Nyanaponika Thera

The Three Basic Facts of Existence I: Impermancence (Anicca)

The Three Basic Facts of Existence I: Impermancence (Anicca)

If we contemplate even a minute sector of the vast range of life, we are faced with such a tremendous variety of life’s manifestations that it defeats description.

And yet three basic statements can be made that are valid for all animate existence, from the microbe up to the creative mind of a human genius.

These features common to all life were first found and formulated over 2500 years ago by the Buddha, who was rightly called “Knower of the Worlds” (loka-vidu). They are the Three Characteristics (ti-lakkhana) of all that is conditioned, i.e., dependently arisen.

These three basic facts of all existence are impermanence or change (anicca), suffering or unsatisfactoriness (dukkha) and not-self or Insubstantiality (anatta).

Existence can be understood only if these three basic facts are comprehended, and this not only logically, but in confrontation with one’s own experience.

Insight-wisdom (vipassanapanna) which is the ultimate liberating factor in Buddhism, consists just of this experience of the three characteristics applied to one’s own bodily and mental processes, and deepened and matured in meditation.


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About Nyanaponika Thera

Nyanaponika Thera (Siegmund Feniger) was born on 21 July 1901 in Hanau, Germany. He came into contact with Buddhism early in his youth and left for Sri Lanka in 1936, where he was ordained as a novice and a year later as a monk by the famous German monk Nyanatiloka.

Interned in camps like Dehra Dun's in India, he worked intensively during the war years on translations of Pali texts. Not only as author of the now classic The Heart of Buddhist Meditation and of many other books and translations, but also as co-founder in 1958, editor and president of the Buddhist Publication Society he made a great contribution to the international dissemination of the Theravāda teachings. He died on October 19, 1994 in Kandy, Sri Lanka.

You yourselves must strive, the Buddhas only point the way

Buddha, Dhp 276
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