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Meditations: “Dukkha, they say.

"Dukkha," they say. The Buddhists say, "All is dukkha." It is hard to translate, they tell us. It means literally "suffering" but the feeling of dukkha is closer to impermanence. The fact of impermanence is central to the Buddhist path to nirvana, enlightenment.

Dukkha. All is impermanence. Nothing lasts. I thought of that yesterday, watching leaves come down in a shower, and the smell of the rotting ones going back into the earth. Leaf to humus and back to earth to nourish the roots of the mother tree. The crows crying as the leaves fall and their nests are exposed: dukkha... all is impermanence.

And life goes on, and people who were with us last year at this time have died, all souls pass on, all is dukkha, nothing lasts.

The path to enlightenment is understanding, accepting impermanence to the point where we no longer struggle against it. That is the way of the Buddha. But here in the West we search for that which is permanent, even as we live with the death of all things, all people. We search for a sure footing on the path strewn with fallen leaves; we notice the buds of next year's growth tight-curled and waiting; we hold on to the things we can count on—our church, our community, our memories of those who died before us, our love and hope, and the search for certainty in a world that is dukkha.

God of creation, God of today—let us find each other in a changing world; let us experience love as something which exists, a possibility which is. Let us know that we are alive and being renewed miraculously each second; that the impermanence gives to life its freshness and surprise; that our memories of yesterday and our expectations of tomorrow make now a cherished, precious, eternal moment.


1997 UUMA Worship Materials Collection

Copyright: The author has given Unitarian Universalist Association member congregations permission to reprint this piece for use in public worship. Any reprints must acknowledge the name of the author.

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Last updated on Friday, February 22, 2013.

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