The 8th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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Three marks of existence
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The Three marks of existence, within Buddhism, are three characteristics (Pali: tilakkhaṇa; Sanskrit: trilakaṇa) shared by all sentient beings, namely: impermanence (anicca); suffering or unsatisfactoriness (dukkha); non-self (anattā).
The Buddha taught that all beings conditioned by causes (saṅkhāra) are impermanent (anicca) and suffering (dukkhā) while he said not-self (anattā) characterizes all dhammas meaning there is no "I" or "mine" in the conditioned as well as the unconditioned (i.e. Nibbāna).
- Dukkha (Sanskrit duhkha) or dissatisfaction (or "dis-ease"; also often translated "suffering", though this is somewhat misleading).
- Anatta (Sanskrit anatman) or "non-Self" is used in the suttas both as a noun and as a predicative adjective to denote that phenomena are not, or are without, a self; to describe any and all composite,
consubstantial, phenomenal and temporal things, from the macrocosmic to microcosmic, be it matter pertaining to the physical body or the cosmos at large, as well as any and all mental machinations, which are impermanent.
There is often a fourth Dharma Seal mentioned:
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In Mahayana Buddhism, a caveat is added: one should indeed always meditate on the impermanence and transitory nature of compound structures and phenomena, but one must guard against extending this to the realm of Nirvana, where impermanence holds no sway.
It is referred to as 'beyond extremes.'
We somehow think that we can go somewhere where we’ll have a better sofa seat, a better shower system, a better sewer system, a nirvana where you don’t even have to have a remote control, where everything is there the moment you think of it.
But as I said earlier, it’s not that we are adding something new that was not there before.
- Whatever is impermanent is subject to change. Whatever is subject to change is subject to suffering.
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This concept and the related concept of Brahman, the Vedantic monistic ideal, which was regarded as an ultimate ātman for all beings, were indispensable for mainstream Indian metaphysics, logic, and science;
In fact, according to the Buddha's statement in Khandha Samyutta 47, all thoughts about self are necessarily, whether the thinker is aware of it or not, thoughts about the five aggregates or one of them.
the Srimala Sutra, among others), the Buddha is presented as clarifying this teaching by saying that, while the skandhas (constituents of the ordinary body and mind) are not the self, there does truly exist an eternal,
The "tathagatagarbha"/Buddha nature does not represent a substantial self; rather, it is a positive language expression of "sunyata" (emptiness) and represents the potentiality to realize Buddhahood through Buddhist practices; the intention of the teaching of tathagatagarbha
In this text, the monk Nagasena demonstrates the concept of absolute "non-Self" by likening human beings to a chariot and challenges the Greek king "Milinda" (Menander) to find the essence of the chariot.
Nagasena states that just as a chariot is made up of a number of things, none of which are the essence of the chariot in isolation, without the other pieces, similarly no one part of a person is a permanent entity;
we can be broken up into five constituents – body, sensations, ideation, mental formations and consciousness – the consciousness being closest to the permanent idea of "Self", but is ever-changing with each new thought according to this viewpoint.
But on the ultimate level of analysis, one cannot distinguish an object from its causes and conditions or even distinguish between object and subject (an idea appearing relatively recently in Western science).
It is by realizing (not merely understanding intellectually, but making real in one's experience) the three marks of conditioned existence that one develops prajñā, which is the antidote to the ignorance that lies at the root of all suffering.
Interpretations by various schools
- The sutra path enjoins us to identify the entire world (internally and externally) as samsara – a continual churning of suffering that nobody wants to be part of. Our practice is that of leaving the shores of samsara.
- Whereas the deity yoga of vajrayana enjoins us to identify the entire world as nirvana – a continual play of enlightening activity that everyone wishes to be a part of. Our practice here is that of arriving at the shores of nirvana.
At this level, the distinction between Sutra and Vajrayana remain that of view (departing vs. arriving), but basically the practitioner remains involved in undergoing a transformative development to his or her Weltanschauung,
However, there are certain practices in Tantra which are not solely concerned with psychological change; these revolve around the basic idea that it is possible to induce deep levels of concentration through psycho-physical methods as a result of special exercises.
- Nārada, The Dhammapada (1978), pp. 224.
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu, The Not-Self Strategy. .
- Nanavira Thera, Nibbana and Anatta. . Early Writings -> Nibbana and Anatta -> Nibbana, Atta, and Anatta.
- Heng-Ching Shih, "The Significance Of 'Tathagatagarbha' -- A Positive Expression Of 'Sunyata.'" http://zencomp.com/greatwisdom/ebud/ebdha191.htm.