1. Anicca means “we cannot maintain anything to our satisfaction in the LONG RUN”. The time scale of existence is an important factor when we contemplate the significance and implications of this fundamental characteristic of nature.
- So, the question is, “if nothing can be maintained to our satisfaction, what is the point in spending so much time in learning, getting a decent job, making plans for businesses, etc.?”. The question seems to be reasonable until we look at the “big picture”.
2. During the life, we do see many instances where we can attain certain things (pass exams, get jobs, initiate successful businesses, have a comfortable life, etc) and be happy about such achievements; of course there are many times we encounter unexpected things too (coming down with health problems, traffic accidents, floods, hurricanes, loss of jobs, etc).
- That is the nature of existence as a human. It is a mixed bag, at least until we get to the old age; then it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain things (especially our bodies) to our satisfaction, and of course at death we have to leave everything behind whether we like it or not.
- In the realms above the human in fact, life is even more predictable and enjoyable, that is of course until death comes calling.
- But the real problems encountered in the four realms below the human realm. It is increasingly difficult to “maintain things to one’s satisfaction” in lower realms. Animals are truly helpless, especially the vast majority that lives in the wild. There are no “old animals” in the wild; they either get sick and die or even worse: they get eaten up as soon as they slow down a bit.
- There is no happiness at all in the lowest realm, the niraya (“ni”+”ra” means without ANY happiness).
3. Thus the main reason why “we cannot maintain things to our satisfaction in the LONG RUN” is because all beings spend most of their lives in the lower four realms; see, “How the Buddha Described the Chance of Rebirth in the Human Realm”.
4. Now we can examine the question in terms of this “big picture”. If we do give up everything, we will probably die a miserable death (because we will be poor, unhealthy, etc because we would not be able to even support ourselves), and be born most likely in a lower realm. That it will make the situation much worse.
- We do need to contemplate on this situation. If one thinks through this line of thoughts, one can see that one is really helpless in this cycle of rebirths, which is the third characteristic of existence, anatta. Until a Buddha comes to this world and shows humans this “big picture”, AND shows how to get out of it, no one is able to escape this trap.
- The only solution is to at least attain the Sotapanna stage of Nibbana in this life. We MAY have some kammic energy left for one or more human lives (see, “Bhava and Jāti – States of Existence and Births Therein”), but this COULD BE the last for a long while, which could be billions of years. Even if we get another human birth, we do not know under what circumstances; it could be somewhere Buddha Dhamma is not readily accessible.
5. There is another point that we need to consider regarding this question. We have become indebted to numerous beings in this journey of rebirths, and thus we have debts to pay back. Having all these debts is a hindrance to attain any stage of Nibbana; see, “Kamma, Debt, and Meditation”.
6. Therefore, instead of abandoning our families (to whom we owe the most), we need to do our utmost to make sure they are well-off. We also need to make sure that we do not become dependent on the society (and thus accumulate more debt). Even in this life, we depend on others for so many things: we are indebted to our teachers, friends, as well to many unknown people who contribute to providing us with essentials to sustain life; we all are interconnected, and have responsibilities for each other. We have “to do our part” to live in a society.
- Therefore, part of the solution is to first prepare oneself (or one’s children if one is a parent) with a good education so that supporting oneself (and a family) is possible. Furthermore, a good education helps with understanding Dhamma too. And if one can make a lot of money (by honest means) then one can do many meritorious deeds too, thereby helping oneself spiritually as well.
- In any case, giving up everything and hiding in a forest will not solve the problem of existence. But there are some who have a sansaric tendency to abandon the “householder life”. What I am saying here is for the majority of people, not for everyone: Of course we need to sustain the bhikkhus who spend all their time for the benefit of others as well as themselves.
7. Therefore, what needs to be done is to understand the true nature of existence and realize that the ONLY solution is to try the best to attain at least the Sotapanna stage of Nibbana. Then one becomes free of rebirths in the lower four realms forever. This is THE solution to the problem.
In order to do that we need to,
- Fulfil our obligations to our families, friends, and the society in general,
- Make our best effort to learn pure Dhamma and attain the Sotapanna stage of Nibbana.
When one does this, one will become happy, not depressed, about the outlook. One has understood the problem and knows what to do about it. And when one starts working on it, one’s confidence will grow because one can feel the difference in oneself. One will become even more determined AND energetic, not just to save oneself, but also to help out the others.
Next, “The Incessant Distress (“Peleema”) – Key to Dukkha Sacca“, ……….