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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You yourselves must strive, the Buddhas only point the wayBuddha, Dhp 276