The Buddhist concept of – Impermanence (Annica, Anitya, 無常 Mujō)

Here I talk about, Impermanence (Sanskrit: Anitya). One of the 3 Marks of Existence in Buddhism (Pali: tilakkhaṇa; Sanskrit: त्रिलक्षण, trilakṣaṇa, Japanese: 三法印 sanbōin)

What it means is that that all things are in a state of flux. All conditioned things are changing, birth and death, ageing process, objects, possessions, the natural world. It also includes mental reality, thoughts, feelings arise and pass away.

This is compared to Nirvana (Nicca) where nothing changes at all.

Wabi-Sabi refers to Japanese aesthetics and art that conveys this sense of transitory existence and imperfection. In includes a simplicity, austerity, modesty, economy effort. If uses natural forms, branches, water, rocks, animals like birds and process as examples, seeing nature as the inspiration for life.

Our feelings towards such change can be found in the Japanese the term, Mono no aware (物の哀れ) refers to the awareness or empathy to the impermanence of the world. The Japanese philosophy accepts impermanence as part of life with a bittersweet feeling to its transience. In cultural terms, this is the appreciation of the Cherry Blossom in spring, one of the major festivals in Japan.

In the western world, Impermanence is often referred to in its feelings  Nostalgia, regret, melancholy, a wistfulness towards pasts times and things. In the art of Vanitas still-life paintings of the 17th century Netherlands, there is this symbolism of transience. They depict things like skulls that denote death or some other objects that fade with time, like decaying flower or a candle. Against our everyday desire for possessions, power and wealth represented by money, jewellery, knowledge in books

‘Death comes to us all’ is the message.

There is also Victorian Death photos and traditions.

Impermanence in the west goes back to ancient Greece with Heraclitus’ idea that everything flows, ‘No man ever steps in the same river twice’. He also put forward the unity of opposites where everything moves back and forth between them. Similar to the Eastern idea of Yin and Yang. A juxtaposition, polarity.

Democritus atom theory includes impermanence and Pyrrho gave us word like astathmēta (unstable), and anepikrita (unfixed).

From the Wikipedia:

Plutarch said of impermanence saying “And if the nature which is measured is subject to the same conditions as the time which measures it, this nature itself has no permanence, nor “being,” but is becoming and perishing according to its relation to time.’

What’s important to remember is Plato rejected impermanence, arguing against Heraclitus:

‘How can that be a real thing which is never in the same state? … for at the moment that the observer approaches, then they become other … so that you cannot get any further in knowing their nature or state …. but if that which knows and that which is known exist ever … then I do not think they can resemble a process or flux ….’

Which explain why it’s not a big part of the western intellectual and scientific past.

The key point is the it’s very different to the traditional philosophy were familiar with, that of Plato and Aristotle, which is the Philosophy of Being. That reality is in some way fixed. The reality we can call upon that remains unchanged based upon a substance or an unchangeable ‘unmoved, , mover’.

A more modern thinking is found in Process Philosophy, and the Philosophy of Becoming. Which see reality just as these more anxiety thinker did. Impermanent.