Quote:-"Are you basically say that the 3 characteristics apply to our views about our experience, rather than to the actual experience, ie the aggregates?"
Yes, they apply to 'conceived things' from which views originate.
In my opinion, the elements, sense bases, and aggregates, all have a double meaning. They can be taken as experience or understood as something else. Exactly what this other thing is seems not to be explained clearly in the teachings, in some passages it is called 'conceiving,' as in 'he does not conceive an eye.'
Bhikkhu Bodhi translates 'mannita' as 'conceiving'. It does not mean simply 'to think of', but is more like 'to give birth to' or 'to create.' What is conceived can persist for years. To conceive an eye as mine is to create another eye.
What are aggregates? Are form and the form aggregate the same thing?
The ordinary man takes talk of the form aggregate to be talk about actual form. When form is said to be impermanent, suffering, and non-self, he finds a way to make sense of it.
The noble disciple understands the form aggregate to be something other than actual form. This 'something' is not only capable of vanishing, it must vanish in order to attain enlightenment. As we find in those passages which say:-'he does not conceive form.'
The noble disciple investigates the things which are dependently arisen, each of these things are said to be constructed, and suffering. When all twelve of these things have arisen it is called 'this whole mass of suffering.' This is the 'suffering inherent in formations.'
He probably starts with 'decay-and-death' and works his way down. When he gets to the six bases he finds the first set of constructed things that can actually be eliminated. A concieved eye, a conceived visible form, a conceived eye-consciousness.
These constructed things are not, in themselves, views, but they are what views originate from. The views involve clinging, craving, feeling, and contact, as part of their structure. The contact is with these conceived things.
To answer your question: The three characteristics are understood by a noble disciple as applying to these 'conceived things' which are the origin of everything which arises from them.
The origin of suffering, the origin of the world.