Q: How does this help us? The practice of Buddhism will not make us less impermanent.
A: It will not make us less impermanent, but it will give us the certainty that, in our coming lives, we will have less suffering. The practice of Dharma, of religion, means – briefly speaking; avoiding non-virtuous acts; and performing virtuous acts. When you behave in this way, it is obvious that you will be happier in the future.
Q: Does it mean that, since we expect less from this life, we will also suffer less?
A: Yes, that too, but more important, by thinking about impermanence we will be moved to practice Dharma quickly. The thought of impermanence helps us to speed up our path a great deal.
Q: What are the six realms and their sufferings?
A: As I said before, no matter where you are in Worldly Existence, you are suffering. Suffering is of three kinds: the suffering of suffering, the suffering of change, and the suffering of conditioned existence. The suffering of suffering is when you have a headache or something like that. It is simply suffering which everyone accepts and thinks of as suffering. Then the suffering of change is the suffering undergone through perception of change. You are with friends today but you have to depart; when you go, you meet enemies. Nothing stays, and seeing this, we experience the suffering of change. The suffering of conditioned existence means the unsatisfactoriness of worldly activity. We do many things in the world but are never really satisfied. There are always more things to be done, which we cannot do and this frustration is suffering.
The lowest of the six realms are the Hell-realms, of excessive heat and cold, and the 'neighbouring hells' which are also states of great suffering, and which last for incredible periods of time. The cause of these states of suffering is hatred. Then there is the realm of hungry spirits who are tantalized by food and drink they cannot swallow. This is the result of desire and stinginess. The animal realm is well known to us and birth there is caused by ignorance. The human realm, too, we know. The fifth realm is of the demi-gods who are constantly engaged in war with the gods, out of jealousy and who will thus naturally suffer in their next lives. The gods seem very comfortable. They enjoy great pleasures and immensely long lives, but sooner or later experience old age and death. As they have done nothing but enjoy themselves, they will not have created the merit to achieve high rebirth and will fall into states of great suffering. The three lower worlds' beings experience the suffering of suffering exclusively; humans experience all three, but chiefly the first two, while the gods suffer mainly the last two.
The last of the Four Recollections is of Karma, the law of Cause and Effect. In the Buddhist view, everything we have today and everything we do has a cause in the past. In fact it is said that if you want to know what you did in the past, you should look at your present situation; whether you are rich or poor, ugly or beautiful, this is the result of past actions, as the future, whether happy or otherwise depends on what you do today. Everything you do today will produce a result in the future. If a tree's root is medicinal, the flowers, the leaves, the bark and everything that grows on the tree, will be medicinal, and like this, an act that grows out of the opposite of desire, aversion and ignorance will produce happiness. If the root of the tree is poisonous, then everything that grows on the tree will be poison, just as acts of desire, aversion and ignorance produce suffering.In the next part, I will extract a simpler Q&A about the importance of human rebirth. We'll also look at whether we should think a great deal about impermanence.
Disclaimer: This interview was taken from the book "Pointing Towards Vajrayana" published by The Singapore Buddha Sasana Society Sakya Tenphel Ling. The Palden Sakya Centres of American Buddhism Sakya Shei Drup Ling actually holds the right of this text.