Three marks of existence

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In Buddhism, the three marks of existence are three characteristics (Pali: tilakkhaa; Sanskrit: त्रिलक्षण, trilakaa) of all existence and beings, namely impermanence ( aniccā ), non-self ( anattā ) and unsatisfactoriness or suffering ( dukkha ). [1] [2] [3] [4] That humans are subject to delusion about the three marks, that this delusion results in suffering, and that removal of that delusion results in the end of suffering, is a central theme in the Buddhist Four Noble Truths and Noble Eightfold Path.

Contents

According to Thích Nhất Hạnh, [5] the three seals are impermanence, non-self and nirvana. He says in "The heart of the Buddha's Teaching" that "In several sutras the Buddha taught that nirvana, the joy of completely extinguishing our ideas and concepts, rather than suffering, is one of the Three Dharma Seals."

Description

The three marks are: [6]

In the Mahayana Yogācārabhūmi-Śāstra however, four characteristics are described instead of three: [8]

In the sutra "The Questions of the Nāga King Sāgara" Sāgaranāgarājaparipṛcchā [9] these four marks are defined as:

In the Samyukta Agama a different formulation is made, in which the Buddha taught impermanence, nonself, and nirvana as the Three Dharma Seals. Here nirvana replaces dukkha as the Third Dharma Seal: [10]

Explanation

Anicca

Impermanence (Pali anicca, Sanskrit anitya) means that all things (saṅkhāra) are in a constant state of flux. Buddhism states that all physical and mental events come into being and dissolve. [11] Human life embodies this flux in the aging process and the cycle of repeated birth and death (Samsara); nothing lasts, and everything decays. This is applicable to all beings and their environs, including beings who are reborn in deva (god) and naraka (hell) realms. [12] [13] This is in contrast to nirvana, the reality that is nicca, or knows no change, decay or death. [14]

Dukkha

Dukkha (Sanskrit duhkha) means "unsatisfactoriness, suffering, pain". [15] [16] [17] The dukkha includes the physical and mental sufferings that follows each rebirth, aging, illness, dying; dissatisfaction from getting what a being wishes to avoid or not getting the desired, and no satisfaction from Sankhara dukkha, in which everything is conditioned and conditioning, or because all things are not experienced as impermanent and without any essence. [15] [18] [19]

Anatta

Anatta (Sanskrit anatman) refers to the doctrine of "non-self", that there is no unchanging, permanent Self or soul in living beings and no abiding essence in anything or phenomena. [20] [21]

While anicca and dukkha apply to "all conditioned phenomena" (saṅkhārā), anattā has a wider scope because it applies to all dhammās without "conditioned, unconditioned" qualification. [22] Thus, nirvana too is a state of "without Self" or anatta. [22] The phrase "sabbe dhamma anatta" includes within its scope each skandha (aggregate, heap) that compose any being, and the belief "I am" is a mark of conceit which must be destroyed to end all dukkha. [23] The Anattā doctrine of Buddhism denies that there is anything called a 'Self' in any person or anything else, and that a belief in 'Self' is a source of Dukkha. [24] [25] Some Buddhist traditions and scholars, however, interpret the anatta doctrine to be strictly in regard to the five aggregates rather than a universal truth. [26] [27] [28] Religious studies scholar Alexander Wynne calls anattā a "not-self" teaching rather than a "no-self" teaching. [29]

Application

In Buddhism, ignorance of (avidyā, or moha; i.e. a failure to grasp directly) the three marks of existence is regarded as the first link in the overall process of saṃsāra whereby a being is subject to repeated existences in an endless cycle of suffering. As a consequence, dissolving that ignorance through direct insight into the three marks is said to bring an end to saṃsāra and, as a result, to that suffering (dukkha nirodha or nirodha sacca, as described in the third of the Four Noble Truths).

Gautama Buddha taught that all beings conditioned by causes (saṅkhāra) are impermanent (anicca) and suffering (dukkha), and that not-self (anattā) characterises all dhammas, meaning there is no "I", "me", or "mine" in either the conditioned or the unconditioned (i.e. nibbāna). [30] [31] The teaching of three marks of existence in the Pali Canon is credited to the Buddha. [22] [32] [33]

Correspondence with Pyrrhonism

The Greek philosopher Pyrrho traveled to India with Alexander the Great's army, spending approximately 18 months there learning Indian philosophy from the Indian gymnosophists. Upon returning to Greece Pyrrho founded one of the major schools of Hellenistic philosophy, Pyrrhonism, which he based on what appears to have been his interpretation of the Three marks of existence. Pyrrho summarized his philosophy as follows:

"Whoever wants to live well (eudaimonia) must consider these three questions: First, how are pragmata (ethical matters, affairs, topics) by nature? Secondly, what attitude should we adopt towards them? Thirdly, what will be the outcome for those who have this attitude?" Pyrrho's answer is that "As for pragmata they are all adiaphora (undifferentiated by a logical differentia), astathmēta (unstable, unbalanced, not measurable), and anepikrita (unjudged, unfixed, undecidable). Therefore, neither our sense-perceptions nor our doxai (views, theories, beliefs) tell us the truth or lie; so we certainly should not rely on them. Rather, we should be adoxastoi (without views), aklineis (uninclined toward this side or that), and akradantoi (unwavering in our refusal to choose), saying about every single one that it no more is than it is not or it both is and is not or it neither is nor is not." [34]

Philologist Christopher Beckwith has identified the three terms used here by Pyrrho - adiaphora, astathmēta, and anepikrita - to be nearly direct translations of anatta, dukkha, and anicca into ancient Greek. [35]

See also

Related Research Articles

Duḥkha is an important concept in Hinduism and Buddhism, commonly translated as "suffering", "unhappiness", "pain", "unsatisfactoriness" or "stress". It refers to the fundamental unsatisfactoriness and painfulness of mundane life. It is the first of the Four Noble Truths and it is one of the three marks of existence. The term also appears in scriptures of Hinduism, such as the Upanishads, in discussions of moksha.

