Exploring the Three Marks.

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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vinasp
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Exploring the Three Marks.

Post by vinasp » Wed Aug 13, 2014 1:06 pm

Hi everyone,

In my opinion there is a widespread misunderstanding of the Tilakhana. What does this teaching mean? What is it actually saying?

To start the discussion I re-post here my own interpretation.

The ordinary man is already seeing many things as permanent, a source of pleasure, and related to self. This way of regarding things has become habitual, and these habits are views. These views are mental constructed things.

The teachings instruct us to see things in the opposite way in order to gradually remove these views.

All the actual things which are said to be impermanent, suffering, and non-self, are all also present as views about these things. These views are mental constructed things.

The mental constructed things are impermanent because they can cease or vanish, this is their nature [they are dependently arisen].

The mental constructed things ARE suffering, this is their nature.

The mental constructed things are non-self, this is a truth about them.

These are three seperate truths about mental constructed things, there is no logical or causal relationship between them.

Regards, Vincent.

Dinsdale
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Re: Exploring the Three Marks.

Post by Dinsdale » Wed Aug 13, 2014 1:15 pm

vinasp wrote: The mental constructed things are impermanent because they can cease or vanish, this is their nature [they are dependently arisen].
Could you clarify what you mean by "mental constructed things" in terms of the aggregates? Do you mean the activity of the sankharas formation, or the aggregates as a whole, or something else?
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vinasp
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Re: Exploring the Three Marks.

Post by vinasp » Wed Aug 13, 2014 1:53 pm

Hi Spiny,

Vincent said:-"The mental constructed things are impermanent because they can cease or vanish, this is their nature [they are dependently arisen]."

Spiny responded:-"Vincent, I'm not sure what you mean by "mental constructed things" here - do you mean the sankhara formation, or do you mean the aggregates as a whole? ..."

SN 12.20 explains that all twelve items in Dependent Origination are 'dependently arisen', and says of each thing that it is 'constructed' [sankhata]. Views are also said to be constructed. Some of the twelve items are mental things.

[My own opinion is that all twelve items are mental things, but I know that you would not agree with this.]

I think that we do not understand the aggregates yet, nor how they relate to dependent origination. But to try to answer your question: I meant all the aggregates, not just the sankhara aggregate.

Spiny said:-"The suttas say that all 5 aggregates are subject to impermanence."

How do you understand 'impermanence' here?

All the things which are said to be impermanent, suffering, and non-self, are also said to cease.

Regards, Vincent.

meindzai
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Re: Exploring the Three Marks.

Post by meindzai » Wed Aug 13, 2014 2:25 pm

vinasp wrote:
These are three seperate truths about mental constructed things, there is no logical or causal relationship between them.
This part doesn't seem to be correct.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/stud ... passage-52
"What do you think: Is form constant or inconstant?"

"Inconstant, lord."

"And is that which is inconstant easeful or stressful?"

"Stressful, lord."

"And is it fitting to regard what is inconstant, stressful, subject to change as: 'This is mine. This is my self. This is what I am'?"

"No, lord."

"… Is feeling constant or inconstant?..."


And on through the five aggregates.

The relationship here is definitely anicca->dukkha->anatta. Interesting that people tend not to listen them in that order (in my experience).

-Dave K
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/stud ... passage-52

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dhammafriend
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Re: Exploring the Three Marks.

Post by dhammafriend » Wed Aug 13, 2014 3:24 pm

I think that we do not understand the aggregates yet, nor how they relate to dependent origination. But to try to answer your question: I meant all the aggregates, not just the sankhara aggregate.
This is fascinating, can you give an example of how you see it 'working' in the D.O. frame work?

I agree with Meindzai, the tilakhana are related as we repeatedly see in the suttas.
The relationship here is definitely anicca->dukkha->anatta. Interesting that people tend not to listen them in that order (in my experience).
Exactly. What I find interesting is that in theravada we detach anatta from dukkha & anicca with regards to nibbana. Perhaps out of fear of implying a self in the brahmanic sense?

Metta
Dhammafriend
Metta
Dhammafriend

Natthi me saranam annam buddho me saranam varam
For me there is no other refuge, the Buddha is my excellent refuge.
Etena saccavajjena vaddheyyam satthu-sasane
By the utterance of this truth, may I grow in the Master’s Way.

meindzai
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Re: Exploring the Three Marks.

