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Meditation on Impermanence

misecmisc1misecmisc1 I am a HinduIndia Veteran

Hi All,
Is there any specific meditation which is called 'Meditation on Impermanence' like the way we have zazen, Mahamudra etc? How to meditate on impermanence?
How to bring the feeling that we will die more close to us, than just as an intellectual idea we know about? Any information please. Thanks.

Comments

  • pegembarapegembara Veteran

    @misecmisc1 said:
    Hi All,
    Is there any specific meditation which is called 'Meditation on Impermanence' like the way we have zazen, Mahamudra etc? How to meditate on impermanence?
    How to bring the feeling that we will die more close to us, than just as an intellectual idea we know about? Any information please. Thanks.

    Go attend the funerals of those who are near and dear, friends and relatives, acquantances.

    There is a Burmese saying, “One visit to a funeral is better than ten visits to the monastery.”

    "There are these five facts that one should reflect on often, whether one is a woman or a man, lay or ordained. Which five?

    "'I am subject to aging, have not gone beyond aging.' This is the first fact that one should reflect on often, whether one is a woman or a man, lay or ordained.

    "'I am subject to illness, have not gone beyond illness.' ...

    "'I am subject to death, have not gone beyond death.' ...

    "'I will grow different, separate from all that is dear and appealing to me.' ...

    https://www.accesstoinsight.org/ati/tipitaka/an/an05/an05.057.than.html

    misecmisc1elcra1goBuddhadragon
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @pegembara said: Go attend the funerals of those who are near and dear, friends and relatives, acquantances.

    There is a Burmese saying, “One visit to a funeral is better than ten visits to the monastery.”

    I was about to add the same advice.
    India is a country where the public ritual of cremation is practised on a daily basis.
    Go to such a cremation and observe those living, dealing with those who have died.

    It is common practice, is it not, to erect a funeral pyre, and let the bodies of the dead be consumed by flames?

    An extraordinary practice to us westerners.
    A daily normal occurrence to the inhabitants of some regions in India.

    Rightly so, in my opinion.
    (We have cremations too, but they are sanitised, wrapped in ceremony and concealed from the eyes of mourners... so fastidious are we about such scenes, they are wrapped in pretense and imagery.
    When I go, I am quite happy to be chopped up and given to the dogs. I mean, what will I know?
    )

    Attend what amounts to a normal daily occurrence.
    That's exactly what it is.

  • misecmisc1misecmisc1 I am a Hindu India Veteran

    @federica said:

    @pegembara said: Go attend the funerals of those who are near and dear, friends and relatives, acquantances.

    There is a Burmese saying, “One visit to a funeral is better than ten visits to the monastery.”

    I was about to add the same advice.
    India is a country where the public ritual of cremation is practised on a daily basis.
    Go to such a cremation and observe those living, dealing with those who have died.

    It is common practice, is it not, to erect a funeral pyre, and let the bodies of the dead be consumed by flames?

    An extraordinary practice to us westerners.
    A daily normal occurrence to the inhabitants of some regions in India.

    In India in Hindu cremation, a funeral pyre is erected, the dead body is laid over it and then burnt to ashes. I have went to a cremation ghat in my native city to observe the complete funeral process. I think I have been there 3 to 4 times, without me needing to go there as nobody near to me had died, rather I went there just to see the funeral process. Each time I stayed for few hours. I saw that initially the skin burns and curls up like a burnt paper, then the fat below it shows up, then gradually it gets burnt and then the muscle with blood shows up, then gradually it burns, then the bone comes up, then gradually at knee joint the lower bone gets separated from the upper bone of the leg. I saw once intestines coming up after the stomach area was burnt. It is very difficult to see at most of the times since it is covered with too much wood and also the flames of the fire is so high, that it becomes very difficult to see and also the heat and smoke does not allow to watch properly.
    These 3 to 4 times when I went to the cremation ground was in last year or may be 2 years back - but still that feeling that I will also die does not seem to reach deeply within. Because of logically if that feeling would have reached within me deeply, then I would not waste my time in comfort and luxury and taking my life in an easy way.

