Insight and Impermanence I

September 4, 2013


What are the three principle insights in Vipassana meditation?

As you meditate on the phenomena (memories, thoughts, perceptions, sensations) that rise and fall with insight meditation, you will experience that all are impermanent, unsatisfactory and of a selfless nature.  These are not beliefs because you experience them directly and “know” for yourself.  These are called the Three Characteristics of Existence.  To “see things as they really are”, it is necessary to have a deep non-cognitive knowing of these characteristics.

“The true reality of the world of existence is something that cannot be easily captured by our thought and language – but it can be grasped by insight” Mark W. Muesse

What is the nature of impermanence? 

“The sum total of the philosophy of change taught in Buddhism is that all component things that have conditioned existence are a process and not a group of abiding entities, but the changes occur in such rapid succession that people regard mind and body as static entities. They do not see their arising and their breaking up (udaya-vaya), but regard them unitarily, see them as a lump or whole (ghana sa~n~naa).”  Piyadassi Thera 

The perceiving of impermanence, bhikkhus, developed and frequently practiced, removes all sensual passion, removes all passion for material existence, removes all passion for becoming, removes all ignorance, removes and abolishes all conceit of “I am.”  The Buddha

If impermanence meant change all the time towards better and happier states how excellent our world would be! But impermanence is allied with deterioration. All compounds break down, all made things fall to pieces, all conditioned things pass away with the passing of those conditions. Everything and everybody — that includes you and me — deteriorates, ages, decays, breaks up, and passes away. And we, living in the forest of desires, are entirely composed of the impermanent. Yet our desire impels us not to see this, though impermanence stares us in the face from every single thing around. And it confronts us when we look within — mind and body, arising and passing away.” Phra Kantipalo

“The decisively characteristic thing about this world is its transience. In this sense, centuries have no advantage over the present moment. Thus the continuity of transience cannot give any consolation; the fact that life blossoms among ruins proves not so much the tenacity of life as that of death.” Franz Kafka

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us” Ralph Waldo Emerson


Look at impermanence both when you meditate and off the cushion.  Can you see things as a process rather than a permanent thing?  How does knowing impermanence bring about peace and freedom for you?