What is “Impermanence”?

Publish Date:2022-03-07

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All phenomena in the universe exist in mutually depending interrelationships, so that when this arises, that arises; when this ceases, that ceases. There is no permanent existence at all. Therefore, all phenomena are impermanent in nature, arising and ceasing from instant to instant. This is what is meant by the “nature of impermanence” and “extinction in every Khana” mentioned in the eleven implication of Paticcasamppada, and also meant by the canonical saying: “Impermanent are all component things; subject are they to birth, and then decay.” “All Sankhara denotes all things or phenomena are in fluid and changing, they are named “Sankhara”. The term itself implies the meaning of impermanence. The words “birth” and “cessation” actually cover three meanings: origination, destruction and cessation, or four meanings: origination or arising, maintenance or existence, destruction or decay and cessation. Each of the four donates a characteristic or a state of a phenomenon: the birth of a phenomenon is called origination, the moment when it exists and functions is called maintenance, the moment when it exists and functions but begins to decay is called destruction and the perishing of a phenomenon is called cessation. A khaha is a very short moment. According to the description in Buddhist texts, the flicking of a finger spans 60 khanas. “Extinguishing in every khana” means that origination, maintenance, destruction and cessation are all completed within one khapa. Some people ask “why do we speak of ‘instantaneously arising and ceasing’ when the life-span of a person is usually about a few decades?” The Buddhist answer is that a human beings’ life from birth to death is a process consisting of a succession of khanas. A human life-span, on the whole, also goes through origination, existence, decay and extinction, i.e. birth, ageing, sickness and death; but each constituent part consists of continuous arising, existence, destruction and cessation, khana by khana. Buddhist scriptures hold that the human body is completely reviewed every 12 years. An entity’s arising, existing, decay and ceasing or a world’s orgigination, maintenance, destruction and cessation actually consist of instantaneous originations and cessations. Buddhist theory holds that all phenomena, without exception, originate and cease in every Khana, and that any admission of permanent or unchanging entity, which is called the eternity belief, is wrong. (From Essentials of Buddhism: Questions and Answers)

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