The Truth of Impermanence (무상계)


Musang-gye is an important text that’s read at all (Buddhist) funerals and memorial services in Korea, in order to help the deceased to move forward along the path of their growth.
Here’s an audio version of this English translation: )

The Truth of Impermanence -Musang gye

Realization of impermanence is the gateway to Nirvana,
the compassionate boat,
the boat that takes us across the sea of suffering.
All Buddhas have achieved Nirvana by
realizing and following the truth of impermanence.
All unenlightened beings too
can cross the sea of suffering
by taking this truth to heart.

Oh spirit(s),
you have left behind the six sense organs
(eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and intellect)
and the six sense-objects (light, sound, odors, taste, touch, and perception),
and thus have gained true clarity of consciousness.
And now you have the opportunity to receive the teachings of Buddha.
How wonderful this is!

Oh spirit(s),
In time, even the vast universe will disintegrate,
the great mountains and oceans will also disappear,
leaving nothing behind.
Then, how could this small body of ours
avoid birth, aging, disease, and death?
How could we avoid
sorrow, troubles, and suffering?

Oh spirit(s),
Your body’s hair, finger nails, teeth,
its skin, flesh, muscles, and bones
have turned to dirt (will all turn to dirt).
Saliva, mucus, pus, blood, phlegm,
tears, urine, and all the vital fluids
have become water (will all become water).
The warmth of the body
has already returned to fire (will return to fire),
and the energy of movement
has turned into wind (turns into wind).
With your body thus scattered back into its original elements
of earth, water, fire, and air,
do you still think that you have a body?

Oh spirit(s),
this body is just a fleeting combination
of the four elements.
Its disappearance is nothing to feel sad about.

Oh spirit(s),
From the beginningless past,
because of foolish ignorance,
you have committed both good and evil acts.
These actions give rise to the consciousness
that wants to be reborn in this world.

The functioning of this consciousness
causes mind and body to gather in the womb.
With the body arise the six sense organs, (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind)
the six sense organs give rise to contact.
Contact gives rise to sensation,
sensation gives rise to craving,
Craving gives rise to greed and clinging,
greed and clinging give rise to actions
that will cause you to be reborn in this world.

Once you are born, you experience aging, disease, and death.
You can’t avoid anxiety, sadness, and suffering.
However, if ignorance disappears,
good and evil actions disappear,
fixed concepts cease to function,
and so mind and body also disappear.

If mind and body disappear,
the six sense organs disappear.
and so contact too disappears.
If contact disappears, sensation does not arise.
If sensation does not arise, then craving does not arise.
If craving does not arise, greed and clinging do not arise.
When greed and clinging do not arise, karma also does not arise.
When karma does not arise, birth also does not arise.
If birth disappears,
then aging, death, anxiety, sorrow, and suffering
also do not exist.

All things in this world are inherently
pure and calm.
If we diligently practice like this,
then we will certainly become Buddhas.

All phenomena are ceaselessly changing,
none stand still for even an instant.
Arising and disappearing,
this is the law of birth and death.
But if you let go of attachments to birth and death,
then you will achieve the ever-tranquil state of Nirvana.

Take refuge in the Buddha,
Take refuge in the Dharma,
Take refuge in the Sangha.
Take refuge in this inner essence
which is worthy of all offerings
which is portrayed as the wish-fulfilling Tathagata
which knows everything throughout all realms
which is perfect in wisdom and action
which functions from the state of Nirvana
which understands absolutely everything in the world
which is the most noble, the most holy,
which guides and takes care of all sentient beings.

Take refuge in this essence,
worthy of all respect,
the teacher of heavenly and human realms.
which awakens and becomes a Buddha.

Oh spirit(s), now you are
free of the five aggregates
and have gained true clarity of consciousness,
you’ve learned the great truth taught by the Buddha,
how wonderful this is!

Now you can be born wherever you wish,
in a heavenly realm
or in a land of Buddhas.
How truly wonderful this is!

Mind, inherently pure and tranquil, is our true nature.
This is the noble and unsurpassed Dharma,
the Dharma transmitted by Bodhidharma.
Our true mind,
utterly profound and clear,
constantly flowing,
existing everywhere.
All the universe is the manifestation
of this one mind.

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