What is the difference between commitment and not seeing the reality of  impermanence?

A student asks:

What is the difference between commitment and not seeing the reality of  impermanence/change? When someone commits to someone or something it seems to me they are saying ‘I’m in now and forever ignoring the fact that everything including themselves is changing’ so that what you commit to today will not be the same tomorrow or even the next minute.

Lama Shenpen replies:

It is interesting isn’t it? If impermanence meant that everything changed all the time so there is no point in doing anything, then life would be pretty meaningless wouldn’t it?

What gives life meaning is connecting to our Heart Wish and aligning our intentions with it.  As we align we commit to a particular direction and then let go into that direction and see what happens.  When we make a commitment to others we want them to believe in and trust our commitment to our intention and for them to co-operate with us on that basis.

It is taken as a given that we may find we cannot accomplish what we intend but at least we acknowledge that when we made the commitment we had asked them to believe in our intention and for them to act towards us on that understanding.

If we find we cannot keep to our commitment for any reason then having made the commitment we need to acknowledge as soon as we can to the other party that we have failed.  The question then is whether we want them to trust us again or not. If we do we are making a big ask from then.  We use the language of forgiveness for this.  Does the other party forgive us and can they trust us again if we now make another commitment?  Can we still be believed and trusted?

It may be that your question is about others more than oneself.  If for example you made a commitment to the Awakened Heart Sangha, how could you be sure it wouldn’t morph into something you could no longer commit to?

In the Mahayanagana [the circle of Lama Shenpen’s committed students] the understanding is that everyone who commits to it, commits to supporting its vision, values and ethos and we are continually discussing within the MYG what we mean by all of that and whether we really do stand for what we say we stand for.

The reason for this process is because groups morph very easily if the whole mandala is not constantly kept aligned with its central principle.  Whose job is it to make sure that is happening?  It’s the job of those who have committed themselves to that task – MYG members who have made a formal commitment to the rest of the sangha to do so.

So the whole process of commitment is carried out because of recognising that everything compounded is impermanent and therefore if a mandala is to function well and achieve its purpose then restoration and damage repair is needed all the time – the guardian is vigilance and the guardians* are those who have made the commitment to guard it.

The only constant in all of this is the Heart Wish itself which is not compounded and therefore not impermanent.

I hope this helps answer the question.

Lama Shenpen Hookham

[*Guardians are an aspect of mandala principle. Find out more about mandala principle Here.]

Lama Shenpen’s students are all studying the Living the Awakened Heart Training – a structured, comprehensive, supported, distance learning programme in Buddhist meditation, reflection and insight. The training, which is open to all, brings the profound Dzogchen and Mahamudra teachings to a Western audience in an experiential, accessible way, through spiral learning. Find out more and how to join at www.ahs.org.uk/training


If you are willing or able to make a donation or offering in appreciation of Lama Shenpen’s teaching and wish to support her activity, please do so here

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