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Impermanence: Good, bad or both?

I am interested to read your thoughts on this.

Impermanence is an important teaching in Buddhism. Some people believe impermanence is a negative because
- Happiness and good times will end.
- Death
- Can seem to make life pointless: If we die anyway, what is the point of life?
- Creates suffering. Good times end and bad times eventuate.

However, there are positives to impermanence too.
- Because everything is impermanent, that means negative situations will end too. Also, because everything is subject to change, impermanence gives us hope for improvement. If things were permanent, then will would never recover from negative situations. Suffering is impermanent. So, impermanence causes suffering yet it also relieves suffering.
- Impermanence leads to learning, improvement and progress. Without, humans will still be living primitively.
- A temporary positive experience is better than never experiencing it at all. This is my answer, to if we die anyway, what is the point of life?

My opinion is that impermanence is both, in some situations impermanence is viewed as a negative and in others it is viewed as a positive. Impermanence is an imperfect, and it has positives and negatives.

Comments

  • edited October 2010
    It may be worthwhile considering that there are shades of grey, neither good nor bad: the imperceptible changes. It's the shock of sudden change that usually has the greatest impact, but you must also consider the wearing and the tearing, or the gradual build up. The little seemingly insignificant parts of our lives that add up to make greater changes for good or ill.

    If change is already so imperceptible, how would it be if there were none? it is in the ability to notice changes that we abstract any sense of quality. Without quality there is no meaning.

    The fact is, you're constantly noticing mainly the things that move. They're what you gravitate towards. How much else do you fail to notice? How many objects scattered about you do you take for granted?

    Sooo, impermance creates meaning. The more dramatic changes tend to have an emotional impact, leading to your sense of good and bad.
  • edited October 2010
    Interesting thread...

    I guess I view impermanence more like a fundamental property of nature more than anything else. As the physicist Carl Sagan used to say, "we are star stuff". Isn't amazing that the very atoms of our bodies were forged in stars now long dead?

    For sure, impermanence connotes death, but impermanence is the basis of life and beauty also. I have some flowers blooming outside. In a few weeks, they'll be dead. But for the moment, they are alive and marvelous in their showy color.
  • BonsaiDougBonsaiDoug Simply, on the path. Veteran
    edited October 2010
    Something about impermanence has always troubled me.

    If impermanence is a basic tenant of Buddhism - nothing persists - then how does rebirth/reincarnation
    fit in? Isn't rebirth/reincarnation in direct opposition to impermanence?
  • aMattaMatt Veteran
    edited October 2010
    WaC,

    I can understand the allure of considering impermanence to be both positive and negative, and I consider your speculation wonderful!

    You describe a very prominent pattern of becoming nihilistic when confronted by impermanence, as though the fleeting nature of all phenomena can force a sense of indifference or apathy. This is very common, in my observations, and the only remedy is continued practice. I would consider an apathetic view (I think that's what you're calling 'bad') to be an improper understanding, and why text book Buddhists can be at a disadvantage over Buddhists who have a proper teacher. Instead of getting into debates on the merit or demerit if a particular view, the root is cut and the pattern revealed.

    By looking at the impermanent phenomena as good, we naturally create clinging. By looking at the impermanent phenomena as bad, we naturally create aversion. So no matter what side of the discussion we were on, saying impermanence is good or bad, we are on the unhealthy side. Instead, if we let go of that pattern to classify, the events become simple and directly what they are, without aversion or clinging.

    For instance, when we consider death... the apathetic (bad) view might say "Well, we all die so what is the point of learning/loving/evolving?" The indulgent (good) view might say "We all die, so we better have as many pleasurable/evolving/meaningful experiences as possible" Both of these views, in my opinion, callous a mind to the truth. One whose root was cut might say something like "This phenomena feels pleasurable/painful and has a beginning and an ending. So what? Keep practicing."

    With warmth,

    Matt
  • edited October 2010
    Whether impermanence is more positive or more negative, it really depends on how deeply well the person understand impermanence and his/her definition of suffering and pain.

