Contemplating Impermanence

Contemplating Impermanence October 1, 2022

This is part of a series of teachings from Jigme Lingpa’s Steps to the Great Perfection.

This is a teaching from the Mind Training Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.

The first mind training in the Dzogchen tradition is Contemplating Impermanence.

A text called The Child Scripture says, “Reflect on the fact that all conditioned phenomena are impermanent.”

We tend to think we can hold onto things but we can’t. The truth is we are losing things all the time and we all know that. You can’t hold onto anything in this world. This could really frighten us, or we can work to keep in mind that this means the things we don’t like pass too. Reflecting on impermanence helps us to not try to cling to tightly to everything all the time. It also helps with our tendency toward self obsession.

Longchen Rabjam, an important teacher in this tradition, said, “Without getting distracted, even for a moment, ask yourself wholeheartedly, ‘I wonder if I will die this evening, or perhaps tomorrow?’ All sentient beings that you see will die as well, so meditate on the thought ‘When will these beings pass away?’ Contemplating in this way will help you see that all conditioned phenomena are impermanent by nature. Seeing them as examples of impermanence will help your mind become more focused. The purpose of meditating in this manner is to turn your mind away from impermanence.”

There’s a concept in Buddhism called Precious Human Life. The idea behind this is that we shouldn’t waste our lives. We could die at any time, so this means that living in the best way that we can is something we should take seriously. Don’t waste your life. Impermanence applies to us too. We arise and pass away just like everything else.

Jigme Lingpa says, “Carefully consider that nothing has the power to stay still even for a moment. Cultivate intense diligence as if your hair were on fire. Be sure to take advantage of this opportunity.”

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