Not Everything is Impermanent

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Not Everything is Impermanent

Postby Wayfarer » Thu Sep 12, 2013 8:37 am

There perennial debates on the question of the nature of impermanence, emptiness and self and the meanings of these terms in Buddhist discourse and teaching.

I am of the view that the statement 'everything is impermanent', if taken at face value, actually becomes a dogma in its own right. Furthermore I don't believe that it is to be intepreted literally, as I think there are those things that are not impermanent, that is, they are enduring.

I will qualify that by saying that 'those things' don't actually exist on the level of 'things' or 'phenomena' - but we are obliged to use language to say anything, so that is the sense in which I use the word. But I do agree, that in regards to phenomena, there is nothing that can be said to be permanent or self-existent. Even material atoms - the constituents of matter such as metals, carbon, and the rest - have an origin in time, and one day will cease to exist, even if it is tens of billions of years.

However I am of the view that the dharma itself is not amongst 'the things that are impermanent'. The idea of 'eternal law' is not often spoken of in Buddhist teaching but one case is Dhammapada 1:5

"Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world. By non-hatred alone is hatred appeased. This is a law eternal."

In the same way, the spiritual realities that are the subject of many verses and sayings are not impermanent. But they are also not to be conceived of as 'something which always exists' in the sense of 'a post fixed in the ground or a solitary mountain peak'. They are on a much deeper or more subtle level. But in order to start to become aware of that level, it is necessary for the mind to detach itself from the phenomenal realm.

And that is the meaning of all the teachings on the 'emptiness of dharmas' or 'emptiness of aggregates' and so on. The whole purpose of all those teachings is to free the mind from attachment to external forms and sensations, so that awareness of the deeper and more subtle levels of reality can become clear. These levels are symbolized in many ways in Buddhist iconography.

Of course the retort to this will be 'there is no true abode'. In one sense, that is true, and it is symbolized by the homelessness of the Buddha. But on another level, realizing 'Nirvana' is returning to 'the true abode'.
In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few ~ Suzuki-roshi

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Re: Not Everything is Impermanent

Postby Seishin » Thu Sep 12, 2013 9:08 am

There are several different translations of the Dhammapada that don't use the word "eternal" some say "this is an old rule". We also have to understand that translating pali or Sanskrit into English can be problematic. From what I've been taught, eternal doesn't mean never-ending but that an end is so far away that it can't even be imagined in our minds.

But of course you are right that impermanence is in regards to phenomena.

Gassho,
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Re: Not Everything is Impermanent

Postby Wayfarer » Thu Sep 12, 2013 9:34 am

That is Ven. Thanissaro's translation. It is the same in the Juan Mascaro translation which I particularly like (which is the Penguin Classics edition). I would be interested in the details of what word was translated as 'eternal'.

But I think a philosophical distinction can be made between 'eternal' and 'permanent'. The former is in some sense 'outside of time' or 'not of time' whereas the latter is more like 'durable or long-lasting'.
In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few ~ Suzuki-roshi

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Re: Not Everything is Impermanent

Postby Grigoris » Thu Sep 12, 2013 12:31 pm

So (apparently) Dharma is eternal. What's new? Our enlightened nature is also (apparently) eternal. Nothing new there either. Nirvana, well, full enlightenment is (apparently) eternal too.

Yes, all phenomena are impermanent. That one is obvious. Nothing new there either.

I'm trying to figure out what you are trying to say here, which is somehow new or different.
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"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
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Re: Not Everything is Impermanent

Postby Wayfarer » Thu Sep 12, 2013 12:50 pm

Why the parentheses?
In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few ~ Suzuki-roshi

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Re: Not Everything is Impermanent

Postby Grigoris » Thu Sep 12, 2013 12:58 pm

Coz I (personally) don't know for sure, but I can see very clearly, on an everyday basis, that phenomena are impermanent.
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
The Supreme Source - The Kunjed Gyalpo
The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde

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Re: Not Everything is Impermanent

Postby Astus » Thu Sep 12, 2013 3:14 pm

The word in is , it means both ancient and eternal.

We could say that the laws of mathematics is eternal. Or the rules of chess. Or the laws of physics. Thus we have a quite old philosophical question here, the .

From a Buddhist point of view, since we don't experience constantly anything, not even universal laws, it is not permanent. Such laws exist for us only as thoughts and nothing more. It should be noted that this is an epistemological answer to the question of a religious tradition.
Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.



