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Journal: Old Stones and the First Noble Truth

Note: This Journal entry was written on October 11, 2001, as I walked on the Old Tokaido. Take a look at that day's Logbook for more.


Back on September 25th, I shared some ideas about "Old Stones."

Today in Asuka, I couldn't help thinking about it again. But this time, the palpable religious air of the place made it feel a little different.

The Buddha's teachings are often summarized in lists: Four this, Eight that, Ten the other thing. The most important, central idea, however, is known as "The Four Noble Truths."

Truth Number One is today's text. (The others will be discussed in due course, I promise.) This Truth is usually translated: "ALL LIFE IS SORROWFUL."

I have read, however, that this is a mistranslation. The word used here is a reference to transience, impermanence. It is not that life is actually sorrowful, but that everything changes. Nothing remains the same. Even if one could achieve "perfection" in this world, one would lose it in an instant. (There's another big discussion: the conflict between being perfect and being complete. Another day.)

So as we go through life we are often lamenting what has been lost. "High school was so great; I really miss those days." "I wish I could see my dead grandma again." "I was so happy when I was little." But we fail to see that it is the essence of things to change.

The Second Noble Truth tells why we do that, but I'll save that for later. I just want to say: when we see a place in the world or in our lives where something used to be and it isn't there anymore, we yearn for its return. I think that's part of why I respond so strongly to old stones. They make me think of all the other things that have passed.

Life is like a "Big Sale": Everything must go!

Posted October 3, 2019

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