Demystifying Impermanence & Infinite Thought-Worlds
- I'm figuring out ways to think positively despite the teachings on suffering in impermanence. Impermanence is most scary when it is thought of as a simple wisdom teaching from Ancient India which says that ordinary worldlings are ignorant unless they have attained deep meditative insight into blindingly fast linear arising and passing away of mind and matter, which seems to mysteriously write-off familiar patterns of materialistic achievements in today's complex world.
We are presently living in the fossil fuel age, which tragically has brought two catastrophic World Wars and possibly catastrophic climate change, but on the positive side has sent the Voyager 2 spacecraft to the planet Neptune to leave the solar system with the Voyager Golden Record (see Wikipedia) as well as manned missions to the moon bringing back magnificent photographs of the Whole Earth as a blue jewel floating in infinite space which have become a symbol for the ecology movement and may be the most significant result of the whole space program.
Our Buddhaviharas Yahoo! Group was created by Sharon on the 12th December 2002 and I joined straightaway but took a while to really get involved. I'll start reminding myself of the date of birth of the group so as to really appreciate it as something created and historical rather than just as something that is current with only a few contributors in the present moment.
My own date of birth is not just something unique to quote for ID purposes but acknowledging that I was born in 1970 reminds me that I am part of other people's story in a way that any observer can understand. One attitude towards the future can be that it will be a time when my date of birth will with certainty be further back into the past rather than spinning strange numbers like 2025AD as the year of my fifty-fifth birthday. I'll try to remind myself of my date of birth whenever I see my mother and father, as well as whenever I look in the bathroom mirror, rather than thinking of the aging process as something mysterious and personal. I suffer from hypochondria-anxiety and find it helpful to reflect that my bodily faculties each have had and will have their lifespan.
Infinite space is another perception from the Buddha's teachings as a formless meditative attainment which ordinary worldlings are often said to be ignorant of. In my country when a great sportsman retires they say that he was one of the best players that Australia has ever produced. I can say that eras within infinite time and countries within infinite space have produced many great Buddhist teachers who vitally believe in the development of skillful qualities, without getting depressed about my separation from them in past and future lives or any lack of universal fame, gain, praise and pleasure in their existences.
I need to integrate thought-worlds of knowing special individuals with thought-worlds of the whole human enterprise. When meeting a friend at a coffee shop I remember to think that they are not insignificant even though they are surrounded by billions of people who will never hear about them. In mathematics infinity is not a very large number but a profoundly ungraspable reality. The reality of my friends is not just the presence of their present physical bodies but awe and wonder regarding their past, present and future web of relationships of which I am only a fraction. I've heard that the six-degrees of separation hypothesis has been debunked as most of the packages never got delivered to the sixth person! Still I am finding it helpful to wish metta for loved ones of my friends and friends of my loved ones to get my relationships in perspective. And dana of even impermanent material objects or Dharma teachings will have an effect beyond the happiness of the present life.
With metta / Antony.
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