourselves. For instance, if I were to say to you, are you basically a kind person, almost everyone in the room would say yes. We’re here, we’re being spiritual, you know, that sort of thing. But if I ask you how much time you actually spend during the course of any given day actually doing for others in a real compassionate way—keeping the bodhichitta or the compassion alive within one’s mind—how much are you actually aware of the needs and unfulfilled desires of others, we would be shocked.Really, if we actually clocked ourselves in and out of such a realization, we would be shocked at how little time we actually spend doing that. So I think it’s sometimes really helpful to make a purposeful and directed effort, such as actually clocking in when you are aware of the needs and desires of other people and when you actively participate in trying to help in some way.

The help can take different forms. Sometimes the things that people want around aren’t really good for them to have. I mean, you have a teenage son that wants nothing better than a very fast car, and you know that that’s not quite right for him. So you don’t always give a person what they want, but you can certainly empathize. You can certainly be there in a very kind and profound way as a force for connection, for communication in someone else’s life.

We actually spend very little time doing that. We spend most of our time thinking about ourselves and our own problems and our ideas. So fixated on our own ideas, so fixated on our self-cherishing. Sometimes we don’t realize that we’re almost dyslexic about kindness. Or, what is the word? Maybe we perseverate about kindness. We have this idea that we’ve already done it, you know, that it is happening, and we don’t realize that it’s not being written down at all. It’s just not going out into the world. So sometimes it really helps to journal to really see what you’ve actually done during that day to bring kindness into the world. That would be extremely useful.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

As Many Paths…

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Take Control of Your Life”

Society will teach you wrongly until it understands your nature.  The Buddha is the perfect teacher—the perfect one because he so thoroughly understood our nature.  It is said that when a student came to him for the first time, and said, “I would like to become Buddhist,” or “I would like to take teaching with you,” he could see in an instant all the causes and conditions that brought that student to that moment where he faced the Buddha.  He could see every cause and condition and could give each and every student the antidote necessary to provide the blessings for enlightenment.

That being the case, we can trust in the Buddha’s teaching.  He doesn’t say, “You’re a bag of chemicals.  Now you’re breathing. So good, go get a job. Make yourself happy. Have a chicken in your pot, or a pot with some chicken”.  I don’t know…” Have a drink on Friday nights.”—whatever it is that makes people happy.  He doesn’t say, “Follow in your culture.” He tears the veil apart and he says, “Based on your nature, this is what must be done.  Based on your path, this is what must be done.”  And there are as many methods in the Buddhadharma as there are sentient beings to follow them.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

 

 

Peeling Back the Veil

The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Take Control of Your Life”

In contemplating our lives and in proceeding mindfully, we begin to understand that the Buddha has peeled away the veil a little bit to show us that we are not only material beings affixed on the time and space grid,  that we are not these lumps that are there.  The Buddha has peeled back the veil a little bit and shown us that we are spiritual beings.  That our very appearance is the display of primordial spiritual essence and that the events and activities in our lives are merely the result of causes that we have definitely created in the past. That we are continually, by our habits and by our thinking and by our activities, by our consciousness, continually creating the causes for the future.  This is what the Buddha has taught.

Now in other religions, there are good laws, like don’t kill, don’t steal. All the religions have the same basic laws.  But in the Buddha’s path, he teaches us about cause and effect.  We are made to understand the relationship between cause and effect.  The potency implied in that is that for the first time, we are humans with tools, rather than humans with sticks and stones.  It’s as though spiritually we moved into the new age of having actual tools rather than being some sort of homo sapien who just kind of, in an animal way, deals with what life brings the best that it can.

Yes, the Buddha has given us tools.  But do we understand how to follow them?  And how to use them?  And here’s the problem.  What we don’t understand is this—and this is not necessarily the fault of each and every individual although we must take responsibility for our own habits and thoughts, it’s the only reasonable and healthy way to move forward: We are born in a culture that does not explain reality. In fact, we are born in a culture that believes in the solidity of form, believes in division and delusion and duality and doesn’t understand cause and effect relationships very much at all.  We live in a very externalized culture where yes, we understand that if you steal something, if you get caught, you’ll go to jail or get in trouble with the law.  But we also think that if you steal something and don’t get caught, that the stealing didn’t happen.  I remember thinking how many times I have met up with students that you can tell they’ve been taught that.  You’re ok as long as you don’t get caught.  Most of us learn how to manipulate our lives and manipulate our environment so that appearances meet in accord with our society.  But we have never been taught what are the real tools for happiness.  We have never been taught that. We’ve never been taught that the stealing produces future cause whether or not you get caught in this lifetime.