Post by meindzai » Wed Aug 13, 2014 3:46 pm

dhammafriend wrote:
Exactly. What I find interesting is that in theravada we detach anatta from dukkha & anicca with regards to nibbana. Perhaps out of fear of implying a self in the brahmanic sense?

Metta
Dhammafriend
Not sure what you mean by detach? Do you mean the fact that we tend to emphasize anatta quite a bit without talking about anicca and anatta?

-Dave K

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dhammafriend
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Re: Exploring the Three Marks.

Post by dhammafriend » Wed Aug 13, 2014 4:24 pm

Hi Dave. Sabbe dhamma anatta is usually understood to include nirvana. But if the three marks are related, are can this be?
Anicca - dukkha - anatta are all shared by sankhara dhammas
but nibbana is also anatta but not dukkha and anicca.

Metta
dhammafriend
Metta
Dhammafriend

Natthi me saranam annam buddho me saranam varam
For me there is no other refuge, the Buddha is my excellent refuge.
Etena saccavajjena vaddheyyam satthu-sasane
By the utterance of this truth, may I grow in the Master’s Way.

Dinsdale
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Re: Exploring the Three Marks.

Post by Dinsdale » Wed Aug 13, 2014 4:45 pm

vinasp wrote: SN 12.20 explains that all twelve items in Dependent Origination are 'dependently arisen', and says of each thing that it is 'constructed' [sankhata]. Views are also said to be constructed. Some of the twelve items are mental things.
I think that we do not understand the aggregates yet, nor how they relate to dependent origination. But to try to answer your question: I meant all the aggregates, not just the sankhara aggregate.
Vincent, is this related to your idea about 2 sets of aggregates, one clinging and non-clinging?
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meindzai
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Re: Exploring the Three Marks.

Post by meindzai » Wed Aug 13, 2014 5:08 pm

dhammafriend wrote:Hi Dave. Sabbe dhamma anatta is usually understood to include nirvana. But if the three marks are related, are can this be?
Anicca - dukkha - anatta are all shared by sankhara dhammas
but nibbana is also anatta but not dukkha and anicca.

Metta
dhammafriend
Oh yes, that. You asked in the other thread. My answer is basically similar to what I said there. I believe the order matters in a sense, because annata with regards to samsara is explained by anicca and dukkha. Anatta with regards to nibbana is explained by the fact that there is a complete extinction of identity view - how could a self appear if there wasn't one to begin with? If there is nothing we can call a self, here in samsara, how could a self somehow manifest in nibbana?

But with regards to:
Perhaps out of fear of implying a self in the brahmanic sense?
I don't know if that's exactly how I'd put it. But yes, the Buddha was pretty clear that *all* views of a self are stressful. Even the idea that "I am at one with the universe" or "I am formless and infinite" has a self view in it. The Brahmans certainly might experience this "oneness" and call it Nibbana. But according to the Buddha there is still a bit of clinging involved in this view. (Even if it's less clinging than a worldly one).

Nibanna is generally talked about in terms of what it is not, and I believe it's for good reason.

I think we are treading on thin ice when we start to give positive qualities to nibbana. Of course if nibbana is "not dukkha" then it would follow in a strict logical sense that it is "sukkha" or pleasurable, and if nibbana is "not inconstant" then it would follow logically that it is "eternal and unchanging." I'm all about logic. But for me these words carry a lot of baggage with them. The Buddha seems to be very careful in not "describing" nibbana too often. Even the one time he does (in the Dhammapada, which some people argue is not even strictly canonical) it leads to some confusion if we don't think about it carefully. But there he describes it as "the highest bliss." Not just any old bliss, but the bliss of all blisses - that is the bliss to which nothing can compare. If you've got the most awesome bliss known to samsara and I've got nibbana, then my bliss can beat up your bliss. :tongue: Anyway you get the idea.

Nibbana is release/extinction/freedom. What is it like? By analogy (something I heard recently, though I may butcher it) imagine you are confined or imprisoned for a long time, and one day you are set free. What is it like? It is like "not being confined or imprisoned." Of course there would be some happiness associated with being free, but does happiness "describe" being free? Very hard to do. As soon as you start to describe it then people may try to clone that experience, and in this sense they would be locking themselves up again.

