Saturday, March 5, 2011

Walking the Impermanence philosophy

Last-minute rush is a trademark of the Bhutanese people. And I am a real pro in this. One of my former bosses used to call me ‘the last minute genius’ because I would do most of my work at last minute and, more often than not, I would do it well.

As age caught up with me though I became a little wiser. “How about making my weakness into a strength?” I thought one day. I reversed the scenario. Instead for being pressed for time, I pressed the time. I did by doing things as if it were the last minute. I tried a few times and I found it was doing a lot good to my performance and output. For years now when I work or carry out an assignment I do as if it were another last minute assignment. Now I have made this hypothetical situation a habit. The habit has now become a philosophy. The philosophy is of course not new. It is rather an age-old theory and one of the core teachings of Buddhism – impermanence. Having said that I do make plans too and some of my plans are real long-term. My dictum has therefore become, “work as if it is your last day. Plan as if you will live forever.”

Remembering that everything is impermanent and thereby working as if there won’t be another day makes you achieve more and make the best of your time. It makes you passionate about what you are doing and you are focused to complete it rather than leave it for another day. Impermanence also makes you cherish every moment of your life and appreciate everything and everyone around you.

The impermanence feeling also humbles me. When I am upset with my colleagues, it helps me to be in total control. Because it could be your last day at work. When I have temptations for anything it reminds me of the transitory nature of events and objects. So might as well not crave for it.

The law of impermanence has also been the basis of many simple actions in our society. For example, while in the West, cups and plates (cups especially) are stored in the kitchen cabinet facing up, in traditional Bhutanese homes cups are washed and kept facing down. This practice comes from Tibet where Buddhist masters would go to bed saying their last prayers every night. They would carefully clean the cup and place it facing down. You never know if you would wake up to use it the next day.

The law of impermanence also detaches you from things that are real temporary – like power and position. Talking to a group of young reporters in one of the newspapers, I was showered with praises for being very approachable and they hoped that I would remain the same. “Don’t worry,” I told them, “I have to realise that I won’t be in this position forever." They smiled. I contiuned, "One day we all leave this World anyway”. They all laughed. But that is the absolute truth. A former ambassador to Kuwait once told me that there is a beautiful saying inscribed in gold on the gate of the presidential palace there – one of the most luxurious residences of one of the world’s most powerful people. “If power was permanent it wouldn’t have come to you”.

So the law of impermanence is divine. You can only find different ways to walk it.


  1. Hello,

    My name is Taylor Ross.
    I am a Nonviolent Parent Educator in California, U.S.A., and an Infant Parent Mental Health Fellow at U-Mass Boston.

    I am doing a research project that focusses on the impact of cultural values of compassion, kindness and self-reflexion on the developing brain.

    I am hoping to do a documentary on the topic - With the ultimate goal of shedding light on the importance of these values/practices to the development of harmonious relationships, mental health and happiness.

    I was wondering if you may be interested, or know someone who might - that I could speak to about the practices and values of
    parenting and education in Bhutan.

    Sincere Thanks,

    my email is -

  2. I also belong to the category of last minute-rush. I never thought it can become one of the strength if it is seen different way. Thanks for the nice knowledge.....:)


  3. I also belong to the last-minute rush category. I never thought it can one of the strength. Thanks for the nice knowledge.....:)


  4. Thanks for sharing your views about impermanence, Dorji. Your article really shows that you "write to care." I am a better person now. : )

  5. @taylor. I am not sure if I could help you. But I know some people who could.

    @Anu. Welcome to the Last-Minute Genuis Club. Membership is open to all persons, races, nationalities who can prove they can deliver and not panic at last minute.

    @Lingchen. The past few days in Japan further convinced me of my belief in impermanence.