Today I have finished my introduction to Buddhism with Balbir Jootla. A revealing initial insight into a way of being. It has given me much to think about. About the impermanence of everything. That life, as a result, is suffering; that there is a way out of suffering through living a good life and meditating to develop a a state of mind that brings an inner happiness, unaffected by the clinging and craving of the life we are born to.
There is much here in common with the religions that mankind has developed to find salvation. Most are based on faith in a god(s) through whom salvation can be found in an afterlife. All exhort their followers to live a 'good' life with mildly differing definitions of what that means. Some actively set out to convert, others wait to be found.
For me, I can dismiss those that proselytise. Setting out to convert people to 'the one true god' smacks of an arrogance, a self-belief that is dangerous. Surely it is best for a person to find for himself, when he is ready, an inner life through his own efforts and his own seeking.
So, is the life we know impermanent? Is everything in a state of change? Is anything certain? The more I think about it, the more I begin to realise that everything is continually changing. The natural world and the earth that sustains it is made up of atoms, molecules, in a constant state of change and development. Even a seemingly inanimate object such as a rock is wearing and disintegrating. There is nothing that does not disintegrate, change, have the seed of its own destruction within it. When a child is born, it begins a life of change that will inevitably lead to death. Love between two people, however wonderful does not last, even if it continues until the death of one or both. Tell me something that is totally permanent. Please. Show me I'm wrong. Surely we live an ephemeral life searching for happiness, finding it for a short while until inevitably it turns to sorrow. Is there anything in our material world that can give lifelong happiness? Is there anything that never changes? Please tell me if there is.
If everything about our life is transitory with suffering following happiness, should we seek happiness where suffering does not follow, and if so where? Should we have faith in a belief structure promising eternal life after death or should we do something here and now, take a personal journey, concentrating on training one's mind to find a place of inner peace whilst living in harmony on this amazing planet. Or should we just get on with life, face its continual struggle, do the best we can, face the pain when it comes and then die.
Whatever path we choose, it seems to me that respect for this Earth, and the natural world of which humanity is such a tiny part, an understanding that everything is interconnected and that whatever we do is subject to cause and effect, is essential. We have been taught to believe that mankind is superior to every other living species, that every other species is here to serve us in one way or another, as food, for entertainment, to be experimented on for our betterment, for our material and physical well-being. We have lost the connection that our early forebears had with nature, lost the language to communicate with other species, forgotten our respect for and awareness of the incredible abilities of animals and plants to do things that we could not begin to do. The only thing that marks out mankind as superior is our developed brain. It seems like it's gone to our heads. What does our brain really give us that is superior if we only use it to concentrate on ourselves to the detriment of everything else?
Is mankind's arrogance and blind self belief in his superiority the one thing that never changes? Somehow I doubt it. It too has the seeds of its own self-destruction.
Impermanence rules. Ok?