Thursday, November 22, 2012

It's Raining Dharma

"When the rain comes, they run and hide their heads..."

Sitting here in our house in the Northeast of Thailand, my wife and I gaze out at the falling rain. ‘Falling’ isn’t necessarily the most accurate word to describe this monsoon rain, however, as it cascades down from the heavens. Maybe ‘a deluge of rain’ might be a better description, or perhaps ‘a blitz of rain.’ (If you're someone who’s into his biblical tales, you might prefer the word ‘flood.’) All this might invite the question “What’s this obsession with the fact that it’s raining, anyhow?” And one answer could refer to my being British, and a national preoccupation that comes from living in a country where the weather consistently changes on a minute-by-minute basis. And there’s probably some truth in that explanation: but there is another reason.

A short time ago, it was a bright, sunny afternoon, and my wife and I had ideas to go out and enjoy our day off together around the city. But, as with all things, the good weather wasn’t to last, and now we’re stuck in the house, watching the torrent of water spilling from above, flooding the street. (It often floods in our street if it rains really heavily – the sewers overflow into the road, and the water rises to ankle level or higher.)

Still haven’t worked out where I’m going with this? Well, in a word, anicca. For any readers not familiar with this Pali term, we can use impermanent, instead. The sudden wet weather is indicative of a world where anything can change any moment, and on some level, constantly is changing. This is a basic insight that Buddhists endeavor to consistently cultivate moment to moment. Everything in is flux; nothing stays the same forever.

So, looking up at the grey sky with its watery invasion of the land, we live in the knowledge that this will change too, at some point, for it is impermanent like all else. One moment it’s sunny, the next cloudy, then it begins to rain. But, soon enough, the sun will break through the cloud, and the rain will dry up, and we can think again of venturing out into this beautiful city that we call home. True, enough, nothing stays the same forever, including ourselves. There’s something to ponder there as the rain starts to let up, and thoughts turn to the daily process of this body ‘drying up’ like the rain, and one day ceasing for good. What will we do with each moment, in the meantime?

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