Sunday, January 13, 2013

It goes on

Image borrowed from Etsy shop PorcupineSpines.
I just read a magnificent quotation from Robert Frost: "In three words I can sum up everything I have learned about life: it goes on." It does. Life, by its very nature, just goes. I think about those friends of mine who have died and how life just continues. It never stops changing, changing, changing. That's the findamental signature of reality.

Bills come, people age, the wind blows, seasons change. Life goes. In fact, that's what life is--movement.

This reminds me of one of my favorite Shakespeare quotes. It's from Macbeth: "Come what come may. Time and the hour run through the roughest day." Time waits for no one. As Buddhism teaches us, we can choose to suffer by resisting the present moment, but time will pass. It doesn't need our permission. Change is indifferent to our plans, projects, and desires. Nothing is stable, not en empire or an atom.

Everything changes.

"It goes on" is Frost's way of expressing the fundamental Buddhist principle of impermanence. Lately I have been reading quite a bit of Tathagatagarbha literature, so I have heard the words "permanent," "immutable," and "unborn" a lot. But I don't think that these scriptures are asserting nirvana as some sort of timeless realm. As the Heart Sutra teaches us, form is emptiness, emptiness is form. Samsara is Nirvana.

Our true nature is not found outside of impermanence, but in the very heart of it. This life, this body, they are the Pure Land. It's our relationship to impermanence and uncertainty that determines whether we experience suffering or freedom.

To borrow the title of Joan Staumbaugh's book, "Impermanence is Buddha nature."

"It goes on," the great Robert Frost says. Life certainly does. Even when it ends for us, it just goes.


  1. "life goes on", can be interpreted in many was, but mostly pessimistic, and an observation of no merit, from a buddhist or an american stand point. what buddha struggled with i will gather, more to do with cause and effect, determinism or freewill, he wouldnt hv if life just goes on :D

  2. actually, buddha might hv been, so, every action make it count (he did say only indulge in wholesome activities, only :D), he could hv easily done double duty as his own god :D