Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Seeing Impermanencein in Daily Life, by Shang Rinpoche


Shang Longrik Gyatso RinpocheAll things, tangible, intangible, with form or formless, in the observable universe are no different from our internal thoughts--they are all in the process of appearing and disappearing. As new thoughts arise they quickly replace the old ones. As all the great buildings and skyscrapers of the city go up, small houses of days past are falling apart. Birth might signify the start of a life, but from the perspective of impermanence, it is also approaching death. If you have any doubts then take a look at the candles on the altar, they only grow smaller and smaller, it is not the case that they grow bigger as they burn. The wick will only get shorter as time passes. You could take some time to research and explore the area we are living in now, it was originally a boundless ocean. What we see as boundless ocean now may have been towering mountains surrounded by clouds in the past. The bustling city that we live in today may have been an area of barren mountains and violent rivers. Even the language that we speak has been constantly evolving beyond our control. At the time of the Tang Dynasty, because the city center was in Luoyang (Henan Province), the capital city was Changan so, at that time, the main language spoken was called "yayin" (the official language among scholars and dignitaries). At the time of the Yuan Dynasty, because the capital was what is currently called Beijing, the language was a more standard form. At the time of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the accepted language was what was spoken in Nanjing at the time.

Obviously, language is also a kind of impermanence, just as the international language of the past was English but with the changing times and the prosperity of China, Mandarin will certainly become the mainstream in the future. Likewise, the clothes we wear are impermanent. Looking from the middle of the nineteenth century, the British designer Charles Frederick Worth started making hand-tailored clothing for the upper crust of society on rue de la Paix in Paris. He opened the first boutique and this paved the way for all kinds of designers to follow in his footsteps. These days, if you want to make a name for yourself in fashion you have to ceaselessly come up with new ideas. Just like YSL, in order to please his many clients he had to become very versatile and so his products have become quite popular. Chanel's unique style is due to pattern cutting and the high skills of the designers behind their production, Christian Dior worked towards constantly pushing to create the next new style, leading the trend. If we look a little further in this direction we can see that the watch on your wrist, as well as the rings on your fingers are also impermanent. The style of the cars that we drive will change with the years and be slowly eliminated as well.

From this we can see that impermanence is greatly related to the mind. Of course, throughout the course of our lives there is no definitive whole to be observed, our lives are separated into sections; birth, childhood, youth, young adulthood, maturity, old age and death. Even days are not a complete whole. If you don't believe then you should look back and reflect on your own. Yesterday, from the moment you opened your eyes, which moment actually belonged to you? Nearly every moment was pre-arranged, you could only helplessly drag on and begrudgingly face it. In other words, unless you have been able, for a very long time, to intermingle wisdom and meditative stillness then you won't be able to maintain a level of control over it. Our lives are like sand slipping through our fingers, or like a glass funnel continuously leaking water. Even if you call out in a loud voice nobody will respond to you. If you look back over the original style and features of your life, it can be a very dangerous way of living, because it means that any moment could be your last.

If you observe the trees on the street, you will see how, though they appear tall, strong, exuberant and full of life, you can’t see for sure whether its insides are dying. What sets humanity apart from the beings of other realms is our ability to think and the wisdom we develop over time, which are the most awesome gifts of being born in the human realm. The two deciding factors changing one’s destiny are cause and effect and karma. If one can strive to get a good grip of the concept of impermanence and from there further advance to develop a mind of renunciation, possessing the correct views of the Buddhadharma and practicing diligently, you will definitely reap the benefits of your hard work and be fearless toward death. Never create bad karma, understand cause and effect, accumulate merits and purify your karma, receiving oral instructions directly from a remarkable teacher and the unceasing blessings from the lineage. In the end, your mind will not be moved by life or death, pureland or hell, since all these would be just a process and phenomena.

此是我香・隆立嘉措對幾位曾在佛學院講授佛法的比丘所開示的片段。

This is a short selection of what I, Shang Longrik Gyatso, spoke to a group of renunciates who have taught at a Buddhist university.

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