The first three discourses of the Buddha all end with people awakening, or “opening the Dhamma eye.” Throughout these stories, the opening of the Dharma eye refers to a single insight, which is stated as “Everything that has a beginning has an end.” This is the insight into impermanence.
How would we practice if coming to this insight were the heart of our spiritual search?
We usually talk about impermanence with several implied caveats, mainly to not neglect your health/relationships/engagement/service. In so many ways, the caveats all seem to pull us back into relationship—which reveals a common delusion. Impermanence suggests that the way to be free is to not crave. It is. But we fall into this trap of thinking that to be in relationship/connection/engagement either implies craving or that ending craving automatically means ending relationship/engagement. But it’s a red herring.
Although there is certainly a strong solitary push in the Buddha’s instructions, it’s clear that his ideal was community, not isolation. Community-building, which was the backdrop for all of the early discourses, depends on creating wholesome structures that will last. And in fact the Buddhist monastic Saṅgha is one of the most durable institutions in the history of the world—by some estimates the MOST durable. So we have a beautiful inquiry here: how to build community and respond to changing conditions with an intention toward preservation of the good, all while practicing toward—and within—the insight that nothing lasts. As a hint, this is the same dialectic we engage in meditation as we endeavor to sustain wholesome states of heart and mind amid an ever-changing internal and external ecosystem.