Impermanence, also known as the philosophical problem of change, is a philosophical concept that is addressed in a variety of religions and philosophies.
The Pali word for impermanence, anicca, is a compound word consisting of "a" meaning non-, and "nicca" meaning "constant, continuous, permanent". While 'nicca' is the concept of continuity and permanence, 'anicca' refers to its exact opposite; the absence of permanence and continuity. The term appears in the Rigveda, and is synonymous with the Sanskrit term anitya (a + nitya). The term appears extensively in the Pali Canon.
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|Glossary of Buddhism|
Impermanence, called anicca (Pāli) or anitya (Sanskrit), is one of the essential doctrines and a part of three marks of existence in Buddhism. The doctrine asserts that all of conditioned existence, without exception, is "transient, evanescent, inconstant". All temporal things, whether material or mental, are compounded objects in a continuous change of condition, subject to decline and destruction. The concept of impermanence is also found in various schools of Hinduism and Jainism.
Anicca or impermanence is understood in Buddhism as the first of three marks of existence, the other two being dukkha (suffering, pain, unsatisfactoriness) and anatta (non-self, non-soul, no essence).
All physical and mental events, states Buddhism, come into being and dissolve. Human life embodies this flux in the aging process, the cycle of repeated birth and death (Samsara), nothing lasts, and everything decays. This is applicable to all beings and their environs, including beings who have reincarnated in deva (god) and naraka (hell) realms. This is in contrast to nirvana, the reality that is Nicca, or knows no change, decay or death.
Impermanence is intimately associated with the doctrine of anatta, according to which things have no essence, permanent self, or unchanging soul. The Buddha taught that because no physical or mental object is permanent, desires for or attachments to either causes suffering (dukkha). Understanding Anicca and Anatta are steps in the Buddhist’s spiritual progress toward enlightenment. Anicca doctrine is one of the foundational premises of Buddhism, which asserts that all physical and mental events are not metaphysically real, that they are not constant or permanent, they come into being and dissolve. Impermanence is one of trilakshana (three marks) of existence. It appears in Pali texts as, "sabbe sankhara anicca, sabbe sankhara dukkha, sabbe dhamma anatta", which Szczurek translates as, "all conditioned things are impermanent, all conditioned things are painful, all dhammas are without Self".
According to Buddhism, everything in human life, all objects, as well as all beings whether in heavenly or hellish or earthly realms in Buddhist cosmology, is always changing, inconstant, undergoes rebirth and redeath (Samsara). This impermanence is a source of Dukkha. This is in contrast to nirvana, the reality that is Nicca, or knows no change, decay or death.
As long as there is attachment to things that are
unstable, unreliable, changing and impermanent,
there will be suffering –
when they change, when they cease to be
what we want them to be.
If craving is the cause of suffering, then the cessation
of suffering will surely follow from 'the complete
fading away and ceasing of that very craving':
its abandoning, relinquishing, releasing, letting go.
The term Anitya (अनित्य), in the sense of impermanence of objects and life, appears in verse 1.2.10 of the Katha Upanishad, one of the Principal Upanishads of Hinduism. It asserts that everything in the world is impermanent, but impermanent nature of things is an opportunity to obtain what is permanent (nitya) as the Hindu scripture presents its doctrine about Atman (soul). The term Anitya also appears in the Bhagavad Gita in a similar context.
Buddhism and Hinduism share the doctrine of Anicca or Anitya, that is "nothing lasts, everything is in constant state of change"; however, they disagree on the Anatta doctrine, that is whether soul exists or not. Even in the details of their respective impermanence theories, state Frank Hoffman and Deegalle Mahinda, Buddhist and Hindu traditions differ. Change associated with Anicca and associated attachments produces sorrow or Dukkha asserts Buddhism and therefore need to be discarded for liberation (nibbana), while Hinduism asserts that not all change and attachments lead to Dukkha and some change – mental or physical or self-knowledge – leads to happiness and therefore need to be sought for liberation (moksha). The Nicca (permanent) in Buddhism is anatta (non-soul), the Nitya in Hinduism is atman (soul).
