Impermanence — Thich Nhat Hanh

Nothing remains the same for two consecutive moments. Heraclitus said we can never bathe twice in the same river. Confucius, while looking at a stream, said, “It is always flowing, day and night.” The Buddha implored us not just to talk about impermanence, but to use it as an instrument to help us penetrate deeply into reality and obtain liberating insight.

We may be tempted to say that because things are impermanent, there is suffering. But the Buddha encouraged us to look again. Without impermanence, life is not possible. How can we transform our suffering if things are not impermanent? How can our daughter grow up into a beautiful young lady? How can the situation in the world improve? We need impermanence for social justice and for hope. 

If you suffer, it is not because things are impermanent. It is because you believe things are permanent. When a flower dies, you don’t suffer much, because you understand that flowers are impermanent. But you cannot accept the impermanence of your beloved one, and you suffer deeply when she passes away. 

If you look deeply into impermanence, you will do your best to make her happy right now. Aware of impermanence, you become positive, loving and wise. Impermanence is good news. Without impermanence, nothing would be possible. With impermanence, every door is open for change. Impermanence is an instrument for our liberation.

6 thoughts on “Impermanence

  1. Thank you for these reminders.
    Yes, there is something more about impermanence which is amazing. At the same time something is dying, something else is being reborn. The moment something passes from one form it becomes something else.
    The scientists have noticed this and call it one of the basic laws – that no energy is destroyed.
    The miracle is that means that at every moment there is new life. At every moment there are new possibilities. Each moment is filled with miracles.
    Let’s savor them!

  2. Nothing is born and nothing dies, as Thay would say :) I very much appreciate Thay’s words on the nature of impermanence – years ago, in my inability to fully understand these teachings, I used to see impermanence as something negative or sorrowful and now I see it very differently indeed. Impermanence is a great gift and it makes life possible. I find it very uplifting and freeing. Without impermanence my ideas around this teaching would’ve never been able to change!

  3. So much truth in these words. Such a difficult concept to accept at times, especially when dealing with our personal relationships. Impermanence does not always feel positive when in the midst of change but we must try to remember even in sorrow, it moves us forward. Thank you for your words that as always, speak to me in the ways I need most.

    • Thank you for posting your thoughts about the nature of impermanence my dear friend. It is not always an easy teaching that’s for sure. What comforts me in times of difficulty when it comes to impermanence is that I know things will not stay difficult forever, things/life/emotions are always changing. Thank goodness for difficulty not being a permanent state. And sometimes keeping that in mind is helpful for me.

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