There Is Nothing in the World That Can Last Forever, Whether it is beautiful or ugly, whether you have it or lose it; nothing can exist in the world, nor can any situation live forever. The world is this way. Everything in the world is a big false appearance.
Why do you say these things have false impressions? Because they cannot last forever, but they let you think they will always be this way. This error we call “accepting the false as true.”
If you have not entered deeply into a complete understanding of Buddhist wisdom, the principle that “all contrived things are like dreams, like illusions, like bubbles, like reflections” will surely make you feel confused, it will seem inconceivable, and you might more or less reject it. I can understand this.
Ultimately you can see and touch these cars, apartment buildings, and so on – they are the entirety of our lives. These things are so real – how can they become like dreams, illusions, bubbles, and reflections? That’s a good question. Buddhists do not deny this reality of theirs, but they emphasize that their existence is apparent, that it is temporary, and that it cannot last forever.
Everything in the world is in the process of uninterrupted change. Some changes can influence the surface appearance of things, and you can see them clearly, but some changes are subtle and occur inside things. They are like hypocrites in the community, weaving together lies that people enjoy hearing and seeing to the point that they take in many knowledgeable people.
Let me bring up a simple example: a beautiful girl enjoys her beauty, and many boys are captivated by her beautiful appearance, but this kind of attractive appearance will not last forever. The girl will continually develop white hair and wrinkles and will inevitably show signs of old age, not to mention the subtle changes in her body, the sudden birth and death of cells, and the constantly changing thoughts.
Moreover, she is the same as the ordinary-looking woman: she has dirt and blood inside her body, her skin is covered with bacteria, and bones support her body. But the girls themselves are not conscious of this: they jealously vie with other beautiful girls for male attention in a life-or-death struggle. But they do not understand that beauty seized by the mind of suffering will always be taken away by time.
Whether it is beautiful or ugly, whether you have or lose it, nothing can exist in the world, nor can any situation live forever. The world is this way. Everything in the world is a big false appearance. Why do we say these things with false impressions? Because they cannot last forever, but they let you think they will always be this way. This error we call “accepting the false as true.”
The myriad things do not have an eternal, changeless intrinsic nature: they have no self, and they are impermanent, but after the causal conditions come together, they can manifest various kinds of apparent forms. The external world is a coming together of causal conditions, so it returns to its inherent empty nature and is impermanent.
In the World, Moreover, what we see is often not the true face of things and events: it is only the manifestation of our minds. This is the meaning of the saying, “The myriad phenomena are only fabrications of the mind.” For example, for a beggar out in the cold, having clothes to wear and food to eat in heaven. If one day this beggar becomes a rich man, then for him, his heaven will be some other situation. This is the way it is.
So then, ultimately, is there anything that exists or not? There are, but their existence is “existence through causal origination.” For example, the cup we use to drink water does not have a fundamental essence that can last forever without changing, so we term it “empty.”
But this is not to say that this cup is not there. The cup still exists but does not have an eternal, unchanging fundamental essence. They live, but they are also temporary appearances. This is because, in the next moment, the situation may change into something different. Change is the true characteristic of this world; no matter how you reject it, you will constantly encounter it.
In the World, A young friend told me a story: She had been very insecure, afraid of the unknown, and always wanted to control everything around her. One day her young husband suddenly died. Three hours before her husband died, they had talked over the phone. Having experienced this event, she finally discovered that all she could genuinely control was her mind.
She told me that she and her husband had initially agreed that they would go on their honeymoon next month. She would have her picture taken in her wedding dress, and the following month they wanted to conceive a child, and after two years, they would return to the husband’s hometown for the child to grow up. But all of this turned into a dream.
In the World, Everything is fundamentally a dream. Her husband’s existence was a dream; some years later, her existence would also become a dream. Is there anything we must be concerned about or can be worried about? When you genuinely understand the impermanence of worldly things, then you will understand this statement.
Luckily, what change brings is not all pain and suffering and helplessness: it also implies that all pain and suffering and helplessness will pass.
That friend also told me that the first month after her husband died, it was as if she were living in hell. She dreaded waking up daily and longed to be reunited with her husband in dreams. It was as if her mind was burning in the karmic fire while her body was freezing in an icehouse.
She said that every day she was waiting in a cold lonely room, not seeing any friends, not eating, as if her whole human form was bled dry. But this painful suffering did disappear. She understood that everything in the world is like a dewdrop in the sunshine: in the twinkling of an eye, it can evaporate, and nothing can last forever.
My younger brother died when he was twenty-seven. Friends who have read my book Desert Ceremoniesall know that for me at that time, his death was undoubtedly a deadly blow, but at the same time, it smashed my illusions about life and broke up many of my clingings and attachments.
Not long after it happened, I came to a thorough understanding of the world’s actual characteristics. I knew that no matter whether you cling to it or not, the world is always in the midst of change.
In the World, The bright morning will always go into the night, and the night will always welcome the dawn. Children will slowly grow up, and parents will gradually grow old. All the stories in human life, whether we live through them ourselves, or hear about them from others, will all vanish instantly, like a splash of water in our memories or a flash of lightning in the night sky.
In the World, Every experience, every event, everything, every person – all these are apparent phenomena, and they will not endure forever, and they do not have fixed identities. Whether good or bad, they all exist in your interpretation here and now. Thus we say: why must we take every experience and view it as so accurate?
Why must we care about these ceaselessly changing appearances? Holding onto the present moment, savoring the present moment, enjoying the present moment, drawing nourishment from the present moment, letting the past go into the past, and keeping the future in the future –this alone is a healthy attitude for living in the World.