The Three Characteristics of existence

The three characteristics of existence

For start to explain The Three Characteristics of existence, There is cute poem written by a famous poet Robert Herrick. Though his theme was daffodils, he has tried to give a deep message to us.

‘’ Fair daffodils, we weep to see
You haste away so soon,
As yet the early-rising sun
Has not attained his noon
We have short time to stay, as you,
We have as short a spring,
As quick a growth to meet decay,
As you, or anything
We die
As your hours do, and dry away
Like to summer’s rain;
Or as the pearls of morning’s dew,
Ne’er to be found again. “
Robert Herrick –

Daffodil is a beautiful flower. It has a short time to beautify the environment. With rising up of the sun, flowers become pale. Little by little, it goes to end. Through this cute poem, the poet tried to emphasize, the decay, death and transience of life. Like a daffodil, our lives have same destiny. There are three stages of our lives as birth, ageing and death. In this manner we should understand the way things really are impermanence (anicca), unsatisfactorily (dukkha) and non-self (anatta) of all imaginable phenomena of the world.


1. Anicca : Impermanence

The impermanence is the key to understanding the ultimate nature of things. All objects, animate and inanimate are characterized by this impermanence. They have to lasting or absolute entity and are subject to decay. The understanding of impermanence gives us insight which is beneficial to our practice of the Dhamma. This knowledge helps to learn our attachment to existence.


2. Dukkha : Unsatisfactorily

‘’sabbe sankhara dukkha’’, whatever is impermanent is unsatisfactory. In our ignorance of the real nature of things, we crave and cling to objects in the unrealistic hope that they may be permanent and, that they may yield permanent happiness. We think that our bodies are permanent, they too are subject to constant change. We grow old and grey, our hair falls out, our teeth fall out, skin becomes wrinkles, still we long to hold on to our youth, remain healthy and to prolong our lives.

We fail to recognize the impermanence is a cause pf our suffering. The Buddha said, ‘’Sabbe dhamma anatta’’ (all conditioned and compound things are inherent in them. Having come into existence they cease). From this uttering, it is clearly explaining that, whatever has been born will definitely die sooner or later. This is inherent in all of us. Animate and Inanimate objects are characterized by impermanence.

The Three Characteristics of existence


3. Anatta – non-self

This means the concept of ‘’non- self’’. In Buddhism, what we called self or an individual is compound of five aggregates.

  • Rupa – form
  • Vedana – feeling
  • Sanna – perception
  • Sankara – mental formations
  • Vinnana – consciousness

Objectively seen, what we called ‘’I‘’ or ‘’my‘’ is only a combination of physical and mental aggregates which are working together interdependently, changing from moment within the low of cause and effect. The truth is that, there is nothing to take or aspect as ‘’me‘’ or ‘’mine’’. There is nothing permanent, everlasting on unchanging in the whole pf existence. The reason is our idea of ‘’me‘’ and ‘’mine‘’, arises because of our selfish desires, craving, attachment, hatred, concept, pride, egoism, impurities and problems. This is the source of all the troubles in the world from personal conflicts to wars between nations. According to the same low, our human life not exists as something unchanging. It changes in every moment, because of various related factors. According to Buddhism, everything is interconnected and interdependent. The Buddha clearly enunciated this theory,

‘’ imasmin sati idam hoti
Imassuppadam uppajjati
Imasmin asati idam na hoti
Imassa nirodha idam nirujjhati ‘’

“When this is, this is.

From the arising of this, this arises.

When this is not present, this is not present.

With the cessation of this, this ceases”

The meaning is all conditioned things help each other to happen and it turns, each happening affects the other. Every act is a reciprocal dynamic.

Understanding what impermanence, suffering and non-self of all conditioned things truly implies is to comprehend the futility of grasping things as our own. As Buddhists, when we offer flowers to Buddha, we chant follow Pali stanza.


Reality is,

‘’ pujemi buddhan kusemenanena
Punnena metenca hotu mokkhan
Puppham milayati yatha idam me
Kayo tatha yati vinasabhavan ‘’

‘’I am offering the Buddha with these flowers, may I attain my emancipation with the merit accrued thereof! Just as a blossom fades away, so is my body subject to decay.’’ We practically memories, what Buddha taught us regarding the truth around us.

As ordinary ones, we all have a hesitation to understand this truth because of our youth, wealth, religion, state and some other things. But, think a while, if you are a young person, you have passed your childhood, your teenage and now you in your youth. After you will be in your middle age. In the end, you will be die in one day. During this time, we become illness, grey and changed. We cannot change this truth as our desire. Definitely it happens. While you are reading this article, you are ageing at least a moment. Therefore, without curse to this truth, let’s try to understand the reality by referring Dhamma. Refer our next articles to understand Dhamma.

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“The stupid and ignorant one let heedlessness. But the wise one keeps his heedfulness as his best cherish.”

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