Category: Teaching

The Teaching of Impermanence

Aaron, channeled by Barbara Brodsky

Video – 17:58 min., closed captioned | Transcript

Transcript:

My blessings and love to you all. I am Aaron. Thank you for being with me now in your year 2018. Do some of you remember that shift from 1999 to year 2000? Do some of you remember 1960, or 1950? Even 1940, or 1930? Yet, this flow of time is made up of moments, seconds, fractions of a second, and in one second, everything can change. In one second, the sun goes behind a cloud, and the snow begins to fall. In one second, two cars collide. In one second, a baby is born. In one second, a flower opens. All of this arising out of conditions, in each moment.

We talk about anicca, a Pali word which means impermanence; it means everything in this conditioned realm is constantly changing, and there is really no conditioned or mundane thing or thought to which you can hold. Everything changing. If everything is constantly changing, why are you so worried? Whatever is unpleasant now is going to be gone. Whatever is beautiful, and you’re holding, it’s will be gone.

In dharma class, we talk about the importance of living in this moment. This does not mean you cease to pay attention; you are constantly creating and co-creating the conditions out of which the next moment will arise, so you take care of those conditions. But all the planning in the world is not going to prevent the hurricane from passing through, the forest fire from sweeping through, the sickness of a loved one, or your stubbing and breaking your toe. Yes, you can be mindful and not kick that object. But sometimes you’re in the dark and you don’t see it.

There are two important points to balance, here. One is mindfulness and presence in each moment, and one is the deep intention for that which is wholesome and beautiful in your lives and on the Earth. If you live in the moment with fear, “What if this doesn’t work? What if that happens?”, your fear contracts your energy field. When thusly contracted, the light can’t pour out of you; equally important, you are armored, and the radiance of the outside world cannot pour in.

Notice I’ve said, ‘outside world’ and ‘into you’ as if there’s a duality, that which is out there and that which is within. On the relative level, there is a duality. This is not that. But on the ultimate level there is no duality. Everything is part of everything else.

When you look through the branches of a tree in the bare winter, as it is now, here in Michigan, you may see the clear sky. You see the black lines of the branches and the clear sky. They both exist but, being human, the everyday perception cannot focus on both at one time. So, the gaze shifts: branches, and sky. In any moment, one or the other will be predominant.

As you live in what seems to be a dual universe, present with this or present with that, objects arising and passing away, beyond all this arising and passing away, what continues? Is there anything that continues? Love continues! Awareness continues! The innate, let’s call it intelligence— by this I don’t mean mental intelligence, but the knowing heart; the innate intelligence of being; that which is connected to everything, it continues.

So, first we speak in terms of seeming dualities, like the tree branches and the sky. The tree branch, it will fade away eventually. The tree will decay. Even the sky may fade away. The sky is a conditioned object. Love and awareness do not pass away. Love and awareness are part of you— perhaps not a conscious part, right now, but yes, they are a part of you. You cannot lose them because they are not of the nature of conditioned objects; that is, they do not arise and then pass away related to conditions. They simply are. Don’t take my word for it, though. Begin to explore the nature of unconditional love in meditation. Begin to explore the nature of awareness in meditation. Observe Awareness, not consciousness, not mundane consciousness, but full presence. What is this awareness? What is this unconditional love, or where does it rest?

So, yes, we have impermanence on one level, everything changing. As we recorded this today, deep snow is falling everywhere. I’m looking out the windows here; snow on the branches, snow on the ground, flakes coming down. Tomorrow the sun may shine and burn away the snow. We can’t say the snow did not exist; it’s out my window, but it has no substantial reality. It comes and it goes, and it comes and it goes, again.

Some of you, as you are listening to this, may be feeling sadness, fear, anger, or confusion. Some of you may have pain here or there in the body. This is like the snow; it exists but it has no ultimate reality. That means you need to attend to the emotion or the physical discomfort, but not to give it power by making it something solid. This, then, is the blessing of the teaching of impermanence. If an object or experience has the nature to arise, it has the nature to cease.

Why am I speaking of all of this? Many of you are troubled by what is happening in your world, at many different levels. The politics, the United States politics and the global politics, the environment, the wars, the wildfires sweeping through the land, burning trees and homes. The hurricanes, the floods. You cannot turn your back on these. People are suffering because they have lost their homes. Perhaps even loved ones have died.

You must always do everything in your power to alleviate this suffering. But, holding fear of what has arisen as result of conditions and trying to fix what has arisen only creates more contraction and fear. It does not support release of suffering.

You can attend to these things— to the blizzard, to the hurricane, to the forest fire, to the automobile accident, to the volcanic eruption, to the political hate-throwing – with an open heart. You can respond to these with a consciousness that refuses to be drawn in with fear, but instead comes forth to attend. It’s very helpful to remember, as it’s often said: This too shall pass. But you cannot hide yourself, and say, “Well, it will pass so I don’t have to pay any attention to it.” It will pass, and it still must be attended to.

