Flavor #1: Impermanence. Great sutras teach us that all people and things inevitably vanish, like dewdrops evaporating in the radiant morning sun; however, while intellectually we may accept that all that is born must eventually die, in our daily lives we ignore the stark fact that not just our intimate relationships and material possessions, but also our bodies and minds, are hurtling inexorably towards destruction.
Let’s say my lover presents me with an exquisite magenta orchid in a delicate porcelain bowl. I are aware that all flowers die, and yet I simultaneously perceive this orchid as having permanence. When I wake up next morning, my precious orchid is wilting, and by evening, it’s dead — bursting the bubble in which I first saw it as solid and permanent.
It is this same feeling of permanence that we humans attribute to all parts of our lives, and which causes us to suffer. For instance, I may believe so strongly that my marriage will last forever, that when discord, divorce or death loom, I react with fear, disbelief and anger. Or I may be quite quite sure that my lovely home in the hills will stay mine forever; then a financial crisis prevents me from paying the mortgage, and the bank repossesses it, leaving me utterly devastated.
Had I trained myself to see all things as transient, I would be applying a major antidote to all the pains of mundane living — for the bald truth is that the orchid, home and spouse are but flashes on an infinite timeline, comets streaking across the screen of my life.
To be able to constantly view our relative world as impermanent takes immense spiritual sophistication, but the incentive to perfect this view is so we won’t break down when tragedy strikes — for instance, the tragic death of a loved one will naturally bring sadness, but not necessarily emotional meltdown. And by adjusting ourselves to the truth of our ephemeral existence, we begin to experience increasing peace.