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Lions Roar : May 2012
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2012 55 of human life, then permanence is the petal emerging from the sepal of the flower of impermanence. It makes happiness possible. Impermanence is permanent, the ongoing process of living and dying and time. Permanence is nirvana, bliss, cessation, relief—the never-ending, everchanging, and growing field of practice. In the Buddha’s final scene as told in the sutra, the contrast between the monastics who tore their hair, raised their arms, and threw themselves down in their grief, and those who received the Buddha’s passing with equanimity couldn’t be greater. The sutra seems to imply disapproval of the former and approval of the latter. Or perhaps the approval and disapproval are in our reading. For if impermanence is permanence is Buddha Nature, then loss is loss is also happiness, and both sets of monastics are to be approved. Impermanence is not only to be overcome and conquered. It is also to be lived and appreciated, because it reflects the all are side of our human nature. The weeping and wailing monastics were expressing not only their attachment; they were also expressing their immer- sion in this human life, and their love for someone they revered. I have experienced this more than once at times of great loss. While I may not tear my hair and throw myself down in my griev- ing, I have experienced extreme sadness and loss, feeling the whole world weeping and dark with the fresh absence of someone I love. At the same time I have felt some appreciation and equanimity, because loss, searing as it can be, is also beautiful, sad and beauti- ful. My tears, my sadness, are beautiful because they are the con- sequence of love, and my grieving makes me love the world and life all the more. Every loss I have ever experienced, every personal and emotional teaching of impermanence that life has been kind enough to offer me, has deepened my ability to love. The happiness that spiritual practice promises is not endless bliss, endless joy, and soaring transcendence. Who would want that in a world in which there is so much injustice, so much trag- edy, so much unhappiness, illness, and death? To feel the scourge of impermanence and loss and to appreciate it at the same time profoundly as the beautiful essence of what it means to be at all—this is the deep truth I hear reverberating in the Buddha’s last words. Everything vanishes. Practice goes on. * * * * This Morning JUDY LIEF I woke up this morning, and my sleeping died. I stood up, and my lying down died. I brushed my teeth, and the toothbrush- ing came to an end. My coffee was in the mug, and then it wasn’t. I thought about what I had on my schedule, and then I thought about something else, and the first thought was gone. I sat down to meditate, and a feeling of virtue arose. Then that feeling died and changed to a feeling of restlessness. I shifted position and then I was still. There was a gap and I disappeared, but then I noticed my breath. A thought arose—where was I? And then another—what time is it? I thought—what changes and what stays the same? I thought—be present now. But now kept slipping into the past. Then I noticed that the instant it was past, the more solid and gone it felt. Then I felt some kind of force pushing me in the direction of old age and death. A thought occurred—what lies ahead? A flurry of fantasies and possibilities arose as fleeting thoughts. Those thoughts spon- taneously dissolved and there was a gap. Something noticed the gap and destroyed it. Then I tried to get it back. A mem- ory arose of my teacher saying, Don’t alter your experience or YOUNG ME, NOW ME” is a Web project by Ze Frank in which childhood photographs are recreated with the original subjects in the present day. A collection of the submitted photo pairs was published in Frank’s book Young Me, Now Me: Iden- tical Photos, Different Decades. “