The Impermanence of Life

Buddhism teaches that nothing is permanent. The first noble truth of Buddhism is that there exist great pain and suffering or dissatisfaction in life. It is not a pessimistic view, but more a realistic view.

Life is constantly changing. Nothing is permanent. You may be well today and ill tomorrow. Alive today, dead tomorrow. When things doesn’t measure up to our expectations, we become depressed, angry or sad.

If we learn to accept the fact that life is impermanent and subject to change, then we will have some insight into what gives us true happiness and what doesn’t. If we are able to do this, then our suffering or dissatisfaction will diminish.

Traleg Kyabgon explains:

Normally we think our happiness is contingent upon external circumstances and situations, rather than upon our own inner atti­tude toward things, or toward life in general. The Buddha was saying that dissatisfaction is part of life, even if we are seeking happiness and even if we manage to find temporary happiness. The very fact that it is temporary means that sooner or later the happiness is going to pass. So the Buddha said that unless we understand this and see how pervasive dissatisfaction or duhkha is, it is impossible for us to start looking for real happiness.


15 thoughts on “The Impermanence of Life

  1. Congrats on pursuing your Buddhist inclination!
    I’m inclined to disagree with the statement that one must first understand dissatisfaction before being able to seek happiness.
    I don’t think the 2 are mutually dependent – it is possible to be happy while dissatisfied, and for some, alleviating the dissatisfaction can be an immense source of happiness.

      • Yes, because the striving to alleviate/repair the dissatisfaction brings satisfaction itself.
        Working on a tricky piece of car work (say replacing a brake line) is a pain in the neck. Testing it and realizing it’s wrong is very dissatisfying and having to pull it out and redo it is frustrating and a pain in the ass. But taking the lessons learned in the attempt and applying them is satisfying, and knowing that persistence will work is satisfying (even while the work goes on).

      • That’s true but I think the above would be more applicable to suffering such as death, anger & poverty to name a few. But I see your point. Even though no one likes making mistakes, we often learn from those mistakes, and that in itself is rewarding.

  2. Who is it that is dissatisfied with life? It’s the ego that has a problem with everything and who wants to be happy ALL the time. Being about to see separate yourself from your ego goes a long way in accepting things we can’t change.

    • And that’s what the first truth boils down to: Learning to accept the things you have no control over. Once you can do that, then you’re on your way. Thanks Linda.

  3. I think everyone lives with a certain amount of dissatisfaction or we wouldn’t want to change certain situations … life is about being in constant flux; yet, I do want to achieve nirvana some day.

    • Indeed. Everyone is dissatisfied with one thing or the other. But I think that The Truths are trying to get people to understand that their source of dissatisfaction is superficial. You’re dissatisfied because you’re, as Linda said, trying to change things that are out of your control. Thanks for sharing Lafemme 🙂

      • Well not really. Because there are in fact things that are out of your control. For example, if every time it rains, you get depressed, then your depression would be superficial because you certainly have no control over the weather, so why be depressed. I can only abrogate responsibility when I have direct control or influence over a situation or person.

      • To that I would say yes, it COULD be viewed as an abrogation because we all can make a difference. Society is responsible for these human induced conditions. You were fortunate enough to be born in a place where meals and basic amenities are not a major concern, but with urbanization, some countries will inevitably get left behind. So saying “I don’t have control over hunger” could be viewed as an abrogation.

        There are many programs out there that are geared towards fighting the long fight against some of these issues – Red Cross, Food for the Poor etc. and this is known by many. So if you choose not to play your little part, then you’re casting responsibility.

        On the other hand, one could argue that they don’t have control over where gets urbanized and where gets left behind. One is not obligated to take on that responsibility. If they don’t choose to participate then they shouldn’t be judged harshly.

      • “One is not obligated to take on that responsibility”
        I agree with that. But it isn’t a question of judging – the world can be a dangerous difficult place.
        And while some of the turmoils in the world cause me dissatisfaction, the only way I can make peace with that is to make sure my little corner of the world is kept a little nicer.
        But I don;t think just accepting the messes in other places is a good idea, even if it’s just in the back of ones head.

  4. Wow – deep. Im gonna come back later – my head hurts….
    Really I am gonna come back later – i had something to say then i read the I gotta think about it some more 🙂

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