My friend Steven keeps a wonderful collection of “wisdom nuggets” on his website. I often sit and read them, when time permits. I particularly like this small article from Mahatma Gandhi. The words, profound as always, tell us the importance of understanding the impermanent nature of life. ~ Brilliant!
“There is an indefinable mysterious power that pervades everything. I feel it, though I do not see it. It is this unseen power which makes itself felt and yet defies all proof, because it is so unlike all that I perceive through my senses. It transcends the senses. But it is possible to reason out the existence of God to a limited extent…
Mahatma Gandhi, as quoted by his grandson
The Buddha taught that there are three characteristics of facts of existence. They are generally found in all that exists and so they can tell us something about the nature of existence.
The three characteristics of existence taught by the Buddha are impermanence, suffering and impersonality. Here is an article on Impermanence from Buddha World, an on line Buddhist Community.
The Buddha taught that all existence is impermanent because there is nothing internal or external whatsoever which is permanent, stable, lasting,not subject to decay and destruction, and forever the same. Everything changes continuously. Existence is like the flowing water of a river or the burning flame of a candle, which is never the same in two consecutive moments.
Our body,for instance, is made up of material elements such as flesh, bones and blood, which are impermanent. From the moment of our birth, the body constantly undergoes change. The human mind, too, is dependent on many factors. It is in constant change. It is like a monkeys forever jumping about, never still for even a moment. The neither the body nor the mind is permanent and unchanging.
Science teaches that apparently permanent objects like the oceans, continents,mountain ranges and even the earth, the sun and the solar system are constantly changing and will some day become extinct. When all these are also subject to change and destruction, one cannot doubt the impermanence of life. Life can end at any moment. No one can avoid death and the destruction of the body.
Understanding the characteristic of impermanence benefits people in two important ways. Firstly, it can improve human relationships and activities. Secondly, it can encourage people to follow the Noble Eightfold Path.
Often people find that they make mistakes in their relationships with other because they fail to take into account the changes that constantly occur in themselves and others. Often friendships die because one or both parties fail to realize that their friend’s personality, interests and attitudes have changed.
When one realizes that people and situation are impermanent and constantly changing, one will approach each moment of a relationship with an open mind. One will be able to react to each new situation without clinging to outdated ideas about people. Relationships can then develop fruitfully. Success in life depends on one’s ability to adapt to change in situations and to make the most of new opportunities arising.
Having understood that youth , health , material well-being and even life itself are impermanent, people should then make the most of those favorable circumstance while they last. This means that they need to practice the Noble Eightfold Path in order to achieve happiness and Enlightenment. The Buddha’s last words were :
“Subject to change are all things,
Strive on with diligence.”