Now that we have briefly looked at the five aggregates as
a framework for examining the world of existence to which we
cling, we will explore the universal characteristics of phenomena
that pervade our experience:
Formations are things which arise from causes
and conditions; they include all compounded or formed
phenomena. Although all formations around us have these three
characteristics, we are unable to see them because our minds
are ordinarily cloaked by ignorance.
We call them perversions because they turn everything we’re
aware of upside-down.
The perversions operate at three levels:
First we perceive things in a distorted way.
Then building upon these distorted perceptions the mind
thinks about the percepts in a distorted way.
Then weaving these distorted thoughts together
into a picture of the world, we interpret our experience
in a distorted way.
We become subject to wrong understanding, to the perversions
- regarding what is unattractive as attractive. especially
objects of sense enjoyment.
- seeing what is dukkha or unsatisfactory as pleasurable.
- regarding what is impermanent as permanent.
- regarding what is really not self as self.
Each of these four delusions occur at the three levels – perception,
thinking and views. And because of these distorted notions,
our minds get caught up in the web of illusion. They
give rise to craving, conceit, wrong views and all the other
defilements. In that way we become entangled in dukkha,
The three universal marks of existence
individual being is a complex unity
of the five aggregates, which are all stamped with the
three marks of impermanence, suffering, and selflessness.
In this lesson we explore how the Buddha’s teaching
on the three marks of existence — impermanence,
suffering and selflessness — provides the remedy to clear
away our delusions, the means to get free from suffering.
These universal characteristics have to be understood
in two stages: first intellectually, by
reflection, and thereafter by direct insight
or realization through insight meditation.
The intellectual understanding you gain from
this lesson is not a substitute for practice.
This lesson is a guideline for understanding
what has to be seen by the actual practice
of insight meditation. A future Ashoka
course will teach insight meditation