3 Characteristics of Existence, Anicca

So if we’re going to talk big over arcing concepts of Buddhism one of the biggest would be the 3 Characteristics of Existence. They are so prevalent the Buddha said they are literally woven into the fabric of being. What are they? Anicca (pronounced A-knee-cha), Anatta (pronounced A-nah-tah), and Dukhata (pronounced Du-kah-tah). Those are the Pali words (Pali is the language of early Buddhist Canon, most likely spoken by the Buddha himself.), in English the best translation would be Impermanence, Selflessness, and, Unsatisfactoriness. As I said these factors are considered to be all up in the mix, meaning they cannot be separated from existence. Whether you’re rich or poor, smart or dull, weak or strong all of us come to know these 3 Characteristics of Existence without even realizing it. We’ll lay out each Characteristic in turn. First, comes Anicca or Impermanence.

Impermanence is so basic we all know it, we’ve all seen it. Some of us know it through loss of loved ones, friends that moved away, pets that passed away and so on. This Impermanence is caused by the simple fact that all phenomena, every existing thing or circumstance, is compounded. Simply stated nothing exists as an island. We are born with the fact that we will some day die, we make friends even though we will someday lose them, we pick a job or career despite the fact one day we’ll find another or retire. All of these circumstances and things are built on the foundation of other things, they have no core or nucleus


It is said of this world of Samsara that it oppresses by means of rise and fall.  In a sense that is true, we go about our lives with a very narrow scope of reality, while hinging our happiness on things and circumstances that simply cannot last.  Nothing in endures, things may seem to last, and in a relative sense they do.  As anyone who has watched the Discovery Channel can tell you stars die, planets invert poles randomly, black holes eat solar systems, and, all the other crazy phenomenon that take place over trillions of years.  To us, in our small picture mindset, these things seem unending or unchanging because of the scale upon which they operate.  As the Buddha said all conditioned phenomenon will end.  Simply stated if the thing in question has a birthday, it will also have an end.  This would be the idea of causality, the idea that for anything to exist it’s causes must be in place and operative.

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So when most read this there is a tendency to get down about it.  I mean if it doesn’t last what is the point, right?  The answer lies in your point of view.  I like to see the positive notion that lies implicit.  All things even the bad ones end.  If your circumstances suck one way or another it will end.  When we use our intention we can influence whether things end badly or not.  When we know that all our relationships will someday come to an end isn’t that all the more reason to savor them?  Enjoy that hug, meal, day off, party night, quiet night in, and, so on because it like everything else will one day fade away.  Instead of living in mourning of what was, celebrate that it even got to happen at all.


To really realize Anicca/Impermanence can be a bit of a bummer, but like most things your perception is your reality, finding the good in all things is a big part of becoming a self actualized being.  Not to mention it makes you a dope yogi!  This characteristic of existence can’t be swerved or changed but it can be accepted.  Accepting this factor of life will begin to open the door to gratitude, which is by far the greatest super power we existent beings possess.  So get out there and look Anicca in the eye and smile, no matter what you believe in nothing, we as finite beings can comprehend, lasts forever.  So go ahead and celebrate your Impermanence!

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