Arising and Passing Away of Fabrications
Think about it for a minute. How is your body right now? Think about it from the day you were born all the way up to the present moment. We keep running away from progress. We keep running until we’re old, running until we’re sick. We don’t want things to be that way, but we can’t prevent it. That’s just the way things are. They can’t be any other way. It’s like wanting a duck to be like a chicken, but it can’t because it’s a duck. If you want a chicken to be like a duck, it can’t, because it’s a chicken. If you want ducks to be like chickens, and chickens to be like ducks, you simply suffer — because these things are impossible. If you think, “Ducks have to be the way they are, and chickens the way they are; they can’t be any other way,” then that kind of thinking gives you energy and strength.
No matter how much you want this body to stay stable and permanent, it can’t be that way. It’s just the way it is. The Buddha called it a fabrication.
Anicca vata sankhara: How inconstant are fabrications!
Uppada-vaya-dhammino: Their nature is to arise and pass away.
Uppajjhitva nirujjhanti: Arising, they disband.
Tesam vupasamo sukho: Their stilling is bliss.
This fabrication — this body-and-mind — is inconstant. It’s not dependable. It’s here and then it’s not. It’s born and then it passes away. But we human beings want it to be constant. That’s the thinking of a fool.
Just look at your breath. It goes out and then it comes in. It comes in and then it goes out. That’s the nature of breath. It has to be that way. It has to change, to go back and forth. The affairs of fabrication depend on change. You can’t have them not change. Just look at your breath. Can you keep it from coming in? Does it feel comfortable?
If you draw in a breath and then don’t let it go out, is that any good? Even if you want it to be constant, it can’t be constant. It’s impossible. It goes out and then it comes in. It comes in and then it goes out. It’s such a normal thing.
We’re born and then we age; we age and then we get sick and die. It’s so normal. But we don’t like it. It’s as if we wanted the breath to come in and not go out; or to go out and not come in. When it comes in and out, out and in, we can live. Human beings and animals have been living right up to the present because fabrications follow their duty in line with their conditions. That’s their truth.
Birth, Aging, Illness, and Death
So we have to see their truth in line with their truth. As with the affair of birth, aging, illness, and death: Once we’re born, we’re already dead. Birth and death are all the same thing. One part is the beginning, and one part the end. Just like a tree: When it has a base, it has an upper tip. When it has an upper tip, it has a base. When there’s no base, there’s no upper tip. There’s no upper tip without a base. That’s the way things are.
It’s kind of funny, you know. We human beings, when somebody dies, get all sad and upset. We cry and grieve — all kinds of things. It’s delusion. It’s delusion, you know, to cry and lament when somebody dies. That’s the way we’ve been since who knows when. We hardly ever reflect to see things clearly. In my opinion, and you’ll have to forgive me for saying this, but if you’re going to cry when somebody dies, it’d be better to cry when somebody’s born. But we have things all backwards. If somebody’s born we laugh; we’re happy and glad. But really, birth is death, and death is birth. The beginning is the end, and the end is the beginning. When someone dies or is about to die, we cry. That’s foolishness. If you’re going to cry, it’d be better to cry from the very beginning. For birth is death. Without birth, there’s no death. Do you understand? Death is birth, and birth is death.