    A seed will not grow with depending only on sunshine but also depending on the rain coming from the storm. Then it will really grow into a tree.:grin:
  • CloudCloud Veteran
    edited October 2010
    OP: In the Buddha's time, there were questions that he simply would not answer. The reason as explained to us in the teachings is that the questions themselves were improper. The question of whether impermanence is "good" or "bad" is simply starting off on the wrong foot!
  • edited October 2010
    Eric D,
    <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p>
    It seems to me that impermanence, as discussed here, involves a few components: (1) an existential component, (2) cognitive component, and (3) an ethical one. (1) One has already pointed out above that impermanence just happens to be the state of things—one thing turns into another and is continuously altered by the other things on which it depends. From this angle, impermanence reveals ‘how’ we are interrelated to all being by not Being any one thing for all time. (2) Given this basic existential reality, our mind’s illusions of ‘self’ being permanent ego that persists across space and time must now slowly be abandoned. Our conventional conceptualizations of our world, eternality, and our place in it cannot be held without this fundamental-ultimate truth piercing through our seemingly fickle categories that attempt to place all things as being only ‘this way’ or ‘that way.’ (3) From these two components we can see that when we categorize impermanence as possessing a kind of continuous nature or a quality of being “good” or “bad” that we play somewhat to the ego’s game of conceptualization. We must ask, “Who or what is impermanence ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for?” We would likely say, “Well, it is good or bad for ‘us’ or ‘me.’ However, in my view, this is in part what the idea of impermanence is, in a manner of speaking, designed to do away with. The ethical consequence would seem to be that impermanence is what it is because of our dependence on all being. We are interlinked one with the other and so change from one thing to another is possible because we are both potentially and actually many things at once. Thus, we have no right to think of ourselves as being somehow intrinsically better than another or some other living thing.
    <o:p></o:p>
    Anyway, these are just some of my thoughts on the matter. Thanks for the interesting discussion.
    <o:p></o:p>
    Eric D. :)
  • edited October 2010
    Something about impermanence has always troubled me.

    If impermanence is a basic tenant of Buddhism - nothing persists - then how does rebirth/reincarnation
    fit in? Isn't rebirth/reincarnation in direct opposition to impermanence?

    No. Just because there is some kind of continuity doesnt mean that there is a permanent entity or "self" that continues.
  • edited October 2010

    My opinion is that impermanence is both, in some situations impermanence is viewed as a negative and in others it is viewed as a positive. Impermanence is an imperfect, and it has positives and negatives.

    My opinion is that it is neither good nor bad.
    Impermanence just is, our perception of thinks based on hope and fear is the cause of suffering. Our ignorance of impermanence causes us to have hopes and fears which leads to our conditioned existence.
  • thickpaperthickpaper Veteran
    edited October 2010
    If impermanence is a basic tenant of Buddhism - nothing persists - then how does rebirth/reincarnation
    fit in? Isn't rebirth/reincarnation in direct opposition to impermanence?

    I agree 100%, but that issue belongs in the "SAMSARA" thread next door:)
  • ChrysalidChrysalid Veteran
    edited October 2010
    Something about impermanence has always troubled me.

    If impermanence is a basic tenant of Buddhism - nothing persists - then how does rebirth/reincarnation
    fit in? Isn't rebirth/reincarnation in direct opposition to impermanence?
    In my opinion.

    Rebirth, no. Rebirth is the embodiment of impermanence. Our thoughts, emotions, personality, senses - these are constantly forming, decaying and dissolving and in their dissolving giving rise to different, yet related phenomena.

    Reincarnation, yes. Reincarnation implies that there is an essence within a person that transcends the impermanent nature of the body and mind, something elemental that can be born again and again without altering its fundamental nature.
  • BonsaiDougBonsaiDoug Simply, on the path. Veteran
    edited October 2010
    Chrysalid... I like that -- makes sense.
  • MountainsMountains Veteran
    edited October 2010
    It is ego that attaches labels to what is. Impermanence is neither good nor bad. It simply is. Just like everything else. One of my favorite Shakespeare quotes could have come from a 20th Century self-help book: "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."
  • Invincible_summerInvincible_summer Heavy Metal Dhamma We(s)t coast, Canada Veteran
    edited October 2010
    Impermanence just is. It's not good or bad, it's reality.

    EDIT: Damn, Mountains beat me to it by a few minutes
  • MountainsMountains Veteran
    edited October 2010
    Impermanence just is.EDIT: Damn, Mountains beat me to it by a few minutes

    GMTA!

