Reply To: Tilakhanna III


A recent overseas trip has inspired me to contemplate deeper on Tilakkhana. What strikes me is that the allure of fireworks doesn’t really lie in its permanence (or impermanence). We all know the most beautiful part of fireworks display is the climax. But without udayavaya, the climax alone is not that captivating. Suffice to say, without the accompanying rising and perishing moments of the fireworks, the climax cannot shine. Imagine a fireworks display with only the climax. Think of it like a static television display. It just lacks the visual impact. We often find fireworks captivating because its most precious moment doesn’t last – Scarcity makes the heart grow fonder. What we think is precious will always be held dear to our heart. So how can something that is so ephemeral bring us perceived happiness if Anicca is translated to impermanence in this regard? The issue here is not so much about permanence or impermanence for it is just a property of every phenomena. Our deluded nature thinks that our overall sense experience values permanence just as much as impermanence. An arahant and a normal being watching the fireworks display will not have the same feeling and mental states even though the beginning till the end of the fireworks display arises out of conditions. It is our inability to maintain the sense experience consistently the way we want it to be and the helplessness towards this whole sense experience that is the problem. Not surprisingly, Anicca and Anatta! However much we cling to the view of our dukkha arising from permanence or impermanence, we can’t absolutely reason out what exactly is the problem. Also, we cannot say the precious moment of the captivating fireworks is due to the conditions that give rise to the fireworks. Otherwise, the arahant would feel exactly like the normal being does (emotions and unwholesome mental states are often evoked). The tail end of the fireworks viewing experience has ramnants of solitude and emptiness. No matter how delightful a sense experience can be, there is always a shadow of dukkha lurking at the back of our perceived happiness so long we are engulfed in the fog of delusion.