Monday, July 2, 2018

Gratitude and Impermanence

If someone is curious about Buddhism, one of the first things they may learn are the Four Noble Truths:

First Noble Truth: There is suffering (dukkha)
Second Noble Truth: Suffering is caused by desire
Third Noble Truth: Suffering can end completely
Fourth Noble Truth: The Noble Eightfold Path is the remedy for suffering

In terms of meaning, that of the First Noble Truth is apparent; we see suffering everyday, in ourselves and others. The Second Noble Truth states that attachment/desire, selfish craving (tanha), and wishing things to be different from how they really are is the cause of all suffering. The Third Noble Truth states that the constant state of suffering we experience can cease through pursuing the Fourth Noble Truth; following the Noble Eightfold Path

To avoid an overly pessimistic view of these foundations, let's first clarify the meaning of 'dukkha.' Roughly translated as 'suffering', 'dukkha' in linguistic terms has a complex definition and thus many meanings. For simplicity, I refer to dukkha as the inherent 'unsatisfactoriness' of all things, which manifests as suffering ranging from slight discomfort to extreme misery.

Reflecting further, we may realize the strong connection between impermanence and suffering. In our human experience, we know that all the things we enjoy, cherish, love, or have ever loved do not last forever. Just as our favorite flower fades, so may our connection to an old friend. Homes can burn or be washed away, and loved ones die and leave us with only memories of their presence. We also know the ultimate truth about ourselves, that we too will someday die and take leave of everything we love and have worked so hard for. Whilst interspersed amongst many happy moments, the impermanent (and therefore 'unsatisfactory') nature of all things is as real as life itself, and can be a cause for much sadness. If were are ever to be truly happy, how do we confront this potentially infinite source of suffering?

That's where gratitude comes in. When we are grateful, we acknowledge that wonderful moments -and not-so-wonderful ones - will eventually pass. When we are grateful, we accept impermanence; there is no sense grasping things that we know will not last forever. Rather, we smile and accept all that is good in our lives with open hearts. Although we may always hope for our loved ones' safety and wellbeing, our newfound wisdom may bring our constant fear of losing them out of focus. Instead of letting our resistance to change render life's blessings unfulfilling and trite, practicing gratitude amidst the reality of impermanence makes everything all the more precious. Instead of clutching in fear and trepidation, we may embrace all that we love in the present moment with happiness and contentment.  
Created by Renata viaGIPHY

Delicate blossoms fade, transient in the cool spring air. 
A crisp breeze arises, and we understand the nature of change.
Showered by translucent petals, we smile in the present moment.

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This post is part of the daily gratitude practice I am working to develop during 2018. You can read all about it at ByChanceBuddhism!
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May all beings be happy!