Impermanence first appears in Greek philosophy in the writings of Heraclitus and his doctrine of panta rhei (everything flows). Heraclitus was famous for his insistence on ever-present change as being the fundamental essence of the universe, as stated in the famous saying, "No man ever steps in the same river twice" This is commonly considered to be a key contribution in the development of the philosophical concept of becoming, as contrasted with "being", and has sometimes been seen in a dialectical relationship with Parmenides' statement that "whatever is, is, and what is not cannot be", the latter being understood as a key contribution in the development of the philosophical concept of being. For this reason, Parmenides and Heraclitus are commonly considered to be two of the founders of ontology. Scholars have generally believed that either Parmenides was responding to Heraclitus, or Heraclitus to Parmenides, though opinion on who was responding to whom has varied over the course of the 20th and 21st centuries. Heraclitus' position was complemented by his stark commitment to a unity of opposites in the world, stating that "the path up and down are one and the same". Through these doctrines Heraclitus characterized all existing entities by pairs of contrary properties, whereby no entity may ever occupy a single state at a single time. This, along with his cryptic utterance that "all entities come to be in accordance with this Logos" (literally, "word", "reason", or "account") has been the subject of numerous interpretations.
Impermanence was widely but not universally accepted among subsequent Greek philosophers. Democritus' theory of atoms entailed that assemblages of atoms were impermanent. Pyrrho declared that everything was astathmēta (unstable), and anepikrita (unfixed). Plutarch commented on impermanence saying "And if the nature which is measured is subject to the same conditions as the time which measures it, this nature itself has no permanence, nor "being," but is becoming and perishing according to its relation to time. The Stoic philosopher, Marcus Aurelius' Meditations contains many comments about impermanence, such as “Bear in mind that everything that exists is already fraying at the edges, and in transition, subject to fragmentation and to rot.” (10.18)
How can that be a real thing which is never in the same state? ... for at the moment that the observer approaches, then they become other ... so that you cannot get any further in knowing their nature or state .... but if that which knows and that which is known exist ever ... then I do not think they can resemble a process or flux ....
Change was one of the chief concerns of the Eleatic school of thought founded by Parmenides. Parmenides considered non-existence to be absurd, and thus asserted that it was impossible for something to come into existence out of nothing, or for something to pass out of existence into nothing. By "something", he was referring not just to material, but to any general predicate; rejecting, for instance, changes of color, as they involved the new color arising from nothing and the old colour passing into nothing. He therefore rejected all change as impossible, and claimed that reality was an undifferentiated and unchanging whole.
These ideas were taken up by various followers of Parmenides, most notably Melissus and Zeno, who provided additional arguments, specifically for the impossibility of motion. Melissus claimed that reality was "full" (nonexistence being impossible), and that therefore nothing could move. Zeno gave a series of arguments which were particularly influential. Among the simplest was his observation that to move from A to B, one must first reach the halfway point between A and B; but then in order to do this, one must get halfway from A to this halfway point; and so on. Thus all motion involves an infinite number of steps, which Zeno held to be impossible. A similar argument involved a footrace between Achilles and a tortoise. The tortoise is given a head start. Achilles quickly reaches the point where the tortoise stood, but by this time the tortoise has moved on a little, so Achilles must now reach this new point, and so on. A different argument involved the flight of an arrow. Zeno observed that if one considers a single moment of time, the arrow is not moving in that moment. He then claimed it was impossible that an arrow in motion could arise as the result of a sequence of motionless arrows.
The atomism of Democritus and Leucippus can be seen as a response to the Eleatic denial of change. The atomists conceded that something coming from or becoming nothing was impossible, but only with respect to material substance, not to general qualities. They hypothesized that every visible object was in fact a composite of unseen indivisible particles of different shapes and sizes. These particles were held to be eternal and unchanging, but by rearranging themselves, the composite objects which they formed could come into and go out of being. These composite objects and their properties were not taken as truly real; in the words of Democritus, "by convention sweet, by convention bitter; by convention hot, by convention cold; by convention color: but in reality atoms and void." Any perceived change in an object's properties was therefore illusory and not susceptible to the objections of Parmenides.