Something I think about almost daily is the Buddha's thought process when he first set out:
Why do I, being subject myself to birth, seek what is likewise subject to birth? Being subject myself to aging... illness... death... sorrow... defilement, why do I seek what is likewise subject to illness... death... sorrow... defilement? What if I, being subject myself to birth, seeing the drawbacks of birth, were to seek the unborn, unexcelled rest from the yoke: Unbinding? What if I, being subject myself to aging... illness... death... sorrow... defilement, seeing the drawbacks of aging... illness... death... sorrow... defilement, were to seek the aging-less, illness-less, deathless, sorrow-less,, unexcelled rest from the yoke: Unbinding?'
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

-Dave K

Dinsdale
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Re: Exploring the Three Marks.

Post by Dinsdale » Wed Aug 13, 2014 5:41 pm

meindzai wrote: I believe the order matters in a sense, because annata with regards to samsara is explained by anicca and dukkha.
How so?
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meindzai
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Re: Exploring the Three Marks.

Post by meindzai » Wed Aug 13, 2014 5:49 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:
meindzai wrote: I believe the order matters in a sense, because annata with regards to samsara is explained by anicca and dukkha.
How so?
As I quoted above: See: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/stud ... passage-52

vinasp
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Re: Exploring the Three Marks.

Post by vinasp » Wed Aug 13, 2014 5:55 pm

Hi meindzai, everyone,

meindzai said:-"The relationship here is definitely anicca->dukkha->anatta..."

I am trying to guess what this means - perhaps:

This way of seeing it only makes sense if one understands impermanence in one particular way, and suffering in another particular way.

Let us assume that there are three ways to understand impermanence:

1. Subject to vanishing, fading away, and cessation, at any time.
2. Constantly changing.
3. It will end at some future time.

Suffering is said to be of three kinds:

1. Suffering as pain.
2. The suffering inherent in the formations (sankhara).
3. The suffering due to change.

So, if one thinks that impermanent means 'constantly changing' then everything which is said to be impermanent must also be suffering of the third kind.

But the change in things is only a source of suffering if one is clinging to these things.

I can see how someone might think that the teachings are saying that things are suffering because they are constantly changing.

But if impermanent is understood in the first way, and suffering in the second way, then there is no such relationship. It is not said to be suffering because it is subject to cessation. It IS suffering AND it IS subject to cessation.

In the passage which you cited there is this line:

"And is that which is inconstant easeful or stressful?"

This is ambiguous, it could mean:

1. Does it follow that what is inconstant must be easeful or stressful?

2. Is that same thing (already seen as inconstant) easeful or stressful?

The second reading makes it simply a second question about that same thing.

Regards, Vincent.

Dinsdale
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Re: Exploring the Three Marks.

Post by Dinsdale » Wed Aug 13, 2014 6:18 pm

meindzai wrote:
Spiny Norman wrote:
meindzai wrote: I believe the order matters in a sense, because annata with regards to samsara is explained by anicca and dukkha.
How so?
As I quoted above: See: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/stud ... passage-52
But the key line is this: "And is it fitting to regard what is inconstant, stressful, subject to change as: 'This is mine. This is my self. This is what I am'?". The Buddha is saying that the aggregates are not fit to be regarded as self. in other words we shouldn't identify with them. I don't see this as an explanation of anatta. I think anatta is just the way things are.
Last edited by Dinsdale on Wed Aug 13, 2014 6:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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dhammafriend
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Re: Exploring the Three Marks.

Post by dhammafriend » Wed Aug 13, 2014 6:26 pm

Thanks Dave, I get what you're saying. Agreed on the whole point of clinging to self. The sutta quote is actually quite inspiring. One of my favorite quotes too. :-)

Metta
dhammafriend
Metta
Dhammafriend

Natthi me saranam annam buddho me saranam varam
For me there is no other refuge, the Buddha is my excellent refuge.
Etena saccavajjena vaddheyyam satthu-sasane
By the utterance of this truth, may I grow in the Master’s Way.

Dinsdale
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Re: Exploring the Three Marks.

Post by Dinsdale » Wed Aug 13, 2014 6:27 pm

vinasp wrote: In the passage which you cited there is this line:
"And is that which is inconstant easeful or stressful?"
I think this can be read straightforwardly, ie while ignorance and craving persist, then inconstancy will be stressful. I think an important aspect of inconstancy here is unreliability, which is why the Buddha says the aggregates are not fit to be regarded as self - they are not fit because they are unreliable.
Buddha save me from new-agers!

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