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The Three Marks of Existence

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  • Pages: 5
  • Word count: 1147
  • Category: Buddhism

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Explain the importance of the three marks of existence for Buddhists [25]

The Buddha believed and taught that everything in the world is related to the three marks of existence, and that everything and everyone is conditioned by the world around them. The three marks are made up of dukkha, anicca and anatta which, combined are reasoned to be the inescapable factors which are underlying in our world spiritually and physically. It is argued that Buddhists like the idea of the three marks of existence because it gives them a greater understanding about themselves, as well as their purpose in this state of being. Also, it may be important as the Buddha’s clear knowledge and understanding is strongly believed by Buddhist followers, therefore it can be seen as the basis for understanding the reasons for living. Although this may be argued as depressive, for example dukkha is about suffering which is a topic many people are unwilling to talk about, and don’t like the idea as their believe it is too negative. However, for Buddhists the three fundamental marks of existence offer a true insight into the reality of life as well as greater understanding. Firstly dukkha is the idea that in life everyone will suffer and feel dissatisfaction.

This is important as it helps give people an idea about the importance of suffering and being able to accept certain circumstances that may or may not have been inevitable. Dukkha is a Pali term and was taught by the Buddha as the first of the Four Noble Truths, as well as a mark of existence. He said that if everyone looked around the world you would see a great deal of suffering, for example like he did when he witness old age, illness, death and a holy man. Even people, like Siddhartha Gautama who were rich and privileged feel dissatisfaction at some point in their life. When looking at suffering and impermanence compared it can be seen that any happiness in life is prone to change, this may be natural change such as the inevitability of aging and eventually dying. Suffering can be said to come from craving for pleasure and a wish to avoid pain, also it may come from those attempting to hold on to things that are impermanent, for example when a friend or family member is dying there is suffering at the thought of loosing someone who is going to die. Anicca is the believe that everything is in a state of flux and is living in condition existence, in other words everything and everyone are based on the conditions around them.

The idea of impermanence also relates to the Buddhist belief that things only exist when certain factors come together and as some point in time those factors will naturally separate and disperse and the compound thing will cease to exist. There are two important differences between change, one is gross and the other momentary. Firstly gross level of change is often described as undeniable, it is the change that can be seen from day to day, for example weather, aging, growth and death. This type of change is common and can be seen everywhere in the world. Whereas momentary change is often more difficult to see and can be overlooked, for example everything is a state of flux where even though objects such as tables look the same everyday in fact there are undergoing constant change, however the change is so small it cannot be seen with the naked eye. Even though certain people may be in agreement that impermanence affects all inanimate and animate objects in the world, God, for example, would not be God if he was not eternal.

Yet the Buddha denies in the existence of God as well as the soul, this is because although there is ideas that certain things exist there is no proof that in reality it actually exists. In other words there are clear images of objects yet they do not exist, for example unicorns. Anicca teaches that there is no such thing as a permanent existence. Anatta is the final mark of existence that states there is ‘no-self’ or ‘no-being’, ultimately this refers to the idea of impermanence. A Buddhists would say that nothing is fixed or permanent in life. Buddhism is different to many religions as it has a firm idea on the soul or atman. Buddhists don’t believe in the existence of an eternal and fixed entity called soul. The reasons behind this belief are that the existence of a soul must be impossible because all things are subject to continuous change, death and decay. The Buddha advised that the acceptance of no-self is crucial for eliminated attachment to impermanent objects such as ownership and possession, especially from materialistic things, to end attachment could help reduce suffering or dukkha; this therefore contributes to the understanding and realisation of no-self or anatta. An ability to accept that nothing is permanent will help reduce suffering in life.

Given the example of a chariot, it is clear that the name given to a group of objects is only when put together become what is referred to as a chariot, however individually those parts are not a chariot; they are t hewheels or framework. Overall, the three marks of existence offer an open idea about the true reasons for existence as the interpreted from the Buddha’s teachings. Combined the marks cover all aspects of life and reality, even though some may argue the negativity of them, for example the idea of no soul, or no God. However, they are important, especially for Buddhists as they offer clear understanding into the idea of no-self which may teach people to be less self-obsessed as well as attached to inanimate objects such as money or property. Also, the acceptance of impermanence and the idea that change is inevitable will help lead to people to a better understanding and acceptance about their life, as well lead people to come to terms with and realise that although at some point their will die and age, by accepting this they will suffer less.

Furthermore, by understanding that nothing lasts forever will help a Buddhists feel free from attachment which can again lead to suffering. The Buddha believed in reaching a state of understanding and mindfulness, whereby reaching enlightenment he learned of his past lives and saw the past lives of other people. Therefore many have remained following his teachings and mediating to reach enlightenment in the aim to hopefully reach Nibbana. Nibbana is not a thing that wordings can express in a conventional language, instead it is the purest state of insight and it surpasses anything that is ordinary. It is the happiest state or the ultimate peaceful bliss of emancipation which utterly eliminates all passions that cause suffering whilst in existence.

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