Anaxagoras provided a similar response, but instead of atoms, he hypothesized a number of eternal, primal "ingredients" which were mixed together in a continuum. No material object was made of a pure ingredient; rather, it had its material character due to a preponderance of various ingredients over every other. In this way, Anaxagoras could assert that nowhere did any ingredient ever fully come into or go out of being.
Avidyā (Sanskrit; Pāli: avijjā; Tibetan phonetic: ma rigpa) in Buddhist literature is commonly translated as "ignorance". The concept refers to ignorance or misconceptions about the nature of metaphysical reality, in particular about the impermanence and non-self doctrines about reality. It is the root cause of Dukkha (suffering, pain, unsatisfactoriness), and asserted as the first link, in Buddhist phenomenology, of a process that leads to repeated birth.Avidyā is mentioned within the Buddhist teachings as ignorance or misunderstanding in various contexts:
Four Noble Truths
The first link in the twelve links of dependent origination
One of the three poisons within the Mahayana Buddhist tradition
One of the six root kleshas within the Mahayana Abhidharma teachings
One of the ten fetters in the Theravada tradition
Equivalent to moha within the Theravada Abhidharma teachingsWithin the context of the twelve links of dependent origination, avidya is typically symbolized by a person who is blind or wearing a blindfold.Bhavacakra
The bhāvacakra (Sanskrit; Pāli: bhāvacakka; Tibetan: srid pa'i 'khor lo) is a symbolic representation of saṃsāra (or cyclic existence). It is found on the outside walls of Tibetan Buddhist temples and monasteries in the Indo-Tibetan region, to help ordinary people understand Buddhist teachings.Buddhist funeral
In Buddhism, death marks the transition from this life to the next for the deceased.
Among Buddhists, death is regarded as an occasion of major religious significance, both for the deceased and for the survivors. For the deceased, it marks the moment when the transition begins to a new mode of existence within the round of rebirths. When death occurs, all the karmic forces that the dead person accumulated during the course of his or her lifetime become activated and determine the next rebirth. For the living, death is a powerful reminder of the Buddha's teaching on impermanence; it also provides an opportunity to assist the deceased person as he or she fares on to the new existence. BuddhaNet has published a guidance article about the subject, which also discusses the traditions of different Buddhist schools. There are also several academic reviews of this subject.Falter im Wind
"Falter im Wind" (English translation: "Butterfly In The Wind") was the Austrian entry in the Eurovision Song Contest 1972, performed in German by Milestones.
The song was performed eleventh on the night (following Finland's Päivi Paunu and Kim Floor with "Muistathan" and preceding Italy's Nicola Di Bari with "I giorni dell'arcobaleno"). At the close of voting, it had received 100 points, placing it fifth in a field of 18 songs.
The song is a folk-influenced number, directed at the titular butterfly and dealing with the impermanence of life. A version in English was recorded by The Milestones as "Dance Butterfly".Due to disagreements over the voting structure, Austria did not enter the Contest from 1973 to 1975. The song was thus succeeded as Austrian representative in the 1976 Contest by Waterloo & Robinson, performing "My Little World".Four sights
The four sights are four events described in the legendary account of Gautama Buddha's life which led to his realization of the impermanence and ultimate dissatisfaction of conditioned existence. According to this legend, before these encounters Siddhārtha Gautama had been confined to his palace by his father, who feared that he would become an ascetic if he came into contact with sufferings of life according to a prediction. However, his first venture out of the palace affected him deeply and made him realize the sufferings of all humans, and compelled him to begin his spiritual journey as a wandering ascetic, which eventually led to his enlightenment. The spiritual feeling of urgency experienced by Siddhārtha Gautama is referred to as saṃvega.Impermanence (album)
Impermanence is the twelfth album by Meredith Monk, released on March 18, 2008 through ECM New Series.Mandala
A mandala (emphasis on first syllable; Sanskrit मण्डल, maṇḍala – literally "circle") is a spiritual and/or ritual geometric configuration of symbols or a map (in Shintoism) in the Indian religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism or Japanese lifestyle of Shintoism representing deities, or in the case of Shintoism, paradises, kami or actual shrines. In modern, typically American use, "mandala" has become a generic term for any diagram, chart or geometric pattern that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically; a time-microcosm of the universe, though it originally meant to represent wholeness and a model for the organizational structure of life itself--a cosmic diagram that shows us our relation to the infinite, the world that extends beyond and within our minds and bodies.
