Impermanence & Letting Go

Buddhism teaches that the cause of human suffering is our ignorance. The teachings of impermanence and non-attachment, or letting go, aid in overcoming this ignorance.

The teaching of impermanence is to deeply understand that all things change. We are born, we live, we die. We change from infant to child, child to adult. Sometimes our health is good, other times we are ill. We experience good fortune, other times troubles engulf us. The same is true for everyone we know. The world around us changes. No day is exactly like the day before. No minute is like the minute before, nor is it like to ones yet to come. Throughout the universe there is nothing that is permanent.

This teaching may just seem to be common sense. Of course everything changes. In Buddhism, however, this teaching is more than just an intellectual understanding. Impermanence must become a core belief, a basis of your daily life. Only when you remove the false hope that things will remain constant can you begin to overcome suffering. The action by which one practices this belief is non-attachment.

Often, Buddhist non-attachment is confused with detachment, or not caring. An example of letting go of the grief over the death of a loved one, while still remembering, is our temple’s monthly memorial service. The first Sunday of each month is a service in memory of those who have died during that month in years past. At the front of the chapel are name cards with the date of death. The service focuses on gratitude for the lives that were. We reflect on the impact these lives had on who we are today. Recognizing that death is simply a part of life we strive to live each day to its fullest. Realizing that what we do today will affect others we become more mindful of our actions. We let go of grief and sorrow and replace them with gratitude and mindfulness.

Our lives are a series of goals and expectations. Letting go does not mean to abandon these dreams. Letting go means we do not define who we are by our success or failure in their attainment. Enjoy the moment of success. Reflect upon the moment of failure. In both cases realize that all things change. When we let go of the moment we allow it stand an its own unaffected by the past or future. The other day was the first warm, sunny day of this Spring. Some people simply were happy that the day was beautiful. Others complained that although it was nice today the weather was going to be cold again at the end of the week. The first group lived in the moment and felt joy. The second suffered because they could not accept the impermanence of the day. By letting go of the moment we can fully appreciate our lives.

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