Janine's Articles From the Soul From the Outside Poetry Corner Prisoner Letters

  Question Two-Answer Two
by JK

I believe that the answer to this question can be found in the Buddha’s teachings on emptiness and impermanence.  While these may be two of the harder to grasp aspects of Buddhism, and I am by no means a qualified teacher, I will do my best to explain these concepts in a way that makes them understandable to all. 

Emptiness, or shunyata, is the idea that nothing is inherently existant in and of itself.  This means that nothing just exists all by itself, but rather is a coming together of pars, causes, and conditions. 

Let’s take a car for example.  We all see cars everyday, whether it be on the road or on television or in magazines.  Still, there is not any one thing you can point to and say, “There’s the car.  That’s what gives the cars its carness.”  Is the drive’s door the car?  Is the steering wheel the car?  Is the gas pedal the car?  The motor?  The radiator?  The exhaust pipe?  In the end you can dismantle your “car” until you have nothing but a pile of scrap metal, screws, and wires, and you still won’t have any one thing you can call a car.  It is only when we assemble all these pieces (and even then it must be in the right order and with the proper welds and applied labor) that we get something we can confidently call a car.

This same concept can be applied to everything, including ourselves.  Are you your liver?  Your spine? Your eye? Your toe? That’s right, even we, the almighty human beings, are nothing more than a series of parts coming together under the right causes and conditions. Yet for some reason, we seem to be convinced that we are this solid, permanent, unchanging creature entitled to all the good things in life that make us happy.

This is where our other big misconception comes into play— our view that we, along with other things, are permanent.  Impermanence teaches us that everything si always changing.  The leaves fall off the trees, the car breaks down, even the plastic bag biodegrades and decomposes eventually.  Our bodies too wear out and break down over time and eventually we die.

if we had ourselves a better understanding and acceptance of these two truths, I believe it could change everything.  We  would see the world in a new way, one in which it would be much harder to get caught up in the craving and attachment for things we know will wear away and don’t exist in such a solid sense in the first place.

Much Metta


Prisoner Letters

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