  • misecmisc1misecmisc1 I am a Hindu India Veteran
    edited June 8

    @federica said:

    @pegembara said: Go attend the funerals of those who are near and dear, friends and relatives, acquantances.

    There is a Burmese saying, “One visit to a funeral is better than ten visits to the monastery.”

    I was about to add the same advice.
    India is a country where the public ritual of cremation is practised on a daily basis.
    Go to such a cremation and observe those living, dealing with those who have died.

    It is common practice, is it not, to erect a funeral pyre, and let the bodies of the dead be consumed by flames?

    Also regarding the above question, even though it is common in India in Hinduism for dead bodies to be burnt on wooden funeral pyre in smaller cities and towns, but in the metro cities of India these days electric furnace cremation is happening. I have not seen an electric furnace cremation till now, but I heard that in it, the dead body is placed in an electric furnace and then closed in it, then the high voltage electricity is turned on, which turns the dead body into ashes in seconds and then the high voltage electricity is turned off. My city is a religious city in India specifically from Hinduism and Buddhism religions' perspectives and since my city is one of the oldest cities of India, so in my city, in Hindu religion, mostly the dead bodies are burnt on wooden funeral pyre.

  • VimalajātiVimalajāti Whitby, Ontario Veteran
    edited June 8

    In the Tree Sermon, Vṛkṣasūtra, the Buddha gives instruction on the realization of inconstancy:

    Let us say a monk abides somewhere like in an empty dwelling within the woods, next to the trees, with the wet earth. Day and night, he contemplates with concentrated diligence and appropriate methodology. He observes form as inconstant, he observes feelings, perception, mental formations, and the mind as inconstant.

    Thinking like this, he is cut off from cravings for the formed, cravings for the formless, cravings for the exciting, all conceited cravings and their ignorance.

    Why?

    Because he who realizes inconstancy can establish truly selfless thoughts. The Godly Buddha’s Son who dwells in selfless thoughts has his heart cut-off from self-pride and there follows the attainment of nirvāṇa.

    (T99.70c2 Sarvāstivādasaṃyuktāgama-vṛkṣasūtra)

    Very general. Sometimes I think that these ancient scriptures have far too vague instructions: "Meditate upon form, perception, mental formations, and the mind, and see them as impermanent. Have appropriate methodology." Perhaps not helpful, perhaps helpful. Perhaps this is why they say that a trained teacher is a valuable asset. Perhaps these very simple instructions are all one needs, with vigilance and diligent observation.

    The sermon's central point appears to be that the end-goal of meditating on the lack of constancy, or permanence, even within this very mind and body, is a deeper realization of selflessness. IMO.

    misecmisc1
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    Good reflections by people. I would just add that it takes repeated and regular reflection and exposure to change our attitudes. Sometimes we get hit with major life situations that can shake our beliefs and make important changes but Buddhist practice, is just that a practice.

    You've taken the first step in understanding intellectually that an attitude that understands the impermanent nature of the world is beneficial. The next step is to take the repeated actions that will change your mind. It takes time and proper effort, but is inevitable if the work is done.

    misecmisc1ScottPen
  • ScottPenScottPen Maryland Veteran

    @misecmisc1, I don't know about how meditation can help this. I'm very new to meditation.

    However, the inexorable impermanence and unpredictability of everything is something that I came to understand before I encountered Buddhism.

    The problem isn't impermanence/unpredictability. The problem is that humans have evolved to feel insecure, afraid, and unsafe as a result of those things. It's a survival mechanism. Remember, evolution doesn't want us to be happy. Evolution just wants us to stay alive long enough to create more people, just like every other living thing. As such, we are averse to unpredictable outcomes and the insecurity of impermanence because these things help to keep animals alive when their lives are on the line every day. But our lives AREN'T on the line every day, so we suffer through this.

    Impermanence and unpredictability are unavoidable. We just need to be OK with it.