Four Noble Truths Basic framework of Buddhist thought

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Nirvāṇa is a concept in Indian religions that represents the ultimate state of soteriological release, the liberation from duḥkha and saṃsāra.

In Buddhism, the term anattā or anātman refers to the doctrine of "non-self" – that no unchanging, permanent self or essence can be found in any phenomenon. While often interpreted as a doctrine denying the existence of a self, anatman is more accurately described as a strategy to attain non-attachment by recognizing everything as impermanent, while staying silent on the ultimate existence of an unchanging essence. In contrast, Hinduism asserts the existence of Atman as pure consciousness or witness-consciousness, "reify[ing] consciousness as an eternal self."

Impermanence Philosophical concept

Impermanence, also known as the philosophical problem of change, is a philosophical concept addressed in a variety of religions and philosophies. In Eastern philosophy it is notable for its role in the Buddhist three marks of existence. It is also an element of Hinduism. In Western philosophy it is most famously known through its first appearance in Greek philosophy in the writings of Heraclitus and in his doctrine of panta rhei. In Western philosophy the concept is also referred to as becoming.

Taṇhā is an important concept in Buddhism, referring to "thirst, desire, longing, greed", either physical or mental. It is typically translated as craving, and is of three types: kāma-taṇhā, bhava-taṇhā, and vibhava-taṇhā.

Ātman, attā or attan in Buddhism is the concept of self, and is found in Buddhist literature's discussion of the concept of non-self (Anatta).

Saṅkhāra is a term figuring prominently in Buddhism. The word means 'formations' or 'that which has been put together' and 'that which puts together'.

Buddhism is an Indian religion or philosophical tradition based on a series of original teachings attributed to Gautama Buddha. It originated in ancient India as a Sramana tradition sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE, spreading through much of Asia. It is the world's fourth-largest religion with over 520 million followers, or over 7% of the global population, known as Buddhists. Buddhism encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs and spiritual practices largely based on the Buddha's teachings and resulting interpreted philosophies.

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Saṃsāra in Buddhism and Hinduism is the beginningless cycle of repeated birth, mundane existence and dying again. Samsara is considered to be dukkha, suffering, and in general unsatisfactory and painful, perpetuated by desire and avidya (ignorance), and the resulting karma.

Avidyā in Buddhist literature is commonly translated as "ignorance". The concept refers to ignorance or misconceptions about the nature of metaphysical reality, in particular about the impermanence and anatta doctrines about reality. It is the root cause of Dukkha, and asserted as the first link, in Buddhist phenomenology, of a process that leads to repeated birth.

<i>Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta</i> Buddhist text

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Gautama Buddha in Hinduism Avatar of the god Vishnu

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Skandhas (Sanskrit) or khandhas (Pāḷi) means "heaps, aggregates, collections, groupings". In Buddhism, it refers to the five aggregates of clinging, the five material and mental factors that take part in the rise of craving and clinging. They are also explained as the five factors that constitute and explain a sentient being’s person and personality, but this is a later interpretation in response to sarvastivadin essentialism.

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Anātman in Sanskrit means that "which is different from atman" or "non-self". In Hinduism, the former definition is found in some texts, while in Buddhism, anātman or anattā means non-self.

Dharmamudrā is a Buddhist term translated as "the seal of the dharma" or "the distinguishing mark of the dharma". It can be construed as the objective qualities of all phenomena, but is generally interpreted as the "seal" or "mark" that distinguish the Buddhist teachings from non-Buddhist ones. Dharmamudrā also provides doctrinal insight that distinguishes the definitive teachings of Buddhism from the provisional teachings.

References

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  17. Malcolm Huxter (2016). Healing the Heart and Mind with Mindfulness: Ancient Path, Present Moment. Routledge. p. 10. ISBN   978-1-317-50540-2. dukkha (unsatisfactoriness or suffering) (....) In the Introduction I wrote that dukkha is probably best understood as unsatisfactoriness.
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    [b] Brian Morris (2006). Religion and Anthropology: A Critical Introduction. Cambridge University Press. p. 51. ISBN   978-0-521-85241-8. (...) anatta is the doctrine of non-self, and is an extreme empiricist doctrine that holds that the notion of an unchanging permanent self is a fiction and has no reality. According to Buddhist doctrine, the individual person consists of five skandhas or heaps - the body, feelings, perceptions, impulses and consciousness. The belief in a self or soul, over these five skandhas, is illusory and the cause of suffering.
    [c] Richard Gombrich (2006). Theravada Buddhism. Routledge. p. 47. ISBN   978-1-134-90352-8. (...) Buddha's teaching that beings have no soul, no abiding essence. This 'no-soul doctrine' (anatta-vada) he expounded in his second sermon.
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  32. Dhammapada Verses 277, 278 and 279
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Sources

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