Buddha’s Four Noble Truths
1. Life is characterized by impermanence and suffering, or Dukkha (suffering).
2. The Origin of Dukkha is attachment to desire.
3. The cessation (end) of Dukkha is achieved, not by belief, but by the contemplation, understanding, and elimination of desire and attachment.
4. The Noble Eight-fold Path is the way to achieve the cessation of Dukkha.
I am at a stage in my life that the path ahead is shorter, much shorter than the path behind me. I try to spend as little time possible looking backwards but I am human and sentimental so there are occasions I find pleasant to recall.
When I think about these moments I also understand the impermanence of each one of them. The birth of my children for example. These events happened but it hasn’t and won’t happen again. Now it may be a permanent incident in my mind but the reality is it happened once for each child and no matter how hard I try to hold on, I won’t experience it again.
“The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.” – Rabindranath Tagore
The Buddha taught that the reason we suffer is because we can’t and won’t let go. We assign the label of “it will last forever” too to many things and people in our lives and, if you are like me, that is a pretty long list. Family, marriages, love, jobs, friends, health, money are just a few we try to insist are permanent fixtures. And when we discover they are not either through death, or divorce or just time, we suffer.
As the parent of young adults I understand how hard it is to let go, to loosen the grip. Pining for days of old is both futile and unproductive. Change happens. People, places and events are fluid, always in motion. You may stop or slow down each briefly but they will never grow roots.
When I need a reminder about impermanence I look at the stars at night. The light we see, the twinkle that adds life to a dark sky is from a source that has long since vanished. And if we look into the next nights sky, that light to may have disappeared, replaced by ones to carry on the dance, as there are others ahead to carry on your dance and mine.
“In our lives, change is unavoidable, loss is unavoidable. In the adaptability and ease with which we experience change lies our happiness and freedom.” – Gautama Buddha