Back to Basics – The Three Marks of Existence

In Buddhism, the three marks of existence are three characteristics shared by all sentient beings, namely impermanence (anicca),dissatisfaction or suffering (dukkha), and non-self (anattā).

  • Impermanence (anicca)

Anicca means “inconstancy” or “impermanence”. All conditioned things are in a constant state of flux. The appearance of a thing ceases as it changes from one form to another. When a leaf falls to the ground and decomposes its relative existence and appearance transform, and its components go into a different form, perhaps a new plant. Regarding permanence, Buddhism teaches the middle way, avoiding the extreme views of eternalism and nihilism.

  • Insubstantiality or “not-self” (anatta)

The Buddha does not claim that there is definitely not a self, only that the self we tend to identify with is not fixed. Instead, we consist in a process. The teaching of impermanence points out that we are always changing, and this also implies that there is no fixed part of ourselves which remains unchanged. If nothing remains unchanged, there is nothing which can contain a fixed identity.

  • Dissatisfaction  or suffering (dukkha)

Dukkha means dissatisfaction, “dis-ease”, “suffering” “stress”. As all things are impermanent, nothing in the physical world or the mind can bring lasting satisfaction. Dukkha is thus the dissatisfaction, suffering or stress experienced by all sentient beings that are not fully enlightened (fully aware of impermanence).

Click on The Three Marks of Existence to learn more.

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