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Three Marks of Existence

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The Buddha taught that everything in the physical world, including mental activity and psychological experience, is marked with three characteristics -- impermanence, suffering and egolessness. Thorough examination and awareness of these marks helps us abandon the grasping and clinging that bind us.

1. Suffering (Dukkha)

The Pali word dukkha is most often translated as "suffering," but it also means "unsatisfactory" or "imperfect." Everything material and mental that begins and ends, is composed of the five skandhas, and has not been liberated to Nirvana, is dukkha. Thus, even beautiful things and pleasant experiences are dukkha.

2. Impermanence (Anicca)

Impermanence is the fundamental property of everything that is conditioned. All conditioned things are impermanent and are in a constant state of flux. Because all conditioned things are constantly in flux, liberation is possible.

3. Egolessness (Anatta)

Anatta (anatman in Sanskrit) is also translated as nonself or nonessentiality. This is the teaching that "you" are not an integral, autonomous entity. The individual self, or what we might call the ego, is more correctly thought of as a by-product of the skandhas.

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