Reflections On Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta

In Buddhism, the three marks of existence are anicca, dukkha and anatta.

  • Anicca means that everything that is exists is impermanent.
  • Dukkha means that everything is subject to stress, unpleasantness and suffering.
  • Anatta means that everything does not have a self.

In the Vedas, the formula for the Divine is Sat – Chit – Ananda

  • Sat refers to eternal existence
  • Chit refers to eternal consciousness and knowledge
  • Ananda refers to eternal bliss and happiness

There seems to be a contradiction between these points of view. But Truth is Truth. It has to be experienced and when we put them into mental forms, they can get distorted.

In my view,

Ultimately everything is Divine. The good, the bad, the ugly. When one says that everything that exists is impermanent, it means that the things that are manifested out of the Divine, all are impermanent. Impermanent here can mean that they change form – like a body dying and going to the elements; or ultimately, the elements merging into the Divine itself ( like what is said to happen in pralaya or the ultimate annihilation). It does not mean the manifestations of the Divine are false or illusion; it just means that they come and go; they are temporary. So, in this way, yes, everything is anicca but in their innermost sense, everything is Divine. And, the Divine is immortal, eternally exists, with no beginning and no end. This is hard to comprehend mentally because these can only be understood beyond the mind.

It would seem that everything is subject to suffering and unhappiness. But that is true for the mind, not for the Divine who exists within us and us who is the spark of the Divine. We often are unhappy when something goes away, someone dies, something is lost, something becomes ill or non-functional. If one understands that since the manifestations of the Divine, which is everything in the world changes, these things are bound to happen and these things affect us only if we think that we are an independent self apart from the Divine, only if we thing from an ego-perspective. For example, we do not grieve when we kill an ant by pouring water on it. The ant does not belong to us. We do not grieve when another person who is not related to us dies. Because we do not feel the sense of belonging. If we understand that nothing truly belongs to us; everything is a part of the Divine, then why should one suffer. That realisation is difficult, but the absence of that is what leads to suffering and unhappiness. And once we realise, that everything is the Divine, belongs to the Divine, then it is all bliss, it is all the play of the Divine, the lila. That leads to eternal happiness and bliss.

The third assertion of the Buddha is that there is no-self. It is often said that this applies to everything both temporal and so-called divine things. My way of understanding this is that, yes, there is nothing that is independent from the Divine and in that sense there is no independent self. In the Advaita school, everything is Divine, everything is one and in that sense, there cannot be an independent self, everything is the Divine. In the Vishistadavaita philosophy, the manifested world, both living and non-living is the body of the Divine. The Divine is immortal and so is his body but the body is not the Divine fully just like our body is not completely ourselves. My finger cannot exist without being attached to my body; in that sense we cannot exist properly without being attached to the Divine’s body- otherwise there will be dukkha, anicca. But if we attach ourselves to the Divine, then it is Sat and Ananda. In other philosophies, there is the distinction that the finger is different from the body in one sense, but one can see that it is just a way of seeing and the same idea remains that one has to be yoked to the Divine. Essentially, what I am saying is that no-self means no independent self that exists in isolation from the Divine and the problems that we face is because of the fact that we cannot identify ourself with the Divine but keep thinking we are separate.

So,

understand that the forms are anicca, temporary; do not identify with the forms but identify with the Divine

understand that identifying with the forms and thinking that these forms independently exist is what leads to stress and suffering, dukkha; surrender to the Divine completely and understand that you are an eternal part of Him and once that happens, everything is bliss.

understand that you do not exist in isolation from the Divine; because you are a part of the Divine; then you understand that anatta, the understanding that you are not-self nor is anything except the Divine. The Buddha did not talk explicit about the Divine.

Buddhism has spread a lot today, especially in the Western world and there is a lot of things one can learn from the teachers of Buddhism today. The three marks of existence, if we view it this way, can help us deepen our understanding of our own path towards the Divine.

God Bless.

 

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