    "Thanks to impermanence everything is possible."
    -Thich Nhat Hanh

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    Meditation on Impermanence

    There's really nothing to it :)

  • ScottPenScottPen Maryland Veteran

    I heard a talk, I think it was Dave Smith but I'm not sure. He described a guided meditation on impermanence that he participated in that was kind of like a metta in reverse. He was instructed to visualize losing the people, things, and relationships he loved the most... Really try tp imagine it realistically so he actually felt the pain, then he had to sit with the pain until the teacher guided them to something else. Apparently this can help with the idea of impermanence, but I haven't tried it. I really don't want to imagine the death and loss of my loved ones.

    person
  • VimalajātiVimalajāti Whitby, Ontario Veteran
    edited June 9

    @ScottPen said:
    I really don't want to imagine the death and loss of my loved ones.

    It reminds me of when Rāhula taught disillusionment with the body, and the monks promptly began to kill themselves.

    The Buddha had to be brought in to set matter straight. I think that that story is in the Pāli vinaya.

    person
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited June 9

    @Vimalajāti said:

    @ScottPen said:
    I really don't want to imagine the death and loss of my loved ones.

    It reminds me of when Rāhula taught disillusionment with the body, and the monks promptly began to kill themselves.

    The Buddha had to be brought in to set matter straight. I think that that story is in the Pāli vinaya.

    In SN 54.9, the Buddha gives a talk to a group of monks praising foulness of the body meditation, a method in which one contemplates the body in a way that reduces attachment to the body and counteracts lust (a helpful tool for celibate monastics). After the talk, the Buddha goes into seclusion for half a month. While away, the monks practice meditating on the foulness of the body, but being repelled and disgusted with the body, many of them end up committing suicide or hiring assailants to kill them. Upon returning, the Buddha asks Ananda why the Sangha looks so diminished. Ananda explains the situation and then asks the Buddha to give them another meditation method, which ends up being mindfulness of breathing.

    The backstory given in the commentarial literature, which Bhikkhu Bodhi includes in the notes to this sutta, is that these monks were hunters in a past life that were reborn in hell, but due to some wholesome kamma, they eventually gained rebirth in the human realm and became renouncers under the Buddha. Knowing that a portion of their original unwholesome kamma was about to ripen, bringing about their deaths via homicide and suicide, and that there was nothing he could do to prevent this, the Buddha spoke of the foulness of the body in order to help remove their attachment to the body so that they would lose their fear of death. Sounds like bullshit to me. Bhikkhu Bodhi even admits that "... the idea of kammically predetermined suicide seems difficult to reconcile with the concept of suicide as a volitionally induced act" (1951-52).

    Personally, I think the monks just missed the point of the meditation and took things way to far, and the Buddha had to come back and correct it by giving them something else to concentrate on. The backstory, I believe, is meant to support the idea of the Buddha's supposed omniscience, because why would he give them this kind of meditation if he knew they'd end up doing something like this?

    person
  • ScottPenScottPen Maryland Veteran

    It's all well and good to have a favorite coffee mug while simultaneously already considering it broken, but I'd rather suffer in samsara forever than spend a single second imagining the death of my children for the purpose of training myself to be ok if it happens.

  • VimalajātiVimalajāti Whitby, Ontario Veteran
    edited June 10

    Indeed. In the Theravāda vinaya, Mahāvibhaṅgapārājikakaṇḍa III, a parallel text, concerning the monk's suicide, the Buddha says: "it’s not suitable for these monks, it’s not proper, it’s not worthy of an ascetic, it’s not allowable, it should not be done. How could those monks take their own lives, kill one another, and say to Migalaṇḍika, ‘Please kill us; this bowl and robe will be yours’? This will not give rise to confidence in those without it … And, monks, this training rule should be recited thus: ‘If a monk intentionally kills a human being or seeks an instrument of death for him, he too is expelled and not in communion.’” (translation by Venerable Brahmāli)

  • VimalajātiVimalajāti Whitby, Ontario Veteran
    edited June 10

    The Theravādavinaya excerpt condemns the suicide, meaning that the Mahāṭṭhakathā (Pāli commentary)'s explanation of why the Buddha knew this would happen is likely a contrivance to preserve the idea that the Buddha always knows the future.

    Most likely the Buddha did not know these monks would kill themselves. In my opinion at least. We both share this opinion, but came to it by extrapolating from different texts, interestingly enough.

