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Impermanence – Not Even the Mountains?

Impermanence – Not Even the Mountains?

A reader wrote:

I’m a big fan of your Daily Buddhism blog and thought that you’d be interested in seeing this 8-minute film that I recently made about impermanence, “Mountains Made of Chalk, Fall into the Sea, Eventually.”

The synergy of creative collaboration can result in magic beyond our imagining.  Witnessing Genna Panzarella paint this 8×10′ mural of Mt. Tamalpais as it was when it was whole, literally inside of what used to be the mountaintop, is akin to stealing a peek through the kimono of mystery… the misty mystery of impermanence.

The project bears a great resemblance to the process of making a Sand Painting.

You are welcome to link to it in your blog if you feel that it would be a worthy addition to it.

Mountains Made of Chalk, Fall into the Sea, Eventually. from Gary Yost on Vimeo.

My Response:

Well, there it is, up there in the link. Take a minute (or eight) to watch the movie. As you point out, it is similar in many ways to the monks who do sand mandalas [Link to 2009 Mandala Post].

The reasons (mostly Tibetan) monks spend hours or days creating intricate mandalas made of sand seems to be an exercise in patience and concentration. It’s another form of concentration/meditation. When they are finished, they sweep up all that sand and destroy the beautiful work of art they have been working on, one grain of sand at a time, for days. Why? In many ways, the destruction of the mandala is the most important part of the process.

This erasing of the art demonstrates and exemplifies the Buddhist idea of impermanence. The Pali word for this kind of impermanence is anicca. This lack of permanence extends to everything. Your mood today. Your job. The personal problem you are dealing with this week. Your life. The mountain the artist in the movie is on. The planet Earth itself. None of these things are permanent; some will go away quickly, some take decades, some may take millions of years, but nothing is forever. The knowledge that nothing lasts and that change is the only thing that is inevitable is a big part of the Buddhist’s conception of suffering (dukkha).

How do we get past this idea that everything is temporary? As the mandala-making monks and the chalk artist in the movie above have learned, the best way to deal with it is to embrace change.

Does anyone have an experience or story they’d like to share that demonstrates something you have learned about impermanence? Post in the comments!


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