Samsara and Impermanence

by Ali eddy

Ali and Emma on the back of a cycle rickshaw, on the way to MT (Tibetan Colony in Delhi)

Ali and Emma on the back of a cycle rickshaw, on the way to MT (Tibetan Colony in Delhi)

The cycle of samsara we have been learning about in class, which is the Buddhist idea of sentient beings’ circle of life and death, suffering and yearning for happiness and how nothing is permanent, continually reminds me of the movement of time, and impermanence. The idea of impermanence can often be taken negatively. Thoughts can often be that of: if it is going to change, end, go away (etc.) why should I even care, why should anyone. Samsara I think makes this negative outlook, a positive, beautiful thing. First, samsara pushes me to appreciate each experience and opportunity I encounter. If it’s a positive experience, the concept of samsara teaches me to appreciate that experience even more, because I know it will, like all things in samsara, eventually end. This way, instead of going about each day allowing things to pass without any thought, there is a chance to see the beauty of an event, or feeling. If you know you will always have, or feel something you may allow your self to take it for granted. However, by realizing a feeling, or experience is only passing through, you can cherish the time that it is there more. Secondly, in the same way the idea of samsara helps me appreciate all the positive things that occur, it also helps me to understand and accept anything negative. If everything is impermanent, than a bad feeling, experience, or event will too eventually leave and move on its way somewhere else; changing and evolving.

The suffering I may experience from a negative event or feeling can be something I either decide to take in and throw back as more negativity, or absorb that suffering and from that produce a positive reaction. It is very hard for me some of the time to do that, but if I do, the negative experience is something I can appreciate more, as apart of the molding of me, and something I can take to move forward with and use as a lesson.

Chilling at Snow Line, the last camp before walking back down the hill

Ali Chilling at Snow Line, the last camp before walking back down the hill

Since arriving in India, I have been faced with experiences that are all apart of my changing consciousness that as the earth always turns around the sun, never ceases to move. The most recent example of a very tangible form of impermanence and samsara was last weekend. We went to climb a mountain right out side of McLeod Ganj. We left early in the morning, with the day sunny and the skies clear. It was a beautiful hike up out of the valley, to see the higher mountains above and have a chance to spend some time with nature. As is typical in the mountains, as the day goes on, clouds tend to build and rain can be unpredictable. None of us however brought our handy dandy rain jackets. After lunch, the clouds had come in, but we continued to trust that it would not rain. Some of us decided to hike a little further to another teashop in the mountain. It was a beautiful extra hour or so of walking and a beautiful place to stop at. As we stopped for tea, we noticed a few light raindrops. This was a little concerning, due to our lack of rain gear. Hoping to avoid the rain, we started back towards the lower peak and camping area. By the time we got back, it had already started to rain very hard. Many people in this spot were deciding to stay at the top and camp there for the night as to avoid the weather. We however, decided to brave the way back. With the rain came much colder temperatures, thunder, wind, and to all of our dismay, and (honestly amusement), hail.

I don’t think I have ever run so fast down a mountain in my life. Wearing only a t-shirt and nothing to keep warm, I was extremely cold, and my thoughts were that the faster I move, the warmer I keep my body, and the faster I would get back to the guest house we were staying in. Every time we stopped for a quick break though, my body could tell how cold it really was. I wanted to keep running. We stopped at a teashop called Magic View, which was about half way back to the guesthouse. Stopping was difficult at first because my hands were numb and I wanted to keep going. However, we got tea, and I had a chance to thaw my hands by a stove, put on a relatively dry jean jacket, and make the best purchase I have ever made: a gigantic blue poncho made from thin, cheep plastic. After the break we started again, and this time I had my poncho. It wasn’t much, and I was still soaking wet for the most part, but it kept my body-heat trapped inside and kept my skin from being directly exposed to the elements.

We made it the rest of the way down, the path that was turning into a river. This cold wet quest made arriving back at the guesthouse where we started so much more rewarding. I felt like I had conquered a dragon. Waiting for us there, were our friends with blankest to keep us warm, and warm water showers, which were two very cozy rewards.

Jack's handstand at Snow Line, the last camp before walking back down the hill

Jack’s handstand at Snow Line, the last camp before walking back down the hill

Hiking on a nice sunny day is always fun, but having this experience where I was unprepared for the elements, will make the memory of that day so much more memorable and fond in my heart. It also taught me a very tangible aspect of the fluidity of samsara. The mountain was beautiful and calm one moment, and the next it was cold and angry. The weather is always changing, just as the day always turns to night. Nothing is permanent. Because of that the good and the bad are all the more beautiful, and give new things to share and learn from.