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June 12th, 2018

illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)


In order to perceive the world as 'changing'… I must fix myself (or at least a part of me, my 'memory') as the constant against which variations and alterations will be measured…
In order to see the variability of my inner world… some reference must be fixed, posited as constant…

Which means… knowledge (of impermanence) at its very roots arises from a kind of blindness, a delusion which arbitrarily fixes constants out of processes, snapshots from movements… and then imagines these 'constants' actually are constant.
But if 'I' am perpetually changing, if 'my' way of relating to 'constants' is perpetually changing… if we remember that 'I' don't ever perceive (even a 'constant') without the mind karmically interfering (, or if we remember that accessing memories in and of itself creates new neurological associations with said memories and therefore alters them… then the idea that I could have any 'constant' at my disposal to measure impermanence is a profound delusion!

And such a delusion is dangerous: I might try and fix a constant, try and measure some change, then find no change and conclude that impermanence doesn't apply (even though it does)… basically because my 'constant' has changed and thus prevented me from reliably measuring the evolution.
This is not just some hypothetical difficulty: it leads many to conclude they have a soul, as they seemingly find a constant 'identity' within themselves (because they're unable to fix a truly constant 'memory' of their past identity, against which to actually discern that no part has been left unchanged…). And people clinging to identities easily fall into extremism to defend these identities against perceived (not necessarily real) dangers. Others might not turn to extremes, but could nonetheless suffer from 'losses' (defined from a previous 'have' in an unreliable memory and/or with attached misconceptions around 'having' or around its object).

In the doctrine of two truths (,,, it is understood that both truths are conventional: the shortened "conventional truth" and "ultimate truth" are misnomers, for they're actually "conventional truth in conventional terms" and "conventional truth in ultimate terms".
And "ultimate terms" refer to "atomic" phenomena: phenomena that cannot be decomposed by analysis without becoming useless (think of atoms: decomposing further into electrons, protons and neutrons —or even further— is possible but you loose sight of chemical properties).
The observation above, about the knowledge of impermanence relying on some delusional observation (assuming a fixed point), points to a similar trait of the Dhamma: impermanence (anicca) is a "conventional truth" (regardless whether it's expressed in conventional terms or in ultimate terms)! And it cannot be otherwise since, at its base, it's 'delusional'.

To convince oneself of the actuality of what the Buddha calls 'impermanence', one uses one delusion to destroy many (which isn't dissimilar to how craving for awakening might help to let go of many other cravings )… but at some point, one still needs to go 'beyond', to let go of the idea of ascertaining impermanence (by setting permanent references, 'permanent' at least for the duration of the measure)!
One needs to engage with the flow (, against the stream ( instead of trying to cling to the idea of being an 'external' observer, with the associated delusion of a separate self (unaffected / unchanging by the observed). One needs to let go of a referential 'self', to realise anatta.

According to the doctrine of rebirth and karma, impermanence doesn't equate a nihilistic death… impermanence only means change… but realising impermanence might well bring the death of the suffering ego (which tries to permanently have what it desires, and permanently avoids what it dreads).

#Buddhism #Dharma
image: detail from the Gaki-zoshi (Scroll of the Hungry Ghosts), late 12th c., Japan
Buddhism has no specific guideline on supporting teachers, it simply asks for you to consider causality: if you want this living tradition to survive, how are you participating, in practical terms, to make this happen? Nice words, exposure or social media ‘+1’ might feel good, but they do not actually help with the basic necessities: