I spoke on the phone the other day with a dear friend I had not seen in 40 years. We talked about how similar we are– we both suffer from spiritual yearning. Then she told me of her stage four breast cancer.
She asked about teachers and online meditation groups. When I confessed feeling incompetent because I didn’t know what to say about her diagnosis, she made me feel at ease. There’s an urgency here, she said.
I was struggling with how to address that urgency in a helpful way. Yes, we all die, it’s all temporary, everything eventually falls apart.
As the Diamond Sutra teaches:
So you should view this fleeting world –
Like a tiny drop of dew, or a bubble floating in a stream;
Like a flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
Or a flickering lamp, an illusion, a phantom, or a dream.
Yes, of course, but as the 17th century Buddhist poet and priest Issa wrote after his first-born child died shortly after his birth:
The world of dew —
A world of dew it is indeed,
And yet, and yet . . .
And yet … there is a longing for stability, for protection, for refuge.
We all get the Buddha’s radical teachings on impermanence. But I feel for Issa at that moment, impermanence is not just a philosophical concept, but a real feeling of sadness and longing.
The poignant voice of “and yet, and yet…” also seems to suggest there is something else, something waiting for him to discover, something he feels is missing.
But that something else can’t be nailed down. As Ajahn Chah would say:
“You can’t make a permanent home in a sankhara”
There is no place to settle down in conditioned patterns. But you don’t really need to worry about it, he retorts, because it’s not your real home anyway.
Ajahn Cha continues: