The True Nature of Existence —
Anicca, Dukkha and Anatta

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Qualities of the Dharma
The Four Noble Truths
The Noble Eightfold Path
The True Nature of Existence
  The Five Aggregates of Clinging
  Anicca, Dukkha and Anatta
  Dependent Arising
  Kamma, Nibbana and Rebirth


The Sangha
The Buddhist Sangha



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 of:

  • 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, in suffering.

The three universal marks of existence

The 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