All impermanent phenomena are by nature deceiving 

– Kinley Dema, MA student from Bhutan

In the first teaching given by Khenpo Pema Namgyal, on the third of the four dharma seals, Khenpo la begins by saying that phenomena do not last because they are impermanent and their nature is emptiness. However, Khenpo la explains, one’s certainty of this does not arise right away, it requires reflection and contemplation. After I attended this teaching online, I somewhat understood what is meant by the deceiving nature of impermanent phenomena and its relevance in dharma practice. 

In order to explain all impermanent phenomena are by nature deceiving, Khenpo la mentions Nagarjuna’s quote, “whatever arises due to a condition does not truly arise because it lacks the nature of arising.” Generally, we do not trust something that deceives us. To break free of this deception, dharma practitioners are instructed not to focus their minds on deceiving phenomena. However, when we are just beginning to follow the path, we have to rely on the deceiving phenomenon. Then later on we must let go of relying on deceptive phenomena. That’s why when we come to the stages of mediation, we identify different stages, such as the meditation of samatha and vipassana. For example, at the beginning of our path, it is said that we should practice samatha but in the end, it is not something that needs to be taken onto the path. So, we practice samatha to develop a base that will help us eventually come to superior insight.  

When we use the term vipassana, it means insight into the empty selfless nature of phenomena. and this superior insight is separated from relative deceiving phenomena. Therefore, when we meditate on vipassana, we should not focus on the relative deceiving phenomenon. Thus, the focus of vipassana meditation is emptiness and selflessness. 

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