Why are excuses impermanent?
We all have excuses, reasons, justifications and thoughts why we can’t do this and that. We like to sometimes use these excuses and explain to others until we think they think it is valid. They may or may not believe the validity of our reasons, but one thing is for sure, if we believe in our reasons, then we can lose out. We are left behind. No doubt there are people with real genuine reasons, but we have to sift through what is real and what is perceived. Whatever the reasons, the reasons can be changed. Since karma is not fixed, the results can be different if we create new causes. We need to understand that the ‘validity’ behind all reasons are ultimately empty of true, stable permanent reasoning/existence, otherwise there would be no possibility of Buddhahood. Nevermind Buddhahood, if reasons are permanent, then there would be no betterment in the conditions of our daily secular lives. All things seems solid, unchanging and permanent when we sit there and do nothing about it. When we look at our days, it seems nothing much is happening, but when we look back at the past ten or twenty years, plenty of things have happened and changed. We have even aged. Nothing stays the same although its subtle momentary changes occur without being noticed.
Shantideva said that our mindstreams are not restricted to our corporeal forms. The mind is actually free and independent of our bodies or lack of it in the case of formless realms. Since our minds do not get old or young, it remains ‘constant’. Since it is constant without age or without ageing, it can learn, adapt and adjust if we choose. To use excuses such as I am too old, too habituated, or this is how I am used to it, really cuts away any sort of betterment we can offer ourselves and others. As I said, nothing is permanent or solid and all are changing; even the mountains, space and our planet earth constantly. If such ‘solid’ items are changing, why can’t our self-imposed restrictions change if we wish it? Of course everything can be changed. No matter what space we are in now, it can be changed for the better since enlightenment does exist. If we cannot change, then we negate Buddhas and their enlightenment. Buddhas during their pre-Buddha days understood all states of mind are impermanent due to their dependence on impermanent factors. Once the factors changed, the results change. Because of this fundamental understanding which is wisdom, they can work towards enlightenment and became Buddhas. This is the same for us and all sentient beings. How can we take refuge in something (Buddha) which we negate. Of course a Buddha cannot be negated, but the illogic of our thinking is crystal clear.
If our mind gets old, then at birth in this life, our mind should be old, cannot learn and cannot adapt. But we all know children adapt and change the easiest the younger they are. But children are birth products of their previous lives that died old. If that is the case, if most of us died when we were old in our previous lives with habits that were ‘solid’ and firm, then how come in this life we can change at birth and at a young age again? If we died old, we should return old. If we died old, how can we return with a young mind? Not logical. Hence there is no age in our mindstreams. Whether our bodies are old or young, our minds stay the same. True, physiologically we can age and certain aggregates are impaired eg. sight, hearing, etc. but the impairment of our aggregates does not necessarily lead to impairment of the mind which is temporarily related to the body but not a part of it. It’s simple, we should all be born old without the abilities to adapt, learn and grow. Some old people and some young people love saying they are too old/habituated to learn this or that. Then if they should pass away, in their immediate next rebirth, shouldn’t they also be too old to learn? It doesn’t make sense, does it? Since it does not make sense, it leads logically to believe our minds do not age and the mind is timeless without impediments from the body. Since our minds are not too old or too habituated to learn, change and transform, shouldn’t we get right on it before we further miss out more? Before we lose more real friends and spiritual brothers and sisters? Before we lose more opportunities? How liberating if we apply this logic immediately.
A sense of urgency is necessary for change. Urgency is the realization of the true nature of our existence. The true nature of existence is – all is not permanent, and when we hold on to permanence, we suffer and make others suffer. That may seem like a simplistic statement, but think about it deeper and perhaps meditate on changes and how in our lives changes brought on fear, trepidations and resistance in many cases. The fear of changes is not brought on by changes as that is the nature of all phenomena, but our resistance to the ultimate truth – that nothing is permanent. Since nothing is permanent, how can anything impermanent be relied upon to bring PERMANENT HAPPINESS leading to peace of mind? Impermanence cannot bring permanence is the simple truth we need to embrace and act upon. Therefore there would be no true lasting happiness in anything we have trusted since nothing we trusted was permanent. There is no point being depressed about this because again our grasping at a permanent solution to happiness relying on impermanent factors is the culprit. This is our real enemy. The reliance is the enemy. This is the main cause to remain in our confused state of existence that yields the unsure impermanent happiness we grasp. This is the true cause of our existence and also the endless rounds of rebirth we must constantly take without end. (For better/extended references and meditations, one should always refer to Lam Rim, Tsongkhapa’s writings, and Shantideva.)
Our lack of urgency comes from the lack of knowledge. Not just any knowledge, but knowledge which is wisdom. Wisdom is the mind that can determine actions that lead to long term cessation of fruitless actions and results. Remember, the end is always the beginning, the begining becomes the end and then it becomes the beginning again and leads to the end again and so on. We shouldn’t limit our spiritual growth or improvements as a human being by blaming it on factors that are changeable. All factors are changeable or at least less difficult if our determination to accomplish it is there. Having wisdom behind the mechanics of change and how we should use impermanence as an inspiration rather than a downer would make all the difference. It would be like instant realization leading to instant betterment of our daily attitudes.
When we wish to accomplish something, it is very important to not complain to others, about others and about our situations. Sympathy is nice, but sympathy can turn to disgust by others towards us if we use it constantly as the reason for failing and not doing something about ourselves. Sympathy is like a heavy loan, we have to pay it back although immediately we enjoy the spending. Not doing something about our situations will estrange more and more people because they run out of sympathy when they know we can do something and we are not doing it.
You see, everyone loves a winner. Everyone despises a loser especially if the loser chooses to be a loser. That is a fact of life whether we like it or not. We can move to ‘greener’ pastures and hope the new set of people’s sympathies will last longer as our skill to elicit sympathy improves, but ultimately we have to believe people are smart and will figure us out even if it takes longer. Then like a nomad, we have to again look for new pastures when sympathies run out. The pastures may not run out, but certainly our time will run out and we lose so much in our moves to newer pastures.
So the best place to change is the place we are in right now. We are familiar and those around us are familiar with us. We don’t have to be on the lookout when we are on familiar ground during our transformation, allowing all our time towards this beautiful metamorphisis. We can change for sure and even inspire others when we embrace what I have shared here. Sympathy can work for or against us depending on how often we use it. So it is better to not use situations to elicit sympathy. Sympathy after all can be used as a weapon of mass self-destruction. Why? With sympathy, we are looking for excuses to stay in our comfort zone which are instrinsically self-damaging, asking others to ‘forgive’ our repetitive ‘mistakes’ which we claim to be mistakes, or forgive our mistakes which were intentional but hidden under the cloak of ‘mistakes’. But if they were truly mistakes, why do we repeat them? Mistakes are done out of ignorance, and once we understand or it has been pointed out to us kindly by others/ourselves, we should stop making mistakes. The end.
Ultimately our minds do not age or become too habituated to ever change. That is illogical. We can change anytime when we realize the timelessness of our minds as explained by the Lord of Yogis, Shantideva. Take refuge in Shantideva’s wisdom which is based on Buddha’s teachings and not the ‘permanence’ of our habits based on wrong views. Our habits whether due to ‘age’ or comfort zones arising from wrong view are all changeable. What a wonderful freedom to realize and act upon this.