Three Marks Of Existence

The Three Marks of Existence

The three marks of existence ( 三法印 さんぼういん sanbouin)
are another name for the Dharma seals. These marks are at the root of
all Buddhist teachings. They talk of suffering, the self and our
universe. Here are in detail, the three seals:

color language
purple pali
red Japanese
black English

suffering in hellDukkha 苦 [く] ku 

Suffering or dissatisfaction is part of our human experience.

Dukkha is one of those word that do not
translate easily. Most translators use the word suffering to explain
the meaning of Dukkha but it not really appropriate.

There are actually 3 kinds of Dukkha:

  • Physical and mental pain and suffering (pain induced by a cancer or the suffering of a mother who lost her child)
  • Impermanence
    or change bring dissatisfaction. When we are happy we usually don’t
    feel pain or suffering yet happiness is an impermanent state and it
    will bring dissatisfaction when it will fade. This dissatisfaction is
    part of a longing for another state of mind.
  • Conditioned states. This one is a little more tricky to understand. Each being are attached to 5 “states”:
    • Matter (brings greed)
    • Sensations (bring dependence)
    • Perceptions (brings inflexibility)
    • Mental Formations (brings close-mindedness)
    • Consciousness (brings selfishness)

One important lesson to learn from this law is that non-attachment
(to things, ideas and feelings) are very important in order to
transcend suffering.




impermanenceAnicca 諸行無常 [しょぎょうむじょう] shogyoumujou

impermanence. this impermanence permeates all phenomenon in nature and
human society. A common image is that of a leaf, falling down a tree to
be soon replaced by another. The same fallen leaf will decay and feed
the tree it comes from, thus changing state again. Everything is a flow
of change that carries all in its passage.

consciousness is subject to this law. We are always changing on many
plans. You just have to remember how, as a kid, you didn’t like certain
things, say coffee. Today, chances are that you now like coffee.

a simple example but the truth is that impermanence plays an important
role in our delivery from suffering. Since all states are impermanent
and subject to change, so is our suffering. It is thank to this law of
impermanence that we can attain Nirvana.


  • non-selfAnatta 無我 [むが] muga

put, this law stipulates that we are not really an entity but a result
of our perception of the world through the five collectors:




  1. Form (our physical form)
  2. Sensation (our 5 senses)
  3. Perception (rationalization, thinking)
  4. Mental formations (habits, prejudice, beliefs)
  5. Consciousness (a awareness of our world)


There is often a fourth Dharma Seal:

  • nirvana

    Nirvana 悟り さとり Satori


understanding and the mastery over the three seals brings Nirvana, a
state of bliss or peace, and this state may be experienced in life, or
when we die. (similar to the Christian heaven)

Nirvana, we do not suffer form the other three Dharma seals, we live in
peace and understanding. There is no sorrow or longing. All Buddhists
aspire to reach Nirvana.




With gratitude,signature Hugo

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