The Sea of Impermanence which Sweeps away Everything

Thus I do swim in an immense sea of impermanence:

Whatever I experience continually changes to something else.

  • There is no sensation of joy which does not pass
  • No sensation of sorrow which does not recur with inevitably certainty.

Every pleasure is shadowed (even while being enjoyed) by the prospect that it too will pass with the passing of the object which caused it… only to be replaced by suffering.

This will be the greater, the greater the joy was.  The greatest suffering, however, we experience at the hour in which our own corporeal organism and hence, the whole actual world is snatched away from us.

We are then overwhelmed with sorrow, only to re-appear in a new form, exposed to new life, to new sickness, new decrepitude and death, and so forth in endless repetition.

Who, having grasped the whole circle, would not be filled with horror and fright?

Certainly, the wise man too perceives, in this sea of impermanence which sweeps away everything, several aspects of happiness:

  • The laughter of childhood
  • The joy of youthful lovers
  • The pleasure of bodily lust
  • A mother’s delight in her child

He knows and hears the exultations, the cries of delight of all those whose wishes have been fulfilled.

But above and beyond all this, he knows and hears the grief and the wailing of parents at the death of their children, the suffering of the sick and needy, the despair of the poor and friendless, the anguish of the dying.

Naturally, only the wise hears like this. 

The average man is not willed to hear such cries of sorrow – he removes from his sight and hearing everything that might thwart his craving for pleasant sensations.

Thus he puts the poor in poorhouses, the sick in hospitals, the insane in asylums, the criminals in prison – so that he may enjoy undisturbed, the illusion of a pleasurable world.

He even does romanticize death, stifling with flowers, the unpleasant odours of putrefaction.

But does he lessen misery by trying to cover it?  Does he reduce suffering by simply ignoring it?

It is rather difficult to make a true valuation of life.  Our feeble, undeveloped cognizing faculty, which noramlly is scarcely more efficient than that of the higher animals, is able to apprehend only a brief period of time, namely the immediate present we live in.

Experiencing the Entire Cycle of Life in 1 hour

Taking into account this common defect in cognition, let us now try to imagine a period of 80 years with all its experiences reduce to a span of less than 1 hour.

We should see, within a few minutes:

  • The infant become a child
  • The child a youth
  • The youth a young man, a lover
  • We should see the lover embrace his wife, who, like himself, grows older in this very moment, losing grace, charm, beauty, vigour, thus becoming as the seconds go by, feeble, haggard, bent, wrinkled, toothless and decrepit.
  • Finally, just while the man is trying to make out what it is all about, we should observe him being befallen by old-age and decrepitude.

This perfectly true picture of life, summed up in quick-motion, shows clearly enough the worthlessness of all events and hence of life on the whole.

Is it not a rather horrifying prospect to consider that all this might recur endlessly?

Buddhist Wisdom: The Mystery of the Self, by George Grimm, p11-13.  Headings added by me.

Is there no escape from Samsara?  Is there no escape from this sea of impermanence which sweeps away everything?

There is indeed an escape.  The sea of impermanence sweeps away everything, but it only sweeps away things which are born, which are created, which are compounded and integrated.  Impermanence can not touch that which is not born, not created, not compounded, not integrated.  It can not touch the eternally unchanging, Deathless Island of Nirvana.


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