Everything Must Change

by Rev. Marvin Harada.

This past Sunday I used for my message, the song, “Everything Must Change,” originally composed by Bernard Ighner, but I played the George Benson version of this song. It is one of my favorite songs, and to me, one of the most “Buddhistic” contemporary songs. The lyrics to the George Benson version are as follows:

Everything must change

Nothing stays the same

Everyone must change

No one stays the same

The young become the old

And mysteries do unfold

Cause that’s the way of time

Nothing and no one goes unchanged

There are not many things in life

You can be sure of

Except rain comes from the clouds

Sun lights up the sky

And hummingbirds do fly

Winter turns to spring

A wounded heart will heal

But never much too soon

Yes everything must change

The young become the old

And mysteries do unfold

Cause that’s the way of time

Nothing and no one goes unchanged

There are not many things in life

You can be sure of

Except rain comes from the clouds

Sun lights up the sky

And butterflies do fly

Rain comes from the clouds

Sun lights up the sky

And music

And music

Makes me cry

This song expresses the Buddhist teaching of “Impermanence” so beautifully.

Intellectually, the teaching of impermanence is so simple that a five year old can understand it, but it is a hard teaching to truly embrace and realize in one’s life.

If we reflect a little bit about this teaching, we might find that we do not truly live in oneness with this teaching, no matter how much we think we understand it. Have you ever had an argument with your husband or wife and you said or thought to yourself, “Gee, you never used to be like this!” Isn’t that proof that we don’t live in oneness with impermanence? We expect our spouse to be just like they were when we married them. We cannot accept that they have “changed.”

We have difficulties with the changes in our life. Getting our first job is a change. Getting married is a change. Sending our kids off to college is a change. Retirement is a change. Moving into assisted living is a change. Losing our spouse or loved one is a major “change.” With each “change”, we are presented with challenges, and these challenges continue throughout our life.

I remember reading a humorous story about a recent psychological syndrome in Japan abbreviated as “RHS.” RHS stands for “Retired Husband Syndrome,” and it is a syndrome that many women in Japan face when their husbands retire. In Japan, businessmen work and work, and retire without any hobbies or interests. Now, being at home, they drive their wives crazy, demanding that they cook them three meals a day, and wanting to know every minute of their schedule. Those wives of retired businessmen develop stress and nervousness which has been labeled, “Retired Husband Syndrome.” It is clear that many men in Japan cannot adjust to the “change” of retirement.

Buddhism is trying to teach us to embrace this truth of impermanence in our life. Impermanence means that we should not take this life for granted. Doesn’t life just fly by? I wonder where my 62 years of my life have gone? They went by so fast.

This teaching of impermanence is not a bleak, negative teaching. It is a most positive teaching. If you are in a state of suffering, impermanence means you will not stay in that state forever, although it might feel that way. Impermanence makes this one life meaningful, and every phase of our life can be fully lived, enjoyed, and cherished.

Thich Nhat Hanh writes of impermanence in his book, “No Death, No Fear,” p. 41.

Thanks to impermanence, everything is possible. Life itself is possible. If a grain of corn is not impermanent, it can never be transformed into a stalk of corn.....If your daughter is not impermanent, she cannot grow up to become a woman. Then your grandchildren would never manifest......We should say, “Warm welcome and long live impermanence.”

We might not like some aspects of impermanence, like growing old, facing health issues, and things of that nature, but impermanence means we can live our life to its fruition, even with the aches and pains that it brings. Impermanence means we can look forward to the birth of grandchildren or great grandchildren. Impermanence means we can greet new flowers every spring, and enjoy the radiant foliage of the fall. We live in oneness with this great flow of life.

The young become the old, and mysteries do unfold, cause that’s the way of time. Nothing and no one goes unchanged.

Namuamidabutsu,

Rev. Marvin Harada