The Marks of Existence

You can further unravel the doctrinal significance of these three kinds of suffering in Buddhism by relating these three categories to three more concepts. The so called marks of existence.

The Marks

The first mark is that everything is suffering. The second, that everything is impermanent. This is a different way of saying that everything changes. And the third concept is that everything is no-self. Nothing has any self.

This third concept is an important one. In Pali it is called Anatta. It negates the Upanishadic concept of the Atman.

Three doctrinal assumptions. Everything is suffering. Everything is impermanent. And nothing has a self.


The key concept for us here to take a step deeper into the Buddhist vision of the world is this concept of no-self. What does it mean for Buddhists to say that things have no self?

The easiest way to step into this concept is to understand that Buddhists are claiming that things have no permanent identity that lies from one moment to the next. What we mean here is not that there is nothing going on. We’re here. We’re here trying to understand Buddhism. That’s real in a sense, but it is transient and passes away.

We too are transient phenomena. I put my name in this blog as if that designated some kind of reality that could remember its experiences in the past and carry those experiences into the future. But the truth is that this personality is constantly changing, is evolving all the time. In big ways, in subtle ways, it is constantly moving.

My Self is an Illusion

To say that there is a self here is a certain kind of illusory construction that can cause us pain in certain kinds of situations. So, Buddhists when say that there is no self, what they mean is that there is no permanent identity in things that endures from one moment to the next.

This is a basic doctrinal assumption in the Buddhist tradition. This is the place to begin to understand the implications of the Buddha’s teaching.

If you think about this idea, it poses a bunch of problems for us. A bunch of problems that we would have to discuss and we would have to ponder together.

First of all, if there is no self, there is no permanent identity, what am I? What makes up the human personality? Buddhists have an answer to that question.

This article is part of the series about The Buddha's Teachings

Copyright © Buddhism Through Buddhist Eyes
Question or Comment? Do not doubt to contact me.
Template by bloggertheme