My fellow Buddhist friends, today, I will continue with the teaching of Buddhism in Plain Terms. I hope you will gain more wisdom and be more spiritually enlightened to liberate yourselves from mental and physical afflictions.
When the Buddha was in Jetavana of Savatthi, he taught to the monks that all external things in the world are impermanent. The Buddha said, “Do you know? All external things in this world, the things outside will not last long”. Every kind of impermanence, every transient thing will make you feel bitter and agonized. You can think about it. When we are very fond of something that doesn’t last, will you suffer when it’s gone? Let’s take a suit of fine clothing as an example, you have only worn it a few times. But now you can’t wear it anymore because you’ve gained or lost weight. When it doesn’t fit you anymore, you must throw it away or give it to others. You may feel pain having to part with it, that is impermanence. This world is impermanent.
The Buddha told us that impermanence is an awful thing. No matter what it is, anything in this world, as long as you adore it and own it; as long as you adore it deeply; or unwilling to part with it, when impermanence comes so does your suffering. You would find it unbearable. Thus, the Buddha told the monks that this impermanence is not your true self. Why did the Buddha say so? The Buddha said, “Impermanence, it won’t last”. It’s not the feeling of your true self. It shouldn’t stay in that troubled self. Suffering is about “how I feel”. It is about the notion of self, an attachment to the form of self. The Buddha wanted us to know that everything in this world does not belong to you. You mustn’t be attached, it doesn’t belong to you. However, if you insist on claiming your ownership over it, then you will be stuck in this suffering. You must leave the suffering behind. Something you own such as a house. For example, say if you bought a house with a mortgage, you feel that this house is yours. You would be happy to clean and maintain it, thinking to yourself, “this is my house”. When you couldn’t pay off the loan, the bank came to take your house away from you. Would you suffer then? If you were clear, that this house was never really yours. You would not be suffering for it, because this house is impermanent, it doesn’t belong to you. If you can think like this, view the issue from this perspective, as this is the right view and it’s a positive thought. Then you will not live your life suffering in impermanence. That’s why the Buddha urges us to attain wisdom.
People sometimes, imperceptibly conceive some kind of inner feelings, such as I like doing this. I love my mother, I love my friends, my classmates, or even I love this dish. These feelings are impermanent. Bodhisattvas view all these feelings, as a kind of inner perception. You may feel good about something today. Oh, I’m feel so happy, this is mine. While in fact, after a while, it won’t be yours any more. It’s merely a kind of feeling. Let’s take a simple example, when you were so tired and thirsty, you bought a cup of milk tea. The drink there, is it yours? Yes, it’s mine. It’s yours because you’ve paid for it. Indeed, it’s yours. But it is also full of impermanence, when you just walked to the other side of the room, someone comes along and took the drink and drank it. When you return, this person might say, “oh, I’m sorry was that yours? I just drank it”. Even this cup of milk tea is impermanent. How terrible would you feel at that moment? Unhappy feelings, over that person’s character. When you think about what had happened, how would you feel? That’s a feeling in your heart and these kind of feelings, the Buddha wants us to understand that any bit of suffering in your mind is a mere feeling. If you perceive it as suffering, then you would be suffering. However, if the same situation occurs, instead, it was a colleague of yours who drank your milk tea. If you think, “good, I have done a good deed. It’s fine that he took the drink because he needed the drink. I can just go and buy another one”. Then the anguish feeling in your mind would be gone. We are all Buddhists, it’s better that he had it, he has done a lot of meritorious deeds. He had been very busy working. If you can view from this perspective, the anguish in your mind would be gone.
