In the Anguttara Nikaya 111. 134, the Buddha teaches as follows:"Whether
Perfect Ones appear in the world or not, it still remains a firm
condition, an immutable fact, and fixed law that all formations
(sankharas) are impermanent, that they are subject to suffering,
and that every thing is without and Ego."
These three characteristics of Anitya, Dukkha and Anatma, are the
salient features of sentient existence. In the Buddha-Dharma these
are called the "Trilakshana" or The Three Cardinal Features
Everything that undergoes change, is impermanent and unstable. There
is the process of arising, reaching a peak, and passing away. The
transitory nature of life is recognised in all religions and philosophies.
It was the materialist Omar Khayyam, who wrote:-
"Each morn a thousand roses brings you say, Yes, but where
goes the rose of yesterday? And that same summer which brings the
rose, Shall take Jamshid and Kaikhobad away."
Even the priceless inventories of ancient time are gradually wearing
Our own bodies too undergo change and lead to the inevitable decay
and death. Thus we see that impermanence is the first cardinal feature
of life. The Buddha says that, what is not stable is not worth clinging
to, and is not worthy of our attachment. The glory of Greece is
no more, and the grandeur of Rome is relegated to the limbo of the
forgotten past. It is so with all things in this world. Truly as
Thomas Gray said "The paths of the glory lead but to the grave".
The Buddha points out the unsatisfactory nature of life, and tells
us that's its first characteristics is transiency. He advocates
the cultivation of the qualities of non-attachment and dispassion
to this phantom show that we all call life. His doctrine is one
which leads to non-attachment (viragaya), and disgust or dissatisfaction
(nibbidyaya) with the fleeting vicsisitudes of life. Nirvana is
not a heaven up in the sky with its unspeakable boredom of eternal
life and eternal happiness, but it is a state of happiness that
comes with the eradication of greed, ill-will, and ignorance. The
person grounded in virtue (sila) who trades the Noble Eightfold-Path
can transcend the impermanence, and the unsatisfactory nature of
life, and attain the enduring bliss of Nirvana.
Parents suffer when their children fall ill, but when they recover
the parents are happy. But is there any guarantee that the child
will not fall ill again? It is so with all things. A Latin author
said "Eheu fugaces labuntur anni". Alas! the fleeting
years slip away, and we with them". Therefore the first cardinal
feature of life and all things therein is its instability or Anityata.
It is this instability that makes Dukka or the unsatisfactory nature
of life bearable. Otherwise human beings would die of boredom with
what we call pleasure, and the agony of what constitutes suffering.
How long can we revel in seeking satisfaction with this process
of change, decay, and death? Surely, when one realises with intuitive
wisdom that comes from Vidharshana meditation, that all things are
transcient, he will get disgusted with this process of mutability.
That disgust will pave the way for progess towards Nirvana. Therefore
it is said in verse 287 of the Dhammapada.
"That all things rise and cease to be, when with wisdom one
does see, fed up with ill, he will be trading the way to purity."
In Pali:- Sabbe sanhara anicca ti Yada pannaya passati Atha nibbhindati
dukkhe Esa maggo visudhiya"
Dukkha means suffering, orthe unsatisfactory nature of life. Etymologically
du meand "difficult or unpleasant." Kha stands for to
bear. Thus Dukkha connotes difficult to bear and what is unpleasant,
to be born of life's difficulties and sorrow from the slightest
irritations, boredom, frusrtations, to actual ganger mental and
physical pain. To be able to comprehend dukkha fully, one must be
able to take into consideration the entire process of perpetual
wandering in Sansara, the long chain of rebirths, and not merely
one single-life-time which may sometimes not be very painful. On
the other hand, no right thinking man who who sees the vast process
of suffering around him in this world can be happy and unmoved by
it even though he may not be having a bad quota of suffering due
to his good kamma in the past.
The problem of suffering is universally recognised. It has grappled
the attention of thinkers, theologicians and religionists in all
climes and ages. In the words of a Hebrew prophet, "Man is
born to trouble as sparks fly upwards." It was the celebrated
Greek poet Homer who said, "For men on earth it's better not
to be born at all, or being born to pass through the gates of Hades
with all speed." Socrates the sage of Greece, remarked that,
if the troubles of men were to be reshuffled and distributed, each
man would be content with his own quota, and would not like to share
that of another. So much steeped and ingrained in suffering is the