Where is everything?

Unfindable, impermanent shapes — everything is like this!

Here is an (unusually) short but (hopefully) sweet article.

Everything is made of parts, including even the smallest part. And those parts are continually changing both individually and collectively.

Our body, for example, is changing all the time like this in dependence upon causes and conditions. So is every part of our body, as is every part of every starling.

Things may move at different paces, but move they do.

Atoms whizz around exceedingly fast, in fact, giving the illusion of solidity where there is none.

And absolutely everything changes moment by moment. Nothing lasts even a moment. Check out these articles on subtle impermanence to find more.

And, even more profoundly, everything is empty of existing from its own side.

We are attracted to the five sense objects and, like a moth to a flame, we get burned again and again. We need to learn to enjoy lightly without getting absorbed into everything, taken over and burned.

We get so attached to shapes — bodies, houses, art, carpets, mugs, and any number of other shapes, such that we think we can’t even live without them. Sometimes it seems that we are more attached to the shape of things than anything else?! Maybe the color too. This might be because our visual awareness is so important to us. In the old days, some meditators would even pray to be born blind! However, there is an easier way, which is to remember emptiness. Hence me posting this video as a visual reminder.

We think these shapes are actually there, solid and real. But if we go looking for the object of our attachment, such as our lover’s body, we’ll never be able to find it, any more than we can point to a shape in those birds. There is only emptiness. Every shape is mere appearance or mere name — nothing behind that. So what exactly are we so attached to?

(We like the smell, taste, sound, and touch of physical things too, of course, and they are all just as unfindable.)

The problem is not with attractive appearances, but with the belief that they are outside of our mind and hence outside of our control. Hence attachment, or “uncontrolled desire”. So we seek to own (or be owned). We seek to control (or be controlled).

Ideally, in the world of moths, there’d be a flame education program… “Listen guys when you next see that bright shiny thing, fly around it and not right into it. Discover how to enjoy its warmth and beauty from a safe distance and you’ll be happier – trust me!” Similarly, we can learn how to enjoy the mere appearance or mere name of beautiful things, such as we enjoy these starlings, without getting sucked into something that is not actually there.

On the basis of contentment (or renunciation), compassion, and wisdom, we can find out how to channel the desire energy aroused by attractive things into open-ended non-dual blissful wisdom, rather than falling into the flames of attachment and craving and experiencing suffering.

What do you reckon?


Author: Luna Kadampa

Based on 40 years' experience, I write about applying meditation and modern Buddhism to improve and transform our everyday lives and societies. I try to make it accessible to everyone anywhere who wants more inner peace and profound tools to help our world, not just Buddhists. Do make comments any time and I'll write you back!

16 thoughts on “Where is everything?”

  1. i laughed out loud at mugs😅
    thank you for the clear explanation. will definitely help my meditation. my question is if those meditators had their wish to be born blind, would it actually help? or would it be like denying the other side of the 2 truths?

  2. Bonjour Carl, Je te remercie pour ce message, qui nous explique bien l’impermanence. Que tout est ce que l’on perçoit et cela change de minutes en minutes. Je te souhaite une excellente journée. Rollandexx


  3. Agreed. Atoms, themselves, have components which are in constant motion, e.g. clouds of electrons which exhibit both vibrational and translational movement around the nucleus of snnatom. The nucleus, itself, contains innumerable substomic particles exhibiting constant motion.

  4. This quote from Geshe Kelsang Gyatso : “This human life with all its suffering and problems is a great opportunity for us to improve both our RENUNCIATION and our compassion. We should not waste this precious opportunity.” makes me think about 2 qoutes from Bible… (1 John 2:16) “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” and Gospel of Thomas (New Testament apocrypha) 56 :”Jesus said: He who has known the world has found a corpse; and he who has found a corpse, the world is not worthy of him.” (“Jesus says: He who has known the world has fallen into a corpse; and he who has fallen into a corpse, the world is not worthy of him!”)

    GOD Bless You !!!

  5. Hi Luna.. Greetings from S.A.
    I have been reading teachings of Ajahn Chan this past week, and this article reminded me of the below quoted..

    “The Two Faces of Reality
    In our lives we have two possibilities: indulging in the world or going beyond the world. The Buddha was someone who was able to free himself from the world and thus realized spiritual liberation. In the same way, there are two types of knowledge – knowledge of the worldly realm and knowledge of the spiritual, or true wisdom. If we have not yet practiced and trained ourselves, no matter how much knowledge we have, it is still worldly, and thus cannot liberate us. Think and really look closely! The Buddha said that things of the world spin the world around. Following the world, the mind is entangled in the world, it defiles itself whether coming or going, never remaining content. Worldly people are those who are always looking for something – who can never find enough. Worldly knowledge is really ignorance; it isn’t knowledge with clear understanding, therefore there is never an end to it.”

    With Metta always.

  6. nice article. will re-read. i like alot the ‘flame education program’ – FEP – is very close to ‘foundation program’ – FP!. how else to escape getting burned….. thanks always.

  7. I find it helpful to look a emptiness from the other side, the side of mere appearances. When I recall the teaching that things exist but just “barely”, I find that my attachment to external phenomena is undermined and realize that those phenomena exist as names only. It’s as if I am achieving wisdom by putting ignorance in its place.

      1. Thanks. I thought of saying “putting ignorance in perspective” but liked better the image of ignorance as bad and needing to be put in its place. Punished. A mara destroyed. 🙏🏻

  8. I’ve had the experience a couple or three times of encountering someone I’m so drawn to that they terrify me. I mean this quite literally. I feel strongly that I’m in danger, as if there’s something very dark at play that I’m not equipped to deal with. I’m aware as it’s happening that it’s not rational but it’s so overwhelming my only option is to close off completely. This first happened while I was caring for someone very close to me who was dying. The pain of encountering my own vulnerability during that time is something I’ll never forget and I was entirely lost to myself for a long time. These experiences of attachment and grief are somehow intertwined for me and all the difficulty is around vulnerability. C. S. Lewis wrote about his own experience of grief “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid.” It’s this dimension of grief that I’m describing.

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