Acceptance of Impermanence — A Vedic Life Lesson
When I was still a young child, my Guru, who was also my grandfather, ‘Baba’ woke me up several times, literally at times, and figuratively, from metaphorical delusions.
Growing up, I had a doll named Gudiya. I loved her dearly. I walked around with her everywhere and I felt she was a part of me, my entire existence. She even had special permission to sit with me to listen to Baba’s sermons on wisdom from the Vedas and Upanishads, night after night. People came from far and wide, and I and my doll Gudiya were always on time. After all we lived in Baba’s home.
Once, in winter, when a slight breeze blew, I pulled my woolen shawl closer (it was my mother’s silk pashmina, I remember) and then to protect my doll some more from the cold too, I had wanted to push her inside my clothing (and ideally inside my very being), you know, somewhere close to me, if not in my heart, then at least inside the folds of my shawl.
But, to my great and unending dismay, the doll fell with a deadly thud because my hands were maneuvering the shawl and trying to hold my doll up-close, at the same time. The fall broke off one of her arms, and smashed her nose in dirt. Next, my shawl came un-done, exposing me to the cold air suddenly, and I gasped from the touch of the breeze on my body.
Finally, a bigger body, the one I lived inside (not my doll), with hands and feet tangled in the large, mom-sized shawl, while walking towards mom, fell to the floor with a bigger thud, all in my clumsy effort to save the doll, hold the shawl and walk to mom, at the same time. I never did get to maa that night. I stayed in my puddle of broken arm parts (one), muddy noses (two), and shocked silence (collective).
Thankfully, maa scooped all of us and our pieces, in her arms.
That night Baba spoke gently to me after dinner:
Everything you can observe is material in nature. You and doll, both have material bodies. Consider matter as play-dough little Shunya. Did you see how your doll broke her arm?
Sooner or later, objects of matter break, decay or end. So, do not grieve when this happens. Expect that. You cried when Gudiya broke her doll-arm, but you did not cry when you saw the shooting star that other night with me?
A whole immense star exploded in front of you, but you did not cry. You had laughed then. Why? Because you are attached to your doll, so its broken arm bereaved you. And you are indifferent to the star’s fate. In fact, its fall is what delighted you most that night.
It is your likes and dislikes that make you cry or laugh for matter objects then, not otherwise. It is you who project your Self (and emotions) into the world of matter that is on the play-dough bodies. When you see play-dough in bodies – do not see your true Self.
Baba concluded: Shunya, I am sorry your doll Gudiya’s arm is unfixable at this point, though I am happy her nose is shining again after you rubbed it with your favorite elephant-print towel. No, I don't think any Ayurveda herbs will revive her arms either at this point. At this point, knowledge is the only medicine.
Can you accept that external objects are always material are also transient (anitya) in nature? What does transient mean, you ask?
What is transient simply appears to exist for a flash; but was not existing in the past and will not exist in the future.
Where are the flowers, hundreds of them, that your maa grew last summer in pots? They were once visible to your senses, but now they are not.
Objects that come and go in time are called transient.
Where did the butterfly bodies who visited your mother’s flowers, disappear?
They too were transient as all objects external to you are. Even Earth won’t last forever, nor the milky way you studied about last week at school, and made a diagram of with your new crayons which, too, are transient, and so are the stars you watch and identify with your father in the night sky, every night, when we all sleep outside in summer.
Even our bodies, yours and mine, that are existing today, did not exist in the past, and will not exist forever.
None of this that you perceive with your senses, will last. Everything is changing even now; emerging from invisible to visible (when you see it) then it will return to being invisible again. This is what I call transient, my child - anitya.
When we look around, we see the world, but it is a magic show. What appears as permanence, is really impermanence. This transience makes most people insecure. But the one who can observe all this, you need to be afraid, since the observer, is not transient. Inside this body, you the Self, which is non-material, is nitya, pure existence that is neither influenced by time nor space. You and I - we who are one, though we inhabit material body suits, will always be. We alone are nitya - everlasting.
And since it gets boring, we can always take on new bodies, he said with a smile.
I dreamt that night of becoming a hummingbird, and a deer next. In fact, I dropped and took on so many bodies that night, bodies of all types, adventuring fearlessly. After all I am nitya (immortal) what fear would I have? I also felt no pain as I dropped a body, since it was anityam (transient) after all.
Acharya Shunya is a globally-recognized spiritual teacher and Vedic lineage-holder who awakens health and consciousness through the Vedic sciences of Ayurveda, Vedanta and Yoga. She is the driving force behind an online wisdom school and worldwide spiritual community, and the author of best-selling book on the Vedic art of mind + body + soul well-being and health, Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom (Sounds True, 2017) and forthcoming second book with Sounds True to be released in 2020, Sovereign Self. Acharya Shunya is a keynote speaker at national and international conferences, and serves as an advisor to the Indian Government in matters pertaining to global integration and cultivation of Ayurveda and Yoga. Receive her free online teachings and browse her current eCourse offerings here or see more about her on Facebook and follow her on Instagram. Subscribe to her YouTube Channel where she holds live Global Satsangs once per month. Study Ayurveda with Acharya Shunya in her online course, Alchemy through Ayurveda.