Is 'impermanence' skillful means?

Wikipedia's definition of "Skillful means" says:

The implication [of skillful means] is that even if a technique, view, etc., is not ultimately "true" in the highest sense, it may still be an expedient practice to perform or view to hold; i.e., it may bring the practitioner closer to the true realization in a similar way.

And of Impermanance:

The doctrine asserts that all of conditioned existence, without exception, is "transient, evanescent, inconstant". All temporal things, whether material or mental, are compounded objects in a continuous change of condition, subject to decline and destruction.

I think that, for some Mahayana schools, everything is skillful means. So is the doctrine of impermanence "skillful means" too?

I am looking for an answer which:

  • Says yes or no (and explains why)
  • References a sastra or sutra (if there is one) which claims or implies this answer
  • Preferably, also, explains what (if any) bearing that may have to understanding any other doctrine: such as anatta; voidness; or the buddha-nature.
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4 Answers 4


Well in one sense impermanence is ultimately true. In the other sense though it's just a concept, an idea, used to make a point. The objective of the point is to preempt grasping for things as if they were permanent, and the purpose of non-grasping is prevention of suffering. But even prevention of suffering is merely one of many motives that leads a person to enlightenment, other motive for example being perfection or conceit. In this sense everything is just a skillful mean inasmuch as it pushes some people in the right direction.

  • Yes you have practice Anicca, Dukkha and Anatta in skilful means. Basically this applies to all teaching of Buddha.
  • Reference:




Not all kind of 'impermanence' can be seen als 'skillful means', just the path, leading beyond 'insecurity' counts as 'skillful means'.

Useful Essay: The Essence of the Dhamma and for "wordily" issues Wisdom over Justice

As for the case where some Mahayana schools, say, everything is skillful means, here it seems that other views have been addopted, reminding on deterministical assuming of cause and effect.

A talk and explaining, direct on the topic, here:

The Integrity (good means) of Emptiness, by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (2006; 10pp./30KB)

Much has been written about the Buddhist concept of emptiness — in particular, that it refers to a metaphysical principle of the absence of any inherent existence. In this essay the author points out that this notion has very little to do with what the Buddha himself actually said about emptiness. In fact, the Buddha's teachings on emptiness are of a fundamentally practical nature, having everything to do with how to choose your actions with care and how to relate to their results with wisdom.

[Note: This is a gift of Dhamma and not meant for commercial purpose or other low wordily gains of trade and exchange]


I think you're answering your own question. I think one's understanding of skillful means ought to include the understanding that what is true for one is not true for all. What is true for a man is not true for all man. So impermenance or this or that specific doctrine may for you personally not apply or rather, may not hold truth for you to gleam or learn from.

I dare to suggest that if there are those who say 'everything is skillful means' that this is so for a reason, one perhaps that does not concern you personally as ur character or whoever you were before was able to get here because of how you understood Dharma before. This just means that the truth of one doctrine may not be applicable to who you were before waking up. Wasn't your understanding of impermenance at the time before you woke up integral to your attainment? If it changes after the fact is not so important? If it were changed how would sentient beings get to where you got when you woke up?

Buddha Nature is a funny term because it can really only be understood if one is enlightened. It's definition exists in time not space.

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