There are other reasons for stealing.  I personally don’t believe the fear of punishment is going to stop too many people who are hungry from stealing some food.  If you’re hungry, your mind is different.  Or for a person who is so poor that they can’t think of any other way to get by, the fear of punishment won’t stop them.  But perhaps, if they lived in a society that taught from birth the fact that if you are poor now, it’s because you have not been generous in the past. If you wish to achieve more prosperity, the best thing to do is to be of benefit to others, because stealing will only make more  impoverishment, more poverty.  We’re not taught that.  We’re only taught to look at the external.

But in a Buddhist society, we are taught that our minds are important.  We are taught that we must tame the mind.  Within the mind are the five poisons and without being tamed, they will result in unhappiness if they are left to run wild.  We have the poisons of ignorance, anger, slothfulness, desire, jealousy.  We have them all.

Ignorance in this case doesn’t mean that you didn’t go to school.  Ignorance in this case means that you have no wisdom.  It means that you do not understand the nature of reality, have not been taught the cause and effect relationships and karmic relationships that provide the future reality nor what creates your present reality.  So we are ignorant of how we are, what we are, and how we have come to be here.

So we have these five poisons and never understand that these five poisons are not our nature. They are occlusions in the diamond mind.  They are dirt on the pristine window that is consciousness.  In their pristine nature, they are the five primordial dakinis; they are the five primordial Buddhas in their nature.  They are the qualities of Buddhahood: omniscience, omnipresence, compassion—these kinds of qualities and activities.  And so as Buddhists, the veil is brought to the side so that we can look and see cause and effect and the nature of mind.

Copyright © Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo All rights reserved

And Yet We Still Ignore It

The following is respectfully quoted from “What Makes You Not Buddhist” by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche:

Two thousand five-hundred thirty-eight years after Siddhartha walked out the palace door–at the time of year when many millions of people are celebrating, making merry, and anticipating a fresh start, the time to remember God for some, the time to take advantage of discount sales for others–a catastrophic tsunami shook the world. Even the most coldhearted of us gasped in horror. As the story unfolded on television, some of us wished that Orson Wells would interrupt to announce that it was all fabrication, or that Spiderman would sweep down to save the day.

There is no doubt that Prince Siddhartha’s heart would have broken to see the tsunami victims washed ashore. But his heart would have been even more broken by the fact that we were taken by surprise, proof of our constant denial of impermanence. This planet is made of volatile magma. Every land mass–Australia, Taiwan, the Americas–is like dew, about to drop from the grass. Yet construction of skyscrapers and tunnels never stops. Our insatiable deforestation for the sake of disposable chopsticks and junk mail only invites impermanence to act more quickly. It should not surprise us to see signs of the end of any given phenomenon, but we are very difficult to convince.

Yet even after a devastating reminder like the tsunami, the death and devastation will soon be camouflaged and forgotten. Luxurious resorts will be erected on the very spot where families came to identify the corpses of their loved ones. The people of the world will continue to be caught up in compounding and fabricating reality with hopes of achieving long-lasting happiness. Wishing for “happily ever after” is nothing more than a desire for permanence in disguise. Fabricating concepts such as “eternal love,” “everlasting happiness,” and “salvation” generates more evidence of impermanence. Our intention and the result are at odds. We intend to establish ourselves and our world, but we forget that the corrosion begins as soon as creation begins. What we aim for is not decay, but what we do leads directly to decay.

At the very least, Buddha advised, we must try to keep the concept of impermanence in mind and not knowingly conceal it. By maintaining our awareness of assembled phenomena, we become of aware of interdependence. Recognizing interdependence, we recognize impermanence. And when we remember that things are impermanent, we are less likely to be enslaved by assumptions, rigid beliefs (both religious and secular), value systems, or blind faith. Such awareness prevents us from getting caught up in all kinds of personal, political, and relationship dramas. We begin to know that things are not entirely under our control and never will be, so there is no expectation for things to go according to our hopes and fears. There is no one to blame when things go wrong because there are countless causes and conditions to blame. We can direct this awareness from the farthest regions of our imaginations to subatomic levels. Even atoms cannot be trusted.

 

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