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Re: Not Everything is Impermanent

Postby LastLegend » Thu Sep 12, 2013 5:08 pm

I personally don't see cause and effect as law (something structured). I see cause and effect as a product of mind. If we do something, we experience it. All not outside of mind right?
NAMO AMITABHA
NAM MO A DI DA PHAT (VIETNAMESE)
NAMO AMITUOFO (CHINESE)

Bodhidharma [my translation]
―I come to the East to transmit this clear knowing mind without constructing any dharma―

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Re: Not Everything is Impermanent

Postby oushi » Thu Sep 12, 2013 5:52 pm

All I know is that the only thing that does not change is not knowing.
Say what you think about me

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Re: Not Everything is Impermanent

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Thu Sep 12, 2013 7:30 pm

"it must be coming from the mouthy mastermind of raunchy rapper, Johnny Dangerous”

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Re: Not Everything is Impermanent

Postby emaho » Thu Sep 12, 2013 8:53 pm

The first Buddhist seal says "All compounded things are impermanent". To abstract entities like space e.g. that doesn't apply.
"Do yourself a favor and get out of Samsara!" Dudjom Rinpoche, Counsels From My Heart

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Re: Not Everything is Impermanent

Postby Wayfarer » Thu Sep 12, 2013 11:39 pm

In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few ~ Suzuki-roshi

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Re: Not Everything is Impermanent

Postby smcj » Fri Sep 13, 2013 12:26 am

Don't take me too seriously.

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Re: Not Everything is Impermanent

Postby Jinzang » Fri Sep 13, 2013 1:23 am

"It's as plain as the nose on your face!"

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Re: Not Everything is Impermanent

Postby smcj » Fri Sep 13, 2013 1:28 am

Don't take me too seriously.

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Re: Not Everything is Impermanent

Postby Wayfarer » Fri Sep 13, 2013 3:51 am

Well, on that note, something I have considered in regards to modern cosmological theories, is whether the idea of the 'cyclic universe' - that the universe goes through cycles of expansion and contraction, of which the so-called 'Big Bang' is one instance - is rather like some of the underlying ideas in Vedic cosmology. For if life has evolved in a Universe which does go through these cycles over 'aeons of kalpas' then it seems very much the kind of picture that Eliade drew in The Myth of the Eternal Return. So those cycles might occupy periods of time which from the human perspective are astronomically enormous, but it still amounts to 'samsara' in some sense.

Anyway that is the mother of all red herrings so I won't pursue that particular line of thought further....
In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few ~ Suzuki-roshi

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Re: Not Everything is Impermanent

Postby Astus » Fri Sep 13, 2013 9:13 am

The teaching of the Buddha has its own frame of reference, and that is the four noble truths. The teachings are meant to help one become free from suffering. The three universal characteristics (impermanence, suffering, no self) are the topics to realise to reach the three gates of liberation (emptiness, signlessness, wishlessness). The characteristics are to be contemplated in our personal realm of experience (six senses). If there were anything permanent in our experience we would be experiencing it all the time. Since there is no such experience we can confirm that all of them are impermanent. We might theorise that there is something permanent outside of our experience, however, that is only a concept, an impermanent thought, and even if there were such a thing it'd have no relevance to us.

In Yogacara they count six unconditioned dharmas. Space, analysed cessation, non-analysed cessation, motionless cessation, cessation of feeling and perception, suchness. As unconditioned they are permanent. At least they would be permanent if any of them meant a specific experience, instead of the lack of experience or a theoretical generalisation that they actually signify. In the same category we could put for instance impermanence itself, and impermanence is permanent, just like emptiness and no self. But again, they are simply conceptual explanations and not experience.
Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.



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Wayfarer
Posts: 3382
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Location: Sydney AU

Re: Not Everything is Impermanent

Postby Wayfarer » Fri Sep 13, 2013 10:49 am

In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few ~ Suzuki-roshi

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Re: Not Everything is Impermanent

Postby Astus » Fri Sep 13, 2013 11:39 am

Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.



User avatar
Wayfarer
Posts: 3382
Joined: Sun May 27, 2012 8:31 am
Location: Sydney AU

Re: Not Everything is Impermanent

Postby Wayfarer » Fri Sep 13, 2013 12:19 pm

In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few ~ Suzuki-roshi


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