Summary 5

The three Fundamental Characteristics

The three fundamental characteristics of existence, that is of consciousness, are the following.

1. Non-permanence (chaos)
2. Suffering               (nausea)
3. Non-self                 (beyond-control).

The meaning is that all phenomena incessantly come and go, in their own way, without a central controlling unit. The wrong view that we do have control over body and mind, together with its resulting craving, then cause existential suffering. This wrong view comes from the over-conditioning of having reified the process of our partial control into an ‘ego’. The perceived need to protect this ego causes obsessive behaviour and thereby unnecessary harm to ourselves, others and the world.

Interestingly, in Mahayana Buddhism the three fundamental characteristics are

1. Non-permanence (change)
2. Nirwana                (cessation)
3. Non-self                 (phenomena are transpersonal).

The meaning is that from the moment we let go of this wrong view, and thereby from the need to hold on to an illusory substantial centre of control, the existential suffering has gone. As a consequence the mission impossible to protect this illusory ego is withdrawn, opening the road to triple peace: with ourselves, others, and the world.

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