Thus, people live life in a kind of inner feelings; suffering, happiness, and hope are all feelings. The Buddha told us that this “I” that endures the suffering is not the real self. Can you understand it? That means, the one that is suffering is not really “you”. It’s not the real self, but a kind of feeling. It’s a trace of your thought that dwells on the feeling of suffering. Once you think it through, it will be gone. If you can’t think through, this feeling will linger in your mind. We should not let our thoughts dwell long in the midst of “self” that is suffering. Let me ask you a question, when you are suffering you feel that “I” am suffering, don’t you? When you are happy, you feel that “I” am happy. It’s all about “me”, You should let your mind remain in the self that is happy, looking for the feeling of happiness. Rather than letting it remain in the self that is suffering. This is the philosophy the Buddha taught us, this is the truth. You are actually capable of transforming your mood. Therefore, in this world we must not be attached to any external changes. What happens when something changes? You feel pain, which is also a kind of feeling. External changes can make you excited or happy, that is just a kind of feeling and it will soon be over. I hope you can understand that, we should not be attached to the external changes of things, nor should we be attached to our inner feelings.
Your inner feelings, such as happiness and suffering, could be false. They will pass soon, you may be feeling anguished in the morning, but by the afternoon feel better, a bit happier and anguished again in the night. You may be happy in the morning, anguished in the afternoon and no longer in anguish at night. That is called impermanence, that’s why Bodhisattvas want us to control our deep feelings. Get to know them and understand their falseness. Your feelings are not the real self, but a false one. For instance, if you just lost your temper, in fact, that’s a “false self” who had lost temper. The real you are is cultivated and you do not lose your temper easily. Due to the influence of that false self. It may be due to a spirit possessing you or a negative energy field affecting you, causing you to lose your temper, that was a false you. Your real self is very well-mannered adept at resolving problems. If you can think in that way, as the Buddha told us, you would be liberated.
The Buddhism and the Dharma taught by our Great Buddha 2500 years ago, it could resolve the problems, that we haven’t been able to resolve today. The Buddha could use the Dharma wisdom to deliver ourselves from physical and mental afflictions, that is the greatness of the Buddha. We are worried and afraid of birth, aging, illness and death. What if we die? What if we get sick? What if no one cares for us in our old age? You worry about everything, you remain in sadness, in anguish and in vexation. How did the Buddha teach us to acknowledge these issues? The Buddha said that, because you believe that it is you who are bearing the pain, so you cannot be delivered from your suffering. As the Buddha told us you believe that birth, death, illness and aging are the causes of your current suffering, worries and sorrow. You believe that it is you who are truly and genuinely experiencing the suffering. That’s why you could not be liberated. If you want to be liberated, you need to know that all sufferings are transient. They will change because they are impermanent. Name a person who has no suffering, who has no afflictions! Why is it that others can overcome their difficulties? That’s because they can see the future, the prosperity. They can see that things will change in the future, that’s how they liberate themselves. They don’t have the idea that they themselves are experiencing the suffering, that is a false self, not the real one. There’s a saying that after suffering comes happiness. Many mothers raise their children, so that the children will care for them when they grow up. Although it’s difficult to raise, they will care for you when they are older and be nice to you. That’s a change in the state of mind. Therefore, when mothers experience hardship, they don’t feel that they are suffering, because that’s a false self. Do you understand this idea now?
The Buddha told us the concept of “non-self of the person”, that’s to make us understand that in this world people change all the time, it’s impermanence. People have no self, your name today, could be changed tomorrow. The person with your old name no longer exist. For example, we have a staff member whose name was Li. Suddenly he tells me that he had changed his name, now everyone calls by his new name. The previous Li no longer exists. He is known by his new name now. Is this explanation clear to you? This is about non-self, and even your name is not real. Your old name is different from your new name. People may wonder who this person is? Oh, that’s him. This is impermanence. People are pitiful, everything is impermanent.
Please remember in this world nothing remains unchanged forever. Businesses have ups and downs, it may slump, and then gets better. People may suffer, and then feel relieved, they may also be happy, and then suffer. The Buddha made us understand that there’s no eternal self that remains unchanged forever. Let me ask you this, when you were young was your character identical to your current one? Of course not. Was it eternal? No. You were very generous when you were young, but you became stingy as you grow older. You might be petty-minded when you were young, wrangling and quarrelling with your family, over a toy. But you have become so generous now. There’s no eternal self as you have changed.
