Today, Zac led our reflections on the teaching of the Three Characteristics or three marks of existence. The phrase to “see things as they really are,” itself a fascinating and potentially problematic term, refers to experiencing reality through the lens of the three characteristics. An important tenet of the dharma is that learning to see the three characteristics in all phenomena leads to wisdom and liberation.
Zac played a talk by Gil Fronsdal, available here:
Here are some quotes which Zac used during the discussion:
Diamond Sutra: Chapter 32
(the Diamond Sutra contains the discourse of the Buddha to senior monk Subhuti)
“Subhuti, how can one explain this Sutra to others without holding in mind any arbitrary conception of forms or phenomena or spiritual truths? It can only be done, Subhuti, by keeping the mind in perfect tranquility and free from any attachment to appearances.
So I say to you – This is how to contemplate our conditioned existence in this fleeting world:
Like a tiny drop of dew, or a bubble floating in a stream; Like a flash of lightning in a summer cloud, Or a flickering lamp, an illusion, a phantom, or a dream.
So is all conditioned existence to be seen.”
Thus spoke Buddha.
The three characteristics are mentioned in verses 277, 278 and 279 of the Dhammapada:
Maggavagga: The Path, translated from the Pali by Acharya Buddharakkhita
276. You yourselves must strive; the Buddhas only point the way. Those meditative ones who tread the path are released from the bonds of Mara.
277. “All conditioned things are impermanent” — when one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering. This is the path to purification.
278. “All conditioned things are unsatisfactory” — when one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering. This is the path to purification.
279. “All things are not-self” — when one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering. This is the path to purification.
280. The idler who does not exert himself when he should, who though young and strong is full of sloth, with a mind full of vain thoughts — such an indolent man does not find the path to wisdom.
281. Let a man be watchful of speech, well controlled in mind, and not commit evil in bodily action. Let him purify these three courses of action, and win the path made known by the Great Sage.
282. Wisdom springs from meditation; without meditation wisdom wanes. Having known these two paths of progress and decline, let a man so conduct himself that his wisdom may increase.
Vipassana specifically means seeing the 3 characteristics (vi = special, deep; pas= seeing)
The 3 characteristics are facets of emptiness (suññatā)
Also doorways into experiencing emptiness/freedom
Dogen: “What is the way of the Buddha? It is to study the self. What is the study of the self? It is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be Enlightened by all things.”