I was on my way to class when I saw, intermingled with the mass of students leaving the library, a friend from freshmen pre-orientation who I have not talked to in a year and half.
An old friend walks by—
Not a word is spoken
As we pass in anonymity.
This week in class we continued our discussion of Buddhist philosophy, specifically talking about our ephemeral world and how we should react to it. In a world where everything is changing, the ones who are the most at risk are those who are confident in their sense of self (Inouye 2/4). If you are self-assured and complacent in your place in life, you fail to see the Buddhist notion that life is suffering. While I may believe that my life is great and nothing can go wrong, it is inevitable that I run into failure in the future. We will always fail. When first presented with this idea, I found this notion to be almost defeatist. Thinking you will fail in the future doesn’t make me want to try harder since said failure is inevitable. However, the good news is that while we are doomed to fail at some point, we also will succeed at another point (Inouye 2/4). What we must be wary of is becoming overly confident in our present and future endeavors, as this confidence does not help reach us spiritual enlightenment. “In this floating world of illusion and misguided attachments, our moments of victory and accomplishment are like a dream. We ourselves are like dust in the wind” (Inouye 46). If we stay attached, we become stuck in this floating world, or ukiyo, where we become complacent in our lives. What we need to realize is that this ukiyo, or, as we talked about in class, this burning house we build for ourselves is nothing but a trap. We need to look beyond the present and come to the realization that our lives are not permanent. At first, I was skeptical. After all, who wants to live their life having accepted they will fail and die? However, what I came to realize is that through the understanding of our own impermanence we can live better, more wholesome lives where we do not define ourselves by our successes or failures. As Inouye says, “nothing gives the mind stability like an awareness of the world’s radical instability” (50).