Essay: See Impermanence of an activity before you do it, to attain steam entry

Before you do an activity, whether with craving or without, see the Impermanence of it, play the sequence in your head. Doing this will let you see dependent origination, which results in steam entry.

Say grabbing something to eat when you’re not hungry, or playing video games, or browsing the web.

What does it always start with? Boredom aka discontent for the present moment.

From this point you have two options, endure the boredom, or engage in distraction (web, video games, food, etc…)

If you choose distraction, congratulations, you have chosen to suffer. Why? Because you can’t solve discontent/boredom by ignoring it. Hence, now you have just started the first chain in dependent origination: ignorance.

If instead you chose to endure the boredom, then you would have to develop sense-restraint, which results in overcoming the 5 hindrances, which results in knowledge and vision, which results in freedom and liberation.

But if you choose the path of distraction aka ignorance, then suffering must follow.

Now the intention arises (sankhara, nama-rupa) which results in the 6 senses of the body to make contact with the object of distraction, which results in feelings, cravings, attachment, becoming, birth, aging, death.

So whatever object of distraction/ignorance you choose, the process always begins/is born, and comes to an end/dies. Thus, you haven’t solved your root misery, boredom and discontent, and you’re back to square one.

As long as you remember whatever is born must die, whatever arises must cease, any attempt at distraction/ignoring/ignorance can only be further Suffering.

If you contemplate this before you do any activity, this is what is called contemplating the drawbacks, contemplating the birth and death, and that everything must come to an end and it thus futile to start the distraction, then you will become dispassionate and not start that activity, you will avoid (re)birth.

edit: to add, anything that goes down the path of distraction/ignorance is unwholesome. So in the context of the precepts: killing people doesn’t solve your discontent, lying, gossiping, cruelty, stealing, cheating, sex, alcohol, drugs, doesn’t solve your root misery and discontent.


This is incorrect. No knowledge of DO is necessary for progress on the path, but simple knowledge of impermanence is required.

"At Savatthi. "Monks, forms are inconstant, changeable, alterable. Sounds… Aromas… Flavors… Tactile sensations… Ideas are inconstant, changeable, alterable.

“One who has conviction & belief that these phenomena are this way is called a faith-follower: one who has entered the orderliness of rightness, entered the plane of people of integrity, transcended the plane of the run-of-the-mill. He is incapable of doing any deed by which he might be reborn in hell, in the animal womb, or in the realm of hungry shades. He is incapable of passing away until he has realized the fruit of stream-entry.”—SN 25.2

Seeing impermanence is the key which allows the practitioner to transition from the realm of conditioned experience under mundane right view, into the domain of transcendent right view.
Here is pointed out how for the layperson, contemplation of impermanence surpasses all acts associated with mundane right view:

“If one were to develop even for just a finger-snap the perception of inconstancy, that would be more fruitful than the gift, the great gift, that Velāma the brahman gave, and [in addition to that] if one were to feed one person… 100 people consummate in view, and were to feed one once-returner… 100 once-returners, and were to feed one non-returner… 100 non-returners, and were to feed one arahant… 100 arahants, and were to feed one Private Buddha… 100 Private Buddhas, and were to feed a Tathagata — a worthy one, rightly self-awakened — and were to feed a community of monks headed by the Buddha, and were to have a dwelling built and dedicated to the Community of the four directions, and with a confident mind were to go to the Buddha, Dhamma, & Sangha for refuge, and with a confident mind were to undertake the training rules — refraining from taking life, refraining from taking what is not given, refraining from illicit sex, refraining from lying, refraining from distilled & fermented drinks that cause heedlessness — and were to develop even just one whiff of a heart of good will.”—AN 9.20

That’s incorrect Paul, both are required. Impermanence is Dependently Originated Phenomena, but it says AND Dependent Origination, not either. There are other religions and philosophies that teach Impermanence, like Stoicism, but only the true dhamma teaches the four noble truths and Dependent Origination. “Simple knowledge of Impermanence” doesn’t make one an Ariya.

When a noble disciple has clearly seen with right wisdom this dependent origination and these dependently originated phenomena as they are, it’s impossible for them to turn back to the past, thinking: ‘Did I exist in the past? Did I not exist in the past? What was I in the past? How was I in the past? After being what, what did I become in the past?’ Or to turn forward to the future, thinking: ‘Will I exist in the future? Will I not exist in the future? What will I be in the future? How will I be in the future? After being what, what will I become in the future?’ Or to be undecided about the present, thinking: ‘Am I? Am I not? What am I? How am I? This sentient being—where did it come from? And where will it go?’ Why is that? Because that noble disciple has clearly seen with right wisdom this dependent origination and these dependently originated phenomena as they are.”

"Householder, when five fearful animosities have subsided in a noble disciple, and he possesses the four factors of stream-entry, and he has clearly seen and thoroughly penetrated with wisdom the noble method, if he wishes he could by himself declare of himself: ‘I am one finished with hell, finished with the animal realm, finished with the domain of ghosts, finished with the plane of misery, the bad destinations, the nether world. I am a stream-enterer, no longer bound to the nether world, fixed in destiny, with enlightenment as my destination.’

And what is the noble method that he has clearly seen and thoroughly penetrated with wisdom? Here, householder, the noble disciple attends closely and carefully to dependent origination itself thus: ‘When this exists, that comes to be; with the arising of this, that arises. When this does not exist, that does not come to be; with the cessation of this, that ceases. That is, with ignorance as condition, volitional formations come to be; with volitional formations as condition, consciousness…. Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering. But with the remainderless fading away and cessation of ignorance comes cessation of volitional formations; with the cessation of volitional formations, cessation of consciousness…. Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering.’

“This is the noble method that he has clearly seen and thoroughly penetrated with wisdom.