    :bigclap:
  • ShiftPlusOneShiftPlusOne Veteran
    edited October 2010
  • edited October 2010
    You guys must not have read the whole thread.
    Youre like..totally hours behind and stuff.
    Shift wins but I came is second.
    So take that suckers.
  • edited October 2010
    aMatt wrote: »

    By looking at the impermanent phenomena as good, we naturally create clinging. By looking at the impermanent phenomena as bad, we naturally create aversion. So no matter what side of the discussion we were on, saying impermanence is good or bad, we are on the unhealthy side. Instead, if we let go of that pattern to classify, the events become simple and directly what they are, without aversion or clinging.

    Matt

    That is interesting. I never thought of impermanence in this way. I was told that in some cases, it is our desire for things to be permanent (e.g. loving relationships) not impermanence itself, that causes suffering. This is true. In some other cases, impermanence itself does cause suffering. For example, old age, sickness and death.
  • edited October 2010
    Cloud wrote: »
    OP: In the Buddha's time, there were questions that he simply would not answer. The reason as explained to us in the teachings is that the questions themselves were improper. The question of whether impermanence is "good" or "bad" is simply starting off on the wrong foot!

    You are right. Impermanence just means change. I started the thread because I was interested in people's opinion. People often think of impermanence as a negative, however, it has very positive characteristics too.
  • edited October 2010
    Impermenance is a beautiful thing. It's what lets me go about my day to day activities in peace.

    A basic example would be tolerance of others, someone insults me or has no regard for my feelings. I simply would think "He's gonna die some day, don't bother wasting your energy" or "These feelings will come to pass, like everything. Do not bother to worry over it."

    If everything was permenant, in short It would pretty much suck.
  • edited October 2010
    Impermenance is a beautiful thing. It's what lets me go about my day to day activities in peace.

    A basic example would be tolerance of others, someone insults me or has no regard for my feelings. I simply would think "He's gonna die some day, don't bother wasting your energy" or "These feelings will come to pass, like everything. Do not bother to worry over it."

    If everything was permenant, in short It would pretty much suck.

    That is so true.
  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Veteran
    edited October 2010
    The concept of impermanence is not meant to be something that you live in our "head". It is meant to be something that we live in our "heart", and the more we can do that, the more attachment and aversion pull their claws out of us. It's called seeing the nature of reality, and it's not really a cognitive function but, rather, an experiential function.
  • IronRabbitIronRabbit Veteran
    edited October 2010
    Impermanence at its root simply means "not grounded". To an egoic mind that suggests imbalance and thereby suggests a means to "hold on" to the conventional reality. This is a perfect experiential example of impermanence - one thought passing and giving rise to another. This very thread is an example with its ebb and flow of opinion changing constantly. Logic suggests that rebirth contradicts impermanence - however, it is simply a phase, an integral phase, in the constant flow of impermanence. Impermanence is not an endpoint, a finishing of something - it is more a pulsating, vibratory, evolving constant - like eternity - unfathomable. In terms of old age, sickness and death - if we can conceive of these things we are already old, sick and dead. Conversely, if we can conceive of enlightenment, freedom and liberation we are Buddha nature in that realization. As usual, we always come back to the basics - practice, practice, practice.

    There is a famous Tibetan saying: “Do not mistake understanding for realization, and do not mistake realization for liberation.” And Milarepa said: “Do not entertain hopes for realization, but practice all your life.”
  • edited October 2010
    Impermanence is neither good nor bad, it's just the way things are. But impermanence, as the name implies, cannot satisfy permanently. That being said, we must seek that which is permanent.
  • nanadhajananadhaja Veteran
    edited October 2010
    You guys must not have read the whole thread.
    Youre like..totally hours behind and stuff.
    Shift wins but I came is second.
    So take that suckers.
    Sorry but I win coz I thought that just before the OP got posted .:D
  • FelinoFelino Portugal New

    There is nothing impermanent ...everything is permanent otherwise it couldn't be considered as being impermanent.. Permanence may last a second or millions of years...

  • 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
    edited November 5

    @Felino, this thread is 7 years old. Anything over 6 months is dormant. Anything a year old, is usually dead. The Moderator indicator on this thread is "Necro". This means it's buried and past its sell-by date, by a long way.
    Please always check the date of the last post, before submitting a response.... Stick to threads being discussed.

    OR:

    Feel free to start a new thread.

    Thanks.

This discussion has been closed.