Banpen Fugyō 万変不驚

It is said that there is nothing new under the sun, that life is cyclical and that history repeats. The more experiences we have, the more cycles we undertake, the more we come to understand the nature of life’s triumphs and tribulations, and the more we can personify the concept of banpen fugyo, which translated means ‘ten thousand changes, no surprises.’


Banpen fugyo expresses the ability to embrace emptiness and stillness amidst the chaos of change. It entails knowing that all things are possible and being prepared to react in the right way at the right time under any circumstances with a cool head and a ready heart. It entails getting comfortable with feeling uncomfortable and becoming intimately familiar with the emotions that accompany times of difficulty so that we can better manage them. It is a strategy of knowing the heart and tempering the mind to empower the spirit through change.


Everything changes by necessity. This is an attitude that we must keep at the forefront of our minds lest the desires of our hearts obscure the realities of our situations. We are changing every second of every day, impacting and interacting with everything around us as it also undergoes change. Our beliefs are subject to change, as are our attachments and our limitations. We must all face ten thousand changes, each one unique and valuable as a learning opportunity. We must humble ourselves in laying aside our spontaneous or shortsighted reactions and finding a place of reflection if we wish to receive the lessons each change has to offer.


In accumulating lessons, we strengthen our mental and spiritual kamae, preparing for the next of life’s challenges with newfound knowledge. Life entails continuous disruption to the states we become accustomed to, often necessitating painful adjustments to facilitate growth. Change and subsequent growth never happen in the exact same way, and life does not always provide warning before tragedy or upheaval strikes. We must therefore acquire a vast base of knowledge from which to draw so we can be prepared to adapt to anything at any time. Adaptation is a skill that will never fail and when the moment we have been training for arrives, it should come as no surprise.


At times when we are overwhelmed with events we could never have predicted and it feels no amount of training could have prepared us, it can be difficult to grasp what it means to be truly ready for any change that confronts us. At such times, it may be that the best we can do is simply to allow the events to run their course, acknowledging their obstacles as well as our capabilities and preparing to persevere with the understanding that this too shall pass. Eventually, even the most unexpected life events may cease to unnerve us, and when we encounter them, not only will we be ready, but we will also be useful to those who are not.


Knowing and accepting the cyclical nature of life – that neither highs nor lows are lasting, and another development is always on the way – affords us the ability to handle its different phases, never suspecting that the ones we find comfortable can be stretched into permanence simply by clinging to them. We have all endured changes that have made us who we are today. We have learned from them and grown from them, adding them to the repertory of what we know we can survive. This is how we accumulate wisdom, how we cultivate resilience and how we ultimately find peace in the chaos of life.


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