    My earlier statement that Rāhula taught this opening discourse was a mistake, it seems.

  • misecmisc1misecmisc1 I am a Hindu India Veteran

    @Shoshin said:

    Meditation on Impermanence

    There's really nothing to it :)

    @Shoshin: Can you please explain your above sentence in slightly more detail? Thanks.

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran

    I think impermanence is in your experience already and you just have to notice it.

    When a man is parched by thirst,
    The thought of water brings no relief.
    Only drinking can quench his thirst.
    Similarly, information differs from direct experience.
    The exhausting search for information,
    For mere objective knowledge,
    Becomes needless with direct meditative experience.

    ~ Mipham Rinpoche

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @misecmisc1 said:

    @Shoshin said:

    Meditation on Impermanence

    There's really nothing to it :)

    @Shoshin: Can you please explain your above sentence in slightly more detail? Thanks.

    Stop and think about it, and what it means, on different levels.
    I think you will come to your own conclusion, @misecmisc1

    Sometimes you have to think on things without being led, or spoon-fed every explanation...

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @misecmisc1 said:

    @Shoshin said:

    Meditation on Impermanence

    There's really nothing to it :)

    @Shoshin: Can you please explain your above sentence in slightly more detail? Thanks.

    There's really nothing to explain @misecmisc1 .... It's all about letting go ...

    "Transient alas; are all component things
    Subject are they to birth - and then decay
    Having gained birth; to death the life flux swings
    Bliss truly dawns when unrest dies away!

    pegembaraBuddhadragon
  • pegembarapegembara Veteran
    edited June 11

    @ScottPen said:
    I heard a talk, I think it was Dave Smith but I'm not sure. He described a guided meditation on impermanence that he participated in that was kind of like a metta in reverse. He was instructed to visualize losing the people, things, and relationships he loved the most... Really try tp imagine it realistically so he actually felt the pain, then he had to sit with the pain until the teacher guided them to something else. Apparently this can help with the idea of impermanence, but I haven't tried it. I really don't want to imagine the death and loss of my loved ones.

    That's why there is the saying that attending the funeral of someone close is many times better than attending temples or meditation retreats. Nothing is left to one's imagination. One comes face to face with the "painful truth". It's going, going, gone.

    Impermanent, alas, are conditioned things! Their very nature is to arise and vanish. Having arisen they then cease. Their subsiding is blissful!

    In Theravada Buddhist lands, this verse is always recited at funerals to console the grievers over the death of a loved one.

    https://www.lionsroar.com/it-all-depends/

  • namarupanamarupa Veteran

    It helps to understand that the purpose of meditation on impermanence, suffering, and not self, is to practice the mind into seeing the true nature things. When the mind has no doubt what so ever that what it sees is the truth, then everything will be less stressful.

    Perceiving constancy in the inconstant, pleasure in the stressful, self in what's not-self, attractiveness in the unattractive, beings, destroyed by wrong-view, go mad, out of their minds. Bound to Mara's yoke, from the yoke they find no rest. Beings go on to the wandering-on, leading to birth & death. But when Awakened Ones arise in the world, bringing light to the world, they proclaim the Dhamma leading to the stilling of stress. When those with discernment listen, they regain their senses, seeing the inconstant as inconstant, the stressful as stressful, what's not-self as not-self, the unattractive as unattractive. Undertaking right view, they transcend all stress & suffering.

    https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an04/an04.049.than.html

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    I happened to come across this today, which I found overwhelmingly beautiful. It is a painting by an artist called Scott Fraser.

    pegembaraScottPen
  • BuddhadragonBuddhadragon Carpe Diem Samsara Veteran

    I have been struck by the death of beloved ones often enough not to be willing to delve into meditation on impermanence in its goriest details for the rest of this samsaric stint.

    Life passes.
    You see that all the time.
    And keeps passing.
    What more do you need to be aware of impermanence?

    Shoshinmisecmisc1lobsterkando
  • namarupanamarupa Veteran

    Right awareness will lead to the cessation of cravings...and so forth.

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