What Are the Five Recollections?

These five reminders about the reality of impermanence and karma are attributed to the Buddha himself, as taught in the “Upajjhatthana Sutta.”

Lion’s Roar
27 October 2016
Illustration by Ray Fenwick.

Frank and pithy, these five reminders about the reality of impermanence and karma are attributed to the Buddha himself, as taught in the Upajjhatthana Sutta. Though they start with what is plainly “bad news,” contemplating the Five Recollections helps us accept life’s difficulties, motivating us to practice and be kind to ourselves and others.

  1. I am of the nature to grow old; there is no way to escape growing old.
  2. I am of the nature to have ill health; there is no way to escape having ill health.
  3. I am of the nature to die; there is no way to escape death.
  4. All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.
  5. My deeds are my closest companions. I am the beneficiary of my deeds. My deeds are the ground on which I stand.

These traditional statements of foundational Buddhist thought have been embraced by dharma communities across traditions, many of which recite them daily. Try reciting them three times over and notice how your feelings about them do or do not change in the process.

Lion's Roar

Lion’s Roar

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