The basic form of most mandalas is a square with four gates containing a circle with a center point. Each gate is in the general shape of a T. Mandalas often have radial balance.The term appears in the Rigveda as the name of the sections of the work, and Vedic rituals use mandalas such as the Navagraha mandala to this day. Mandalas are also used in Buddhism.
In various spiritual traditions, mandalas may be employed for focusing attention of practitioners and adepts, as a spiritual guidance tool, for establishing a sacred space and as an aid to meditation and trance induction.Miracles of Gautama Buddha
The miracles of Gautama Buddha refers to supernatural feats and abilities attributed to Gautama Buddha by the Buddhist scriptures. The feats are mostly attributed to supranormal powers gained through meditation, rather than divine miracles. Supranormal powers the historic Buddha was said to have possessed and exercised include the six higher knowledges (abhiññā): psychic abilities (iddhi-vidhā), clairaudience (dibba-sota), telepathy (ceto-pariya), recollection of one's own past lives (pubbe-nivāsanussati), seeing the past lives and rebirths of others (dibba-cakkhu), and the extinction of mental intoxicants (āsavakkhaya). Miracles found in Mahayana Sutras generally play a more direct role in illustrating certain doctrines than miracles found in the Pali Canon.Stories of Gautama Buddha's miracles include miraculous healings, teleportation, creating duplicates of himself, manipulation of the elements, and various other supernatural phenomena. Many of the Buddha's followers, as well as some non-Buddhist hermits and yogis who attained high states of meditative absorption, were also said to have had some of these same abilities. According to Buddhist texts, the Buddha frequently utilized or discussed these abilities, although he warned about the dangers of being attached to these powers and emphasized the "miracle of instruction" as the more favorable method of conversion.Mono no aware
Mono no aware (物の哀れ), literally "the pathos of things", and also translated as "an empathy toward things", or "a sensitivity to ephemera", is a Japanese term for the awareness of impermanence (無常, mujō), or transience of things, and both a transient gentle sadness (or wistfulness) at their passing as well as a longer, deeper gentle sadness about this state being the reality of life.
"Mono-no aware: the ephemeral nature of beauty – the quietly elated, bittersweet feeling of having been witness to the dazzling circus of life – knowing that none of it can last. It’s basically about being both saddened and appreciative of transience – and also about the relationship between life and death. In Japan, there are four very distinct seasons, and you really become aware of life and mortality and transience. You become aware of how significant those moments are.”Peter Silberman
Peter Silberman is a Brooklyn-based songwriter, vocalist, and guitarist. He is best known as a member of the rock band The Antlers. In 2017 he released a solo album, Impermanence.Prajñā (Buddhism)
Prajñā (Sanskrit) or paññā (Pāli) "wisdom" is insight in the true nature of reality, namely primarily anicca (impermanence), dukkha (dissatisfaction or suffering), and anattā (non-self). In addition, Abhidharma and later Mahāyāna text may include suññatā (Skt; Eng: emptiness).Saṃsāra (Buddhism)
Saṃsāra (Sanskrit, Pali; also samsara) in Buddhism is the beginningless cycle of repeated birth, mundane existence and dying again. Samsara is considered to be dukkha, unsatisfactory and painful, perpetuated by desire and avidya (ignorance), and the resulting karma.Rebirths occur in six realms of existence, namely three good realms (heavenly, demi-god, human) and three evil realms (animal, ghosts, hellish). Samsara ends if a person attains nirvana, the "blowing out" of the desires and the gaining of true insight into impermanence and non-self reality.Sthiti
A Sanskrit Dictionary gives more than eighty meanings of the Sanskrit word, Sthiti (स्थिति), but this word mainly refers to position, rank or dignity, staying, or permanence, permanent or continued existence in any place.The Appleseed Cast
The Appleseed Cast is an American rock band, based in Lawrence, Kansas, with 20 years of recording and touring. The band was founded in the early days of emo by singer-guitarist Christopher Crisci and guitarist Aaron Pillar, and quickly grew to fame. The Appleseed Cast has steadily evolved over the release of eight full-length albums with Crisci at the songwriting helm, changing lineups but never breaking up, continuing to hone the TAC sound. The band’s current lineup includes Crisci, Ben Kimball, Nick Fredrickson, and Sean Bergman.
