I learned what a Rupa is, today; in essence, it is how something appears and holds our attention. An example, on a mundane level, is the effect the glorious taste and smell of the coffee that I am drinking has on me and how that then affects me, spiritually. I learned this definition from a book by David Brazier, called Not Everything is Impermanent. I was looking for an inspiring and sustaining read. Life is full-on. Amongst other things, my dad died recently, my mum is starting to look like she might not be far behind him and gazing out at the political landscape, it feels like we are already halfway to hell in a handcart.
Brazier’s title caught my attention (another Rupa) because it was positively worded and I suddenly realised that I had acquired an interesting attitude to the word ‘Impermanent’, that might need a little tweaking. Anicca or Impermanence really relates to the ‘flow’ of existence. It is neither positive nor negative; it just ‘is’. The Pali word Anicca is both descriptive and neutral. However, by using the prefix ‘im’ meaning ‘not’ in the word Impermanence, the mind can easily pick up on a negatively charged connotation. It wasn’t until I read the ‘upbeat’ title of the book that I realised I had done just that – not overtly but subtly – and in part, the cause was simply the etymology of the word ‘Impermanence’.
So, when I noticed this, I helicoptered out, away from the word itself, and took a look at how I accept the changes or flow of my own life. I’d give myself an 8 out of 10 for accepting and embracing the things that I cannot change – the things that are out of my control and just happen – like old age, illness and death (I’m a school teacher, by profession, so forgive the grading). On the other hand, I’d probably get a 4 for acceptance that I’m not personally responsible, either for preventing the suffering of those around me or for ‘fixing’ it. There are earworms and reactions to events in my past, some culturally originated, some from individual experience, that jangle around me, clouding my judgement sometimes. Catching such jangles in the light, understanding them, not just intellectually but deep down in the very cells of our being, can take a lifetime. That’s the work that I hope I’m doing on myself – the one thing that I can do.
I really like the word ‘Rupa’. It has alerted me to the effect that seemingly insignificant things can have on me, giving me clues about how I operate, what motivates me and what holds me back, spiritually speaking. David Brazier’s book is turning out to be a good read, which presents Buddhist teachings in a slightly different but nevertheless powerfully engaging framework to the one that I’m used to. Most importantly, it reaffirms the existence of that which is Eternally enduring and how to awaken to it.
- Not Everything is Impermanent – Zen Therapy & Amidist Teachings of David Brazier is published by Woodsmoke Press and is priced at £9.99