The key teaching of Zen Buddhism is the teaching of impermanence also called transiency or ongoing change.
Look at yourself and around you and you will see that everything changes continuously and forever. Around 300 millions cells died every minute in your body. Not 100% of them are replaced, this is aging. No living beings, no trees, no rocks, no clouds, no mountains, no oceans, absolutely nothing stays as it is. Evolution is an unstoppable change; with no beginning and no end just an endless circle. This is the fundamental and basic truth of life and the Universe itself is changing every second expanding then contacting.
Asked what was the most important message of his 50 years teaching, the Buddha, without hesitation, said:
“Everything is transient, work diligently to appreciate and experience your impermanence.”
Those were his last words few minutes before dying.
No one can deny this truth even if we don’t like it since we love what we have and don’t want to loose our attachments nor our life and the life of love ones! Oakville Zen will not last, neither its members nor teacher.
All the Zen teaching is condensed within this fundamental reality. If change did not exist, one can imagine the following:
- Each of us would stay as 2 cells (1 egg+ 1 sperm) or, maybe, just a 6 pounds baby or would remain suddenly a 100 year human being forever!
- The sun would not burn hydrogen to make helium and it would be -150 degree Celsius on this planet!
- A wheat seed would stay a wheat seed.
- A caterpillar would remain a caterpillar.
- A cloud would remain a cloud and so on.
In fact, sustained life would not be possible without change. Since everything changes continuously, it is important to pay attention to the current moment as it is. This is the basic principle of mindfulness practice.
This truth is also helping us to understand SELFLESSNESS that is impermanency of self apart from the fact that selflessness or no-self that we talked about before, also describes that all self don’t have an unique, independent, separate and self-entity. In fact the self-nature of all living beings is nothing but change itself. This is its main characteristic. Only change does not change. Many will argue that seeing everything transient is pessimistic, doom and gloom. Yes. Loved ones will disappear as well as good moment, good stuff and yourself. This is a sad evidence. But also, the good news is that bad moments and personal disasters are and will be also transient.
Finally, impermanence is also part of the teaching of Nirvana. As Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki head of the San-Francisco Zen Center said in Zen Mind, Beginner’s mind:
“ When we realize the everlasting truth of everything changes and find our composure and peace in it, we find ourselves in Nirvana that is the state where all delusions and sources of suffering are gone.”
Thank you. J.G.Sunim March 7- 14