Reflections on Impermanence and Mortality. Part I – Introduction

This is the first blog a series of blog posts that are my varied reflections on impermanence and mortality.

In Buddhism, we talk about the three marks of existence, aka three characteristics of all existence. These are impermanence, inherently unsatisfactory nature and not-self aspect of all existence. These three marks are interrelated to one another. Since we all are subject to delusion about the three marks, it results in suffering. To the extent that we can be free of this delusion, to that extent we will be free of suffering.

It is easy to understand these three marks of existence. I will focus mostly on impermanence in this series of blog posts. We can be mindful of impermanence on so many different levels because it is a universal characteristic. At one end; we have Quantum Physics, a fundamental branch of physics that deals with physical phenomena at nanoscopic scale. On this scale; particles, which in classical physics were once regarded as little pieces of matter, are now regarded as processes consisting of continuously evolving and changing wavefunctions.  These processes only give the appearance of discrete and localized particles at the moment they are observed. At the other end, we have the science of modern astronomy that has proven that our solar system was born nearly 4.5 billion years ago, and that it is in the process of constant change. Then we have changes in nature, climate changes, evolution and extinction of species, societal changes and rise and fall in cultures and civilizations.

Somewhere along this vast spectrum, we find ourselves on Earth with an average lifespan of 70-90 years. We are also subject to the law of impermanence. We are born, we grow old, we fall sick and then we die. We give way for another generation of humans to born, grow old, fall sick and die.

Towards this end, Buddha’s Five Remembrances hold true for all of us:

1 – I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.

2 – I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape having ill health.

3 – I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death.

4 – All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.

5 – My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground on which I stand.

Contemplation on impermanence and consciously reflecting on the Five Remembrances leads us to liberation and to freedom.

In this series of blog posts, I will reflect on many aspects of impermanence and mortality. I volunteer at a local Hospice House performing the duties of Patient Services. I have held conversations with hospice patients who are aware that they will die within the next 6 months. I have had conversations with some patients who pass away by the time I come back for another shift. This aspect of mortality is very real for me. It is our shared experience of humanity. I am so glad that I have available before me the path of Buddhism to guide me at this stage of my life. In the next blog post, I will elaborate more on the Five Remembrances.

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