The Splendor of Transience – Lalitavistara Sutra on Impermanence
The three realms of existence are as transient as autumn clouds.
The birth and death of beings go on like a dance show.
The lives of beings pass by like a flash of lightning in the sky,
Rushing down, like a cascading waterfall down a steep mountain.
– The Buddha
(in Lalitavistara-sutra – The Sutra of the Extensive Play)
The three realms1 that we experience as the world is itself transient. The world undergoes tremendous changes continually. Whatever appears as the world just forms and deforms just like how autumn clouds transform and vanish. If we take a step back and become mindful, the life and death of people in this world in our lifetime is like how characters come and go in a dance show. The people we love and hate come and go like bubbles. One’s own life quickly flows from birth to death like a cascading waterfall rushing down a steep mountain — falling, rising, splashing, shattering, but never staying where it is, and quickly passing down.
For someone who do not notice the dreamlike nature of life (See “Fleeting Dreams of Reality”), who only trains to hold fast to this life and seek meaning only in its outer objects, this may be quite a depressing fact. But, contemplating on impermanence in this way serves a great purpose in breaking open from that cocoon of wrong view. By stepping back from the mad rush, infuse a deep and mindful awareness into every aspect in the dance of life. Then, we can recognize the play of awareness in its full splendor and beauty, in every aspect of this life and beyond. Then, there is nothing to be worried about transience and impermanence.
As the clear understanding of transience deepens, there will be great evenness in moving through birth and death again and again, in meeting and parting with beings of all kinds, and in seeing the worlds form and dissolve like autumn clouds. Life will flow majestically as a river of experience. Its splashes and scattering in the mountains of upheavals and its silent flow in the plains of settled times, will all be equally entertaining.
By knowing the truth of impermanence in this way, we can wake up to a grand view and enjoy the journey of life all the way to perfect awakening from this dreamlike existence. In that way, even the most disastrous looking upheavals will pass without impacting the inner peace.
May all beings wake up to this brilliance of impermanence and may they realize and enjoy the splendor of transient existence in its fullness!
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