You might look plain when you were young, but you have grown prettier. There’s an old saying girls become prettier as they grow up. This also drives home the point of impermanence. This idea can apply to our life, if you uphold your conscience and follow the right path, you’ll get better and better. If you take the wrong path, you may fall deeper and deeper and your fate would get from bad to worse. The choice is yours.
The Buddha wanted us to know that there’s no such a self that remains the same permanently, nor anything that could be owned by us. Bear in mind the Buddha’s words, nothing can be owned by us. Think about what you can own, when you leave this world, what can be owned by you then? Everything that was yours will belong to others; such as your car, your house. Don’t you agree? Even your wife or your husband may marry someone else, after you leave this world. Years after your death, your children, your grandchildren may have forgotten you long ago. They couldn’t even recall where you were buried. That’s what the Buddha told us around 2500 years ago.
The Buddha wanted us to understand that in this world there’s nothing that we can own forever, nothing would stay the same. That’s why we Buddhists must transcend, external changes with an idea of non-self, no matter how others change, you would remain the way you are. Because you know that the world is ever changing. I believe many people around you, many practitioners, would change their mind very often. Suppose they have agreed to go shopping with you at 11 am tomorrow morning. After a while, they asked to postpone it to 11.30 am. Later, they would say, “I couldn’t come now, let’s make it 2.30 pm”. You keep waiting. Finally, it’s 2.30 pm and you are about to go and meet him. He calls and says, “Oh Sorry, I’m too busy today, I can’t make it. I’m really sorry, can we meet tomorrow?”. Isn’t that impermanence, isn’t that changeable? A decision can change now and then. You trust this friend of yours very much, because you have never heard of the impermanence taught by the Buddha. Alas, this friend of yours keep changing, you are fed up. If you can be like me, as I know things would change all the time. Many people make appointments with me, but they reschedule very often. I think it’s quite normal, because the world itself is impermanent. It changes all the time, anything could happen and it’s normal. Do you agree?
View everything as impermanent and you will not get hurt. No matter what changes externally, you must remain undisturbed and unswayed. You need to build up a new understanding of time and space. What is the new understanding? This is how life is. Take a look at the statistics that change every day. Tomorrow’s number will be different from today’s. The number changes and so do time and space. Tomorrow’s conditions will be different from that of today’s and you never know what will happen tomorrow. That is because of impermanence. If you are not mentally prepared you may be deceived by the impermanence. You may also be troubled by it. That’s why the Underworld’s enforcement officers translated from Chinese is called “Impermanence”. They come to the Human Realm to take people away. Why are they called “Impermanence”? That’s to tell you that the things you do in the Human Realm, either good or bad, will determine your lifespan in the Human Realm. Whether you can spend more time in this realm, live a little longer. But no matter how you live your life you will finally come face to face with “Impermanence”. When Impermanence arrives, you have to bid your farewell. So, what is there to contend, argue or dispute over? What can’t be straightened out? What afflictions can’t be relieved?
Buddhism provides us with a new understanding of time and space. Birth, death, illness and aging is a transient process a mere process and you shall not be attached to it. If you could liberate yourself from such attachment, you will be liberating yourself from the lesser self and fulfil the greater self. Time flies, in the twinkle of an eye, decades have passed you are 40, then 45, alas, on the threshold of 50. Why are you still tormenting yourself at this age? Just go with the flow. Do more for others if you can, be happier. If you are able to make some money, just go ahead. If you can’t, be content with what you already have. Enjoy yourself while you can, if you can’t, so be it. Everything is impermanent, you are not happy today, but you may be happy tomorrow. You had a good time during the day, but you may be sullen at night. Someone got sore at your happiness and intentionally said something mean to ruin your good mood. That is the arrival of impermanence, faster than you could imagine.
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