I was playing with Adviti in our building’s parking area. There were some small dead branches of a tree. On the face of it, it looked an impermanent and trifling item to me. I took it in my hand, showed it to Adviti. We started talking, I told her this was a branch of the tree above. It had leaves, that nourish the tree. Well, I did not go up to photosynthesis, Adviti is only three years currently. I questioned myself with the chain of thoughts – are things Impermanent and trifling or forever and important?
Deep inside, I started feeling multiple things, one as if the branch and leaves had their own life. What I mean is – the life of a tree and the life of a leaf or branch were separate. It was a strange thought, this is like saying my hair, or skin, or nails have a separate life other than my own body. It becomes even weirder from here. How do I know that I have only “This Life” that I perceive? I have written earlier – and we all know – our body hosts umpteen living organisms. I cannot experience them therefore they are separate or they do not even exist for me, is it?
All these thoughts were going on with the disturbing news of deaths due to Covid. I came home after the small walk with Adviti and started re-reading a chance chapter of Old Path White Clouds book. It was luck that the chapter was based on interdependent co-arising, the concept of Buddhism I love the most. news of death makes one feel a void, and question the existence. At the same time, the thought of the impermanent and trifling nature of our life comes to mind. At the same time when I think from a larger perspective, our life seems forever and important.
Let me share some paraphrase parts of the philosophy of the Buddha on “Impermanent & trifling” vs “forever and important”.
While The Buddha was meditating he was a Pippala leaf. Looking deeply at the leaf The Buddha perceived the leaf had a presence of The Sun, the stars, and the Moon. Without the sun, without the light and warmth, the leaf could not exist. Similarly, the leaf contained the clouds, without the rains this leaf could not exist. Similarly, the earth, time, space all were present in the leaf. The entire universe existed in the leaf. The leaf was a manifestation, it existed before and it will exist even after the physical form is gone. Impermanence is the very basis of growth.
Impermanent and trifling or forever and important
The Buddha’s perception concludes with these thoughts – “To accept life means to accept impermanence and emptiness of self. The source of suffering is a false belief in permanence and the existence of separate selves. There is neither birth nor death, production nor destruction. These false distinctions are created by the intellect. If one penetrates the empty nature of all things, one will transcend all mental barriers, and be liberated from the cycle of suffering.”
Everything is Impermanent and trifling or forever and important. It is the perception with which we look at things. My understanding of interdependent co-arising makes me conclude that even the speck of sand is also forever and important – only form changes.