Buddhism declares that there are five processes on which no human being has control and which none can ever change. These five processes are namely, the process of growing old, of not falling sick, of dying, of decay of things that are perishable and of the passing away of that which is liable to pass. Buddhism however suggests that escape from these is possible and it’s through Nirvana.

Hinduism also believes in the impermanent nature of life. But it deals with this problem differently. According to Hinduism, impermanence can be overcome by locating and uniting with the center of permanence that exists within oneself. This center is the Soul or the self that is immortal, permanent and ever stable. 

Impermanence is also not such a negative thing in Buddhist thought and practice as is hinted above…all the changes listed are those we fear.  But impermanence also grants a richness to the world and to our lives.

The ice that forms on the fence during an ice fog....

slowly builds up barely noticable...

Tiny bits of a large whole...

grand in scope and beauty...

also comical because in time....

Each will disappear like the wonder in a child's eye.

Without impermanence these things of fleeting beauty would lose all meaning and become static.  We are beautiful because we don’t last.  We shine because eventually we will disappear.

Happy Holidays!   Much Metta!


16 thoughts on “Impermanence

  1. One of my wife’s co-workers died last Saturday. He was 29.

    He was an artist and photographer. He had just “gotten his life together” and had plans for the future.

    We hung out on several occasions and he was funny, bright and humble.

    Death of someone you know from “complications from pneumonia” when he was hearty and hale a few days ago is a harsh lesson in impermanence.

    • Indeed. Impermanence is not an easy lesson to learn, despite the beauty it allows us to notice.

      I think this is one of the features of Buddhist thought that truly connects us with people of any faith (or no faith). Its what occurs afterwards that divides us.

      Deep bows for your friend and those that were close to him.


  2. Excellent pics John. I just went around taking some myself, with the coming snow and all.

    “We are beautiful because we don’t last.” Wonderful.

    Bows to your wife’s co-worker and family, buddhasbrewing.


  3. The first time I ever heard of “Freezing Fog” was when I moved to Seattle. All I could think was, “well, wouldn’t that just be a big wall of ice? WTF?”

    Beautiful pictures.

    Sorry to hear of your loss BB

  4. ..too many reflexively see impermanence as the 1st Noble Truth of Suffering, but even that is the paradox point of struggle as the best exercise..

  5. …and this moment is beautiful because it won’t last – being born and dying all the time, moment after moment.

    This Path has shown me that impermanence can be such a comfort. When feeling stuck or sad I can come back to knowing, “this is impermanent. It will not last. It will change.”

    And realizing our powerlessness over impermanence allows us to let go of our illusion of control or looking for fault. “This was going well until you/I/we/they screwed it up.” There may be fault and/or it may be that it just changed. No harm no foul.

  6. without impermanence our beautiful little samsaras wouldn’t grow up to be beautiful women. 🙂

    have a wonderful celebration of life, John, and thank you for the generous support (and you too Buddhist Ed wherever you are!).


  7. I know, Hoss. Right now I’m accumulating Amitabha mantra like crazy to prepare to help one of our sangha members as best I can. She’s just been diagnosed with Creutzfelst-Jakob Disease (a brain infection similar to Mad Cow). Rare as hell, 200 cases in the US annually. Doctors give her 3-6 months after rapid degeneration. She’s 55.

    But as one of my lamas reminded me this fall, impermanence ain’t just the big, obvious events like death. It’s everything in every moment. Realize that, he said, and you’ve realized everything.

  8. Great post! The photos capture the transient loveliness well.

    I hadn’t heard of ice fog before, either. It’s impressive.

  9. The foundation of mindfulness of the skandha of feelings (vedananupassana-satipatthana). Through mindfulness of feeling we realize the truth of the origin of suffering.

  10. Amidst the flurry of Dharma study today, I read this and had to share:

    “If we have a very strong realization of impermanence, then we have an extremely strong, spiritually oriented mind. When the Buddha himself passed away at Kushinagar, there, as well, the final thing that he indicated to everyone was impermanence.”

    –Serkong Rinpoche from his commentary on Tsongkhapa’s ‘The Foundation of All Good Qualities”

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