Dear friends, impermanence has often been belaboured upon countless times by teachers, but many of us have failed the same number of times to take it to heart. I hope you can read this, examine yourself and take it to heart. The Buddha did explain before that of all relative meditations, the meditation on impermanence is supreme and creates vast merits. The past Kadampa masters have taken the teaching on impermanence as their main practice and succeeded in liberating themselves and others from samsara through diligent practice. Similarly. we should not underestimate this teaching.
Not believing in impermanence is a sign of heavy negative karma
Phurpa Tashi Rinpoche
As we have not spend much time contemplating on impermanence in the past, therefore even if we think about impermanence now, in the depths of our mind, we always think that we will not die. This kind of baseless conviction (that we will not die) has lodged itself firmly in the depths of our mind. Therefore, even though we listen to the teachings repeatedly, in actuality, we are just going through the motion of thinking about impermanence. Everytime, we are only able to think for a moment that human life is hard to gain, life is impermanent and the natural law is that of birth and cessation, therefore we are going to die eventually. Although we contemplate like that, but in fact, we still believe strongly that we are not going to die immediately.
Why is this? “This is because when you Guru told us that it is possible for us to die tomorrow, but when tomorrow arrives, we are still alive and well. Last year when you taught us about impermanence, it turned out that this year i am still surviving quite well.” Therefore although the Guru repeats many times but you still feel that for these few days at least you are not going to die.
Of course, for the time being, it may be like that. But one day will arrive when you will feel that what the Guru has taught you is actually real and objective. But when that time arrives, even if you feel terror and fear, it will be too late. Please think carefully. How many close friends have already departed from us? I think for these people (who have died), they too must have felt that birth and death is a natural pattern of life, and they too must have thought before about death, but due to the heavy karma created from beginningless time, deep down in their hearts, they still felt that it was impossible for them to die. But now, isn’t there only a pile of bones and ashes remaining from what they used to be?
If simply witnessing (death) will create fear in those people who are still alive, remember that death will definitely happen to us after some time. This is certain! Therefore wherever you are now, we should be fully assured that we will have to face such a moment. For instance, tonight, when you place your head on the pillow to sleep, maybe you will be lucky enough to wake up tomorrow. But one day will come when you are no longer able to wake up. This day will come sooner or later. Maybe it is this year, maybe next year. No matter what, within fifty years, no matter how you deceive yourself, you will have to face this objective truth. It doesn’t matter whether you believe or understand it or not, (death) will still operate its effect in our lives.
In the past, we always said that our karma is heavy. What is karma? All the viewpoints and conduct that run contrary to the authentic dharma are labelled ‘Karma’. Therefore, you should examine yourself: after having started in the Dharma, are negative emotions and conduct that are contrary to Dharma still occuring frequently or only occasionally? If it happens frequently, then this means that our karma is heavy.
For example, when we listen about impermanence, our mind has some kind of unreasonable force that is constantly hookwinking ourselves. We believe that we will not die in the meanwhile. This is also a sign of our heavy karma. Because karma will never present itself as a demon with long straggly hair holding a spear. To you, such a manifestation seems to be your karma, but karma will not present itself like this.
Presently, there are some students who recall that they killed a fish last year. Or killed a chicken last year. Are such karmas heavy or not? From a certain perspective, having hurt the lives of sentient beings, of course this is a sign of heavy karma. But remember that whether karma is heavy or not does not depend on its appearance. Appearance by itself is not negative karma, instead, we should reflect on whether our mind and conduct has contravened the authentic Dharma.
Therefore when the Guru teaches you about impermanence, but your mind has no way to absorb this reality constructively, but insists that you will not die, this then is an aspect of your heavy negative karma showing.
So how should we dissolve such karmic force? We should rely on the lineage’s teachings to cut through this unfounded view that we will not die. Therefore, we should always repeatedly contemplate on impermanence. This point is very important!