This precious human body, supreme instrument though it is for the attainment of enlightenment, is itself a transient phenomenon. No one knows when, or how, death will come. Bubbles form on the surface of the water, but the next instant they are gone, they do not stay. It is just the same with this precious human body we have managed to find. We take all the time in the world before engaging in the practice, but who knows when this life of ours will simply cease to be? And once our precious human body is lost, our mindstream, continuing its existence, will take birth perhaps among the animals, or in one of the hells or god realms where spiritual development is impossible. Even life in a heavenly state, where all is ease and comfort, is a situation unsuitable for practice, on account of the constant dissipation and distraction that are features of the gods’ existence.
At present, the outer universe—earth, stones, mountains, rocks, and cliffs—seems to the perception of our senses to be permanent and stable, like the house built of reinforced concrete that we think will last for generations. In fact, there is nothing solid to it at all; it is nothing but a city of dreams.
In the past, when the Buddha was alive surrounded by multitudes of arhats and when the teachings prospered, what buildings must their benefactors have built for them! It was all impermanent; there is nothing left to see now but an empty plain. In the same way, at the universities of Vikramashila and Nalanda, thousands of panditas spent their time instructing enormous monastic assemblies. All impermanent! Now, not even a single monk or volume of Buddha’s teachings are to be found there.
Take another example from the more recent past. Before the arrival of the Chinese Communists, how many monasteries were there in what used to be called Tibet, the Land of Snow? How many temples and monasteries were there, like those in Lhasa, at Samye and Trandruk? How many precious objects were there, representations of the Buddha’s Body, Speech, and Mind? Now not even a statue remains. All that is left of Samye is something the size of this tent, hardly bigger than a stupa. Everything was either looted, broken, or scattered, and all the great images were destroyed. These things have happened and this demonstrates impermanence.
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