Major acclaim first came in the early 2000s and earned them a 9.0 from Pitchfork for their album set Low Level Owl, Vol I and Vol II. The band has enjoyed continued high praise for their work on Two Conversations, Peregrine, Illumination Ritual, and others.The Scripture of the Golden Eternity
The Scripture of the Golden Eternity is a book of 66 prose poems written by American novelist and poet Jack Kerouac, first published in 1960 by Corinth Books, New York City. The book is Kerouac’s sutra on Buddhist philosophy, in which he describes a "Golden Eternity" that is paradoxically everything and nothing.The 66 prose poems or "meditations" deal mainly with the nature of consciousness and the impermanence of existence. The main influence is Buddhism, but the use of the word "scripture" in the title alludes to Kerouac's Catholic upbringing and influences, evident in this work and others.Three marks of existence
In Buddhism, the three marks of existence are three characteristics (Pali: tilakkhaṇa; Sanskrit: त्रिलक्षण, trilakṣaṇa) of all existence and beings, namely impermanence (aniccā), unsatisfactoriness or suffering (dukkha), and non-self (anattā). These three characteristics are mentioned in verses 277, 278 and 279 of the Dhammapada. That humans are subject to delusion about the three marks, that this delusion results in suffering, and that removal of that delusion results in the end of suffering, is a central theme in the Buddhist Four Noble Truths and Noble Eightfold Path.
According to Thich Nhat Hanh, the three seals are impermanence, non-self and nirvana. He says in "The heart of the Buddha's Teaching" that "In several sutras the Buddha taught that nirvana, the joy of completely extinguishing our ideas and concepts, rather than suffering, is one of the Three Dharma Seals."Tsurezuregusa
Tsurezuregusa (徒然草, Essays in Idleness, also known as The Harvest of Leisure) is a collection of essays written by the Japanese monk Yoshida Kenkō between 1330 and 1332. The work is widely considered a gem of medieval Japanese literature and one of the three representative works of the zuihitsu genre, along with Makura no Sōshi and the Hōjōki.Vipassanā
Vipassanā (Pāli) or vipaśyanā (Sanskrit), "insight," is prajñā "insight into the true nature of reality", defined as anicca "impermanence", dukkha "suffering, unsatisfactoriness", anattā "non-self", the three marks of existence in the Theravada tradition, and as śūnyatā "emptiness" and Buddha-nature in the Mahayana traditions.
Meditation practice in the Theravada tradition ended in the 10th century, but was reintroduced in Toungoo and Konbaung Burma in the 18th century, based on contemporary readings of the Satipaṭṭhāna sutta, the Visuddhimagga, and other texts. A new tradition developed in the 19th and 20th century, centering on bare insight in conjunction with samatha. It became of central importance in the 20th century Vipassanā movement as developed by Ledi Sayadaw and U Vimala and popularised by Mahasi Sayadaw, V. R. Dhiravamsa, and S. N. Goenka.In modern Theravada, the combination or disjunction of vipassanā and samatha is a matter of dispute. While the Pali sutras hardly mention vipassanā, describing it as a mental quality alongside with samatha which develop in tandem and lead to liberation, the Abhidhamma Pitaka and the commentaries describe samatha and vipassanā as two separate meditation techniques. The Vipassanā movement favours vipassanā over samatha, but critics point out that both are necessary elements of the Buddhist training.Wabi-sabi
In traditional Japanese aesthetics, wabi-sabi (侘寂) is a world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete". It is a concept derived from the Buddhist teaching of the three marks of existence (三法印, sanbōin), specifically impermanence (無常, mujō), suffering (苦, ku) and emptiness or absence of self-nature (空, kū).
Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry, roughness, simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy, and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes.
Topics in Buddhism