The Buddha taught that life has 3 characteristics (the Three Marks of Existence/Three Universal Truths/Three Lakshanas. The Three Lakshanas are anicca, dukkha and anatta. They allow one to see the true nature of reality, and if one does not see things as they really are, this causes them to suffer.
Dukkha (suffering) is the human condition. It is often translated as ‘unsatisfactoriness’. Dukkha is the first of the Four Noble Truths. It means that no happiness is permanent and all happiness is tainted by dukkha. Dukkha is a fundamental philosophical concept which requires a lot of explanation.
Anicca (impermanence) means that there is a chain of cause and effect that everything is subject to. An example of the transcience of all things is a flower, which changes and decays. Paticcasamuppada means that everything has a conditioned existence. Everything is interconnected. This relates to Heraclitus’ theory of flux – ‘you cannot step in the same river twice’.
Anatta (non-self) is the view that nothing about the person exists eternally without change. The self is dependent on 5 skhandhas: body, sensations, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness. There is no eternal soul after rebirth. The flame and rope analogies can be used to describe the process of death and rebirth.
Annica – Impermanence
Change is the focal point for Buddhist insight — a fact so well known that it has spawned a familiar sound bite: “Isn’t change what Buddhism is all about?”
In terms, though, of how we use this in our meditations and reflections we can think about the following two frames of reference
Insight into change teaches us to embrace our experiences without clinging to them — to get the most out of them in the present moment by fully appreciating their intensity, in full knowledge that we will soon have to let them go to embrace whatever comes next.
Insight into change teaches us hope. Because change is built into the nature of things, nothing is inherently fixed, not even our own identity. No matter how bad the situation, anything is possible. We can do whatever we want to do, create whatever world we want to live in, and become whatever we want to be. We just have to be strong and brave. Although change is inevitable, we can clearly influence what happens in our lives. We can choose to introduce change that is skilful and supports others.
You may like to consider this in your contemplations. If experiences are so fleeting and changeable, are they worth the effort needed to produce them? How can we find genuine hope in the prospect of positive change if we can’t fully rest in the results when they arrive? Aren’t we just setting ourselves up for disappointment? Should we just be nihilistic about this and roll with the world. Well, by interesting mindfulness we do start to see the positive and skilful change we can introduce. Our thoughts in reality are exceptionally quick and fleeting but they DO trigger actions from us.
So, the meditation for today is to look at the thoughts as they are born in the mind. To develop a habit of noticing them and noticing how they influence our lives. Despite their impermanent nature, they influence us. They are the biggest influencer in our lives!