What are the Three Characteristics?

The Three Characteristics are the main teaching of the Buddha. It consists of Anicca (impermanent), Dukkha (suffering), and Anatta (non self). Three kinds of the teaching always cover the living beings. The Buddha said that if all conditions are impermanent. We have seen if all conditions are really impermanent. For example; our bodies are one sample which is very evident. They always change naturally every second and we cannot reject it. The Buddha said that all conditioned existence is governed by the Three Characteristics. They are also called the Three Seals of the Dhamma as the Buddha taught us that any teaching is abided by these Three Characteristics. It can be validated as a true teaching. Any teaching, that does not bear these three characteristics and the four noble Truths, cannot be said a teaching of the Buddha. To attain true happiness or enlightenment, these truths must be realized as they help us to touch reality.

The first characteristic is Anicca or impermanent (change). It describes phenomena from the point of view of time. Everything in the universe will be undergoing change including our physical and mental. It never stays the same for even just two consecutive split seconds. As everything is a result pr effect of changing causes and condition, everything changes constantly. The untrained Mind is even much more fickle and prone to change, having no stability of a fixed self nature. All living and non living elements are thus subject to decay and destruction. The law of Anicca is neutral and unbiased. It is ungoverned by any higher power or the God, as things decay, as well as become renewed naturally.

The second Characteristic is Dukkha (suffering). Nothing in this universe is capable of giving us complete and lasting satisfaction. This is due to the constant change of everything including what we treasure and the changing cravings of our untrained and conditioned mind. Even during the most pleasant experience, there is anxiety that the moment will not last long. Seeking lasting happiness in the constantly changing disturbs peace of the mind. It is causing the suffering. It also results in the suffering of repeated rebirth.

The last of characteristic is Anatta (non-self/impersonality). Anatta describes phenomena from the point of view space. Everything in the universe is compounded or made up of parts which are in turn made up of smaller and smaller parts. Each of these parts changes constantly, sometimes grossly but mostly to our sense. There is no single component of anything that is not subject to change. A thing only exists when the parts of it come together. Thus, there is no fixed unchanging self within anything. This is called impersonality. It also means that everything is interconnected and interdependent upon each other. Nothing exists on its own as a separate self. The mind also changes even much more rapidly. Thus, we cannot say the body, mind or any particular combination of the two is one’s self. Everything is impermanent or impersonality. There is no real or concrete element of self in us.