The Law of Impermanence:

The Law of Impermanence

All conditioned things are impermanent. When one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering. ~Buddha

What is impermanence?

Impermanence, or anicca in Pali language, and anitya in the language of Sanskrit means not everlasting. All things are impermanent, there is nothing including the self that will last forever. For a more modernized explanation, on a long enough timeline the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.

Desire, and attachment are the causes of all suffering. (DUKKHA) We all fear to lose that which we cling to. Our attachment to those things which are inherently impermanent will inevitably lead to our suffering.

Buddhist scriptures teach that all things both mental and physical come into existence, evolves in a constant state of change, and finally ceases to exist. We must accept the fact that all of that which we cherish will one day waste away. Tangible items which we hold dear to us will change, and deteriorate over time.

That family heirloom, or precious vase that was given to us by someone who is now deceased may get damaged, lost or stolen. The knowledge of this will often times cause an emotional response in us such as sadness, or even anger. These negative emotions lead to our suffering. Negative emotions cause us to suffer, emotions however are also impermanent.

We often allow ourselves to suffer because of things that were never going to last forever.

When we see the truth that not only are our possessions impermanent, but our physical bodies are as well, we learn to let go of all of our attachments. When we understand the impermanence of everything we can more easily let go of that which we cling to. Not only will everything we cling to cease to exist one day, but we will no longer be here to enjoy them as well.

Friendships although dear to us, are impermanent as well. Many people will come into our lives, stay for a short time, and then move on in a different direction from us. We will sometimes find friendships that withstand the test of time, but they too are impermanent because one day, they all will pass away.

Our intimate relationships, much to our disliking, can never last forever. We can love someone with all of our hearts, but we must accept that our relationships too are impermanent. Many relationships end in separation, and all will end upon the death of the one you love.

All of our circumstances will evolve and change as well. The terrible situations that we find ourselves in cannot last forever. We often worry, and become stressed about things that never even happen to us.

If you are an adult now, think back to your childhood. We all had our own unique thoughts, dreams, and desires. The imagination of a child is limitless, and not bound by the practicality that comes with adulthood. As we grow older and wiser we let go of childish beliefs. Things that were of the utmost importance to us as a child no longer have any meaning to us as adults.

The same is, or will be true for us as adults. Many of the things that we deem important, and are emotionally attached to, will eventually lose their value to us. Many people will allow themselves to become emotionally compromised based on their fear of losing that which they cling to. We can only lose what we cling to.

We must accept the fact that all things are impermanent, and let go of our attachment to them. This is not to say that you should deprive yourself of things that make you happy, but don’t let their loss make you angry, or sad either. You have no attachment to a banana peel after you have eaten the banana because the banana peel has no meaning, or value to you.

If we are to be free from suffering we must have the same thoughts about all that we cling to as we would a banana peel. If we view everything as consistent, and unchanging we will allow ourselves to experience negative emotions upon their loss as everything around us changes and deteriorates.

Anger leads to suffering

We create our own suffering through our thoughts and actions. Negative thoughts such as anger, hate, and resentment lead to suffering. If someone cuts us off in traffic often times our first reaction is one of anger. This emotional response will be short lived, as soon as we vent by yelling a few vulgar words at the other driver, it quickly dissipates.

Negative actions such as those outlined in The Five Precepts will cause us to suffer. Killing a living being, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and consuming intoxicants are all negative actions that lead to our suffering. By following the steps outlined in Buddha’s Eightfold Path we can release ourselves from the impermanence of suffering, and reside in nirvana, a state of absolute peace and happiness.

We will all move closer to death from the moment that we are born. We will all grow stronger and wiser as we get older. Many of us will enjoy our body’s strength and vitality in early adulthood, but our bodies will eventually become weak, and we will all become sick. We will all get old and frail, and eventually die. That is the way of things, it is the human experience for all of us.

If there is no problem than there is no need to worry. If there is a problem worrying will do nothing to solve it, so there is no need to worry. ~ Buddha

All of our circumstances will evolve and change as well. The terrible situations that we find ourselves in cannot last forever. They too are impermanent.

Often times we worry, or get stressed out about things that never even come to pass. We play out scenarios in our heads giving them the worst possible outcomes. It is only at the end of the ordeal that we realize that very few if any of the things that we worried about actually happened to us.

There is a reason for everything, and situations usually turn out for the best for us. We may not realize it when it happens, but in the goodness of time we will discover that even though we did not get what we wanted at the time, something even better came of it.

If we accept the impermanent nature of our reality, we will stop trying to control things that by their very nature are beyond our ability to control. We will be at peace with whatever challenges, and difficulties that life brings us. We will let go of all of the things that are impermanent, and Embrace Nirvana.

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Recommended Reading:

The Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness, and Joy

Everything Arises, Everything Falls Away: Teachings on Impermanence and the End of Suffering

The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation

Embracing Nirvana copyright date