April 9, 2020 at 3:21 pm #28117y notParticipant
I have been reflecting on the different aspects of anicca for some time now. Many months. Recently I thought of getting to list them in writing. Others have crossed my mind over time, but these are the ones I have been able to recollect. I welcome every one to mention other areas of life where they have seen anicca feature. I do not mean I aim to have anything like a ‘complete spectrum’ of the situations in life where anicca is present, or where we perceive it to be present. This is what I have been able to list up to now:
1) Impermanence …. in the conventional sense of ‘comes to an end, dies, does not last forever, disappears’ This is readily evident.
2) Inconstancy ….now glaringly manifest, now dormant, and the interchangeability between the two. For instance, though we know that our love for someone is always there in our hearts, we are not constantly ‘in-tune’ and therefore not ‘in-feel’ with that person. Our attention most of the time wanders elsewhere, and then our attention may not be rooted in feeling at all. (Yet we know, for all that, that our love for that person is ‘continuously present’ in our heart, but we cannot continuously ‘live’ that good feeling.) The same with Dhamma. We are not always ‘tuned in’, though it is that which we live by, or strive to live by.
3) Mutability…. , unexpected permanent change into (the same thing, but now with ) different qualities, resulting in a turnaround , in an out-and-out perception and therefore of the valuation of a thing. And when even a pleasant thing or experience does stay the same, then too a feeling of weariness or boredom sets in. Either way, there is lack of satisfaction (in the fleeting) and lack of contentment (in the more lasting). Even when it is totally subjective, any of rupa, vedana, sanna, sankhara and vinnana must be there.
4) Incompleteness….deficiency, insufficiency, lacking in part or parts. Though we value an experience as pleasant and agreeable, still there is this nagging feeling that ‘it is not quite it’; not quite as we would ideally like to have it. Imperfection. It falls under the general term ‘unsatisfactoriness’, but that takes in a much broader range of undertones.
5) Illusion…the real nature of something turns out to be, in actual fact, different than we had perceived it. From this illusion delusion results.
6) Futility – seemingly useless repetition of a necessary task when we know full well that worse will follow if we neglect that task. We have to deal with tens of such tasks every single day. 90% of the things we do each day we do because we HAVE TO. Bhikkhus are delightfully exempt from most of these routine exigencies.
Only two things have the nature of being at once VALUABLE ,REAL, COMPLETE, IMMUTABLE, CONSTANT and PERMANENT: Space and Nibbana.
Of the two, only Nibbana is nicca. Space is ever there, we live inside of it and it is inside of us all the time, whether we are aware of it or not. It is the support, inner and outer, of all that exists. It is objectively real for every one, but has no qualities, and we never attribute any to it, so we cannot perceive it as anicca.
Nibbana is ever there too, but there are those who have attained it as well as those who will in the future, and those others who may not ever. For these last, Nibbana is and will ever remain non-existent.
So simply because something is permanent, in the sense of 1), it does not necessarily mean it is of any more value than something that is impermanent. I often contemplate the qualities of the Buddha ,Dhamma and Sangha. A Buddha appears only for a specified time as a Buddha, so also the Sangha in that sasana. It is only the Dhamma which is ever there and is not dependent on a Buddha discovering it, neither on a Sangha to spread it. In this sense the Dhamma stands supreme. IT IS PERMANENT. Yet, what value to us is the Dhamma if a Buddha does not discover it? In this respect, the Buddha is supreme. But without the Sangha, the range of the Teaching by a Buddha Himself will be very limited, confined only to the relatively short time of His Ministry. If it were not for the Sangha, I would not be sitting here writing this.
So from the practical aspect of the attainment of the Path, it is the Sangha,which is crucial and therefore the most important of the three. But, yet again, there can be no Sangha without the Buddha and the Dhamma which He discovers.
This brings to mind what is found in the suttas: ‘the Sangha is the supreme field of merit for living beings’. In the Velama sutta only taking Refuge in the Triple Gem, the observance of the Precepts, Metta Bhavana and THE CONTEMPLATION OF ANICCA exceed that. And the merit of this last, THE CONTEMPLATION OF ANICCA, exceeds the merit of the first three taken together, along with any dana to any being/s, Ariya and anariya.
So may others too acquire merits by contemplating on anicca. The other three (non-material) ways may be easier to do : taking Refuge, if saddha is there to start with, the Precepts are harder to observe AT ALL TIMES, and Metta bhavana requires some practice to perfect and maintain. Anicca is the most demanding of the four. But we have it from the Buddha that the one thing above all the rest is to contemplate anicca ,if only to the best of our ability.
It is easier to contemplate on the Dhamma than on anicca specifically. For instance, I contemplate on the Dhamma for the better part of the day, and that may be in two ways . Either mindful of (an aspect of) Dhamma while I am doing some other task, or seeing the connection between the two at that moment. There are fewer instances where the connection with anicca is seen and fewer still when an aspect of anicca can be seen in itself by contemplating to see it: “diving into the anicca ‘well'” to see deeper.
May the Blessings of the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha be with us always!
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