That which is best able to attend is this aspect of you is what I call awareness. So, let’s look just a bit at awareness. It is the place where you come together with everything, no separation. We sometimes talk about this in terms of interbeing. Behind me here I have a wooden altar. It looks like a shelf with legs. What is it really? It came from a tree. It’s a slice of wood from a tree. The tree grew out of the earth. The sun and rain and the soil nurtured the tree. So, looking at this altar – I don’t know if you can see it here behind me— let’s use a visible example, because you can see this: a wooden statue of the Buddha (holding it up). Is it a statue? Yes. A block of wood? Yes. But it’s also the sun and the rain and the soil. It’s the wood from which it came, the tree. It’s the forester who cut the log, and the sculptor who shaped it. It’s all of those things, all part of each other.

When you begin to understand the world this way, you can embrace more fully that yes, everything is arising out of conditions and must be attended from a loving place. When necessary, one must say “no” with love. And yet, nothing is permanent so there is no reason to live your life with fear. Not only no reason, but no use. Reaction form fear only makes things worse. But you can’t say, “So, I will get rid of fear.” No. How would you get rid of it? “I will hold fear when it arises and bring it into my heart. I will remember: this fear has arisen from conditions. It is impermanent. It will pass. And when the fear passes, the radiant heart and radiant awareness, love, remain and will be present.” This is what brings happiness and an end to suffering, knowing that you are that radiance and awareness. You are that love.

As you step into this new year, watch the fear that arises about the Earth, about political situations, and about your own personal situations, and offer yourself the intention not to get trapped in that fear, but to remember, “It arose from conditions, it is impermanent. I will take care of the fear and of the conditions. And I will live with love.” In this way, you can truly make a difference in the world.

Thank you.

Buddhism: A Non-Traditional Tradition

From Barbara Brodsky

Barbara: Looking back, I feel Deep Spring Center began in a fortunate way, unfettered by bonds to any specific tradition. My own spiritual path for much of my life was as a Quaker and through Quakerism I found my introduction to meditation. Through three decades my meditation practice evolved into practices akin to vipassana and dzogchen but free of labels, forms and cultural attachments. When I finally directly met Buddhism itself, my meditation was already well established. Thus, I was able to try on the forms and experience them deeply without any sense of attachment or obligation to a specific tradition.

When I began to teach I did so totally without outer form or ritual. Most of those individuals drawn to join me were not Buddhists. They were followers of all religions and of none, people who aspired to live with more love and skill, people who realized that an experiential understanding of mind/body process and a deeper opening into the heart of being were paths to freedom. Within a few years, Deep Spring Center was established as a non-profit, non-denominational center for the teaching and practice of nonduality. Thus, the Center found itself in a different situation than dharma centers which reflect a specific tradition and incorporate the forms of that tradition into the practices. The foundation practice was simply a balance of insight meditation and various purification and heart-centered practices.

If this dharma door was to be accessible to people, it was important not to lodge the teachings in any one system of thought but to use whatever language gave people clearest access. If through vipassana practice I experience emptiness or impermanence, these are not “Buddhist” experiences. Resting in pure heart/mind is not an opening to “Buddhist” awareness. Of course these are universal truths or they would not be truths. Buddhism provides a vehicle to point us to the experience and a terminology with which to discuss those truths.

What phrasing will make these teachings/practices available to a non-Buddhist student? What will obscure it? I was moved on a ten day retreat by the experience of a deeply Catholic woman, weighed down by an inner sense of unworthiness, bent posture reflecting that weight. We worked with vipassana and also with tonglen, or “giving/taking” practice. I had suggested that as she worked with tonglen, drawing in suffering, she release it to Jesus. After some days she knocked on my door late one night, positively radiant, standing tall instead of stooped, and announced to me that the unworthiness was gone. “Jesus took it,” she reported.

I came to see that, like myself, many students had been alienated by the outer trappings of the religions in which they were raised. Of course, at best the forms are expression of the essence but often that was not what we experienced. We had looked for depth from spirituality and found what at first glance seemed to be only empty ritual and words. With such confused childhood models, we grew to refuse those forms as we sought essence.

Yet, as the guiding teacher, I had to ask what we had lost by not participating in these traditions? What part of that which has been lost is frill and what’s essential and how do we replace the essential without immersing ourselves in specific religious or cultural tradition? The answers are only slowly emerging. Our present approach is not an answer with a capital “A.” It is a path, ever evolving because each person who walks through the door is unique and will have their own best way of entering it. I find this whole path is part of our creation of a unique Western Buddhism. This is not a process. With “process,” there is already a plan and a self to activate the plan. This path is just being, present without any knowing, present in each moment with whatever we find there.