On Buddhist Impermanence and Christian Counselling

I had the privilege of meeting a Buddhist practitioner who shared with me the concept of Impermanence.  Impermanence is one of the core concepts of Buddhism that teaches us that nothing in the universe is permanent.

“Life in any world is unstable, it is swept away, it has no shelter and protector, nothing of its own.”
– Buddhist verse

As my friend puts out, impermanence is about us not truly owning anything and therefore not having control over anything.   Nothing lasts forever (nothing is permanent), someday you will lose your love ones and you will eventually lose your self.  So why bother worrying about your health, your finances, or your relationships?  All these will not last.

Now, I understand why this teaching is applied in some Eastern counselling methods.  Impermanence after all, helps us manage our current worries and fears.  After all, this view was actually put up to aid people in dealing with unavoidable suffering: That nothing lasts forever, not even suffering.

As a Christian Counsellor, I find this Eastern concept very intriguing.  Because in on the surface it agrees with the Christian concept that we have no power of the things around us, not even our very selves.  The Apostle Paul reminded people of this:

You are not your own, you were bought at a price.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20

It was the very same Apostle who taught us the ontology of things:

What is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:18

So, there is something true about this concept of Impermanence although for the Christian mind it is only a half truth.  Impermanence focuses on the first half of 2 Corinthians 4:18; however, it failed to consider the second half which is Jesus Christ.  Do take note that Impermanence is used in counselling in order to cope with stress and suffering; however, the life in Christ is more than just the survival of the present.  The Christian life is geared towards love – for the present and for eternity.

How can we look around the suffering world and just accept the temporal futility of things?  Impermanence directs us to surrender to our destiny of dissolution and disintegration.  The child in Christ looks at sufferings and feels compassion in their hearts.  This compassion is what will drive us to do well, to do better, and to improve our lives and the lives of others by directing them to what is Eternal.

Impermanence alone teaches us to calm down and accept these sufferings; the life through Jesus Christ propels us to act in love and shine for His glory.

Impermanence alone prepares us for disappointment, for irrelevance and ultimately to nothingness.  The life through Jesus Christ gears us to a life in love, glory and eternity.

He has planted eternity in the human heart,
Ecclesiastes 3:11

While impermanence may be effective in coping with immediate stress and frustrations, it will not motivate the person to move forward in life, to improve themselves and to help others.  In Christianity, this impermanence is made complete when we give ourselves up and surrender to the only one who is Eternal, Jesus Christ.  The love given by this Man will serve as the ultimate motivating force for us to not only survive the present but also to move on to a bright and fruitful tomorrow.  Or as we all casually say: “now and forever”. Amen.