Principals: Three Marks of Conditioned Existence
After much meditation, the Buddha concluded
that everything in the physical world (plus everything in the phenomenology
of psychology) is marked by three characteristics, known as the three
characteristics of existence or Dharma Seals. Together the three
characteristics of existence are called ti-lakkhana, in Pali; or
tri-laksana, in Sanskrit.
or unsatisfactoriness. Nothing found in the physical world
or the psychological realm can bring lasting deep satisfaction.
> Anicca or impermanence. This refers not
only to the fact that all conditioned things eventually cease
to exist, but also
that all conditioned things are in a constant state of flux.
(A convenient way to visualize this would be to recall that the
constituting your body are constantly being replaced.)
> Anatta or impersonality. The human personality or "soul" is
a conventional appellation applied to the assembly of physical
and psychological components, each individually subject to constant
flux; there is no central core (or essence); this is somewhat similar
to a bundle theory of mind or soul.
There is often a fourth Dharma Seal mentioned:
Nirvana is peace. Nirvana is the 'other shore' from Samsara.
By bringing the three (or four) seals into moment-to-moment
experience through concentrated awareness, we achieve Wisdom — the third
of the three higher trainings — the way out of Samsara. In
this way we can identify that, according to Sutra, the recipe (or
formula) for leaving Samsara is achieved by a deep-rooted change
to our Weltanschauung. This demonstrates a much more psychological
approach to liberation compared to the Abrahamic religions.
Interpretations of the Three Marks by Various Schools
Some Buddhist traditions assert that Anatta pervades everything,
and is not limited to personality, or soul. These traditions
assert that Nirvana also has the quality of Anatta, but that
Nirvana (by definition) is the cessation of Dukkha and Anicca.
In Nagarjuna's MMK XXV:19, he says
“There is not the slightest difference
Between Samsara and Nirvana”
This verse points us to an interesting stress between dukkha and
nirvana, through an argument based in anatta. This specific stress
can be seen to be the key to (and possibly source for the development
of) the deity yogas of vajrayana.
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.
On the other hand, we are told that unconditioned, enlightened
activity is not actually different from 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, and in this context, these practices
remain rooted in psychological change, grounded in the development
of Samatha, or training in concentration.
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.
The purpose remains the same (to achieve liberating view), but
the method involves a 'short cut' for the training in Samatha.
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