1. Anicca has been analyzed in several different ways in the Tipitaka. In the Patisambidha Magga Prakarana in the Tipitaka, it is explained as,
“uppāda vayattena anicca”,
which means “(this world is) anicca because we just keep going through the birth (arising)/ death (destruction) process”.
- Of course, in between birth and death there is mostly suffering (in the realms at and below the human realm, where most beings spend time). This is the dukkha characteristic.
2. This is what we have been doing for an unimaginably long time (beginning-less), there is no break from it until one attains Nibbāna.
- We see some people committing suicide hoping to end it all; but ending this life does not solve the “problem”. In fact, it may lead to a birth in a lower realm, which will only increase the suffering.
- Thus continuing this ceaseless birth/death process is anatta, i.e., it is fruitless, burdened with suffering, and thus one is truly helpless.
3. We can see the Three Characteristics (Tilakkhana) of this world by carefully examining the fate of anything that arises in this world, which goes by the name sankata.
- Whether it is a living being or an inert thing any sankata arises, lasts for a certain time, and then perishes.
- For an inert object, the process stops at the destruction step, and it does not feel anything as it goes through the process.
- But for a living being, there is (mostly) suffering during arising/living/death, even though there may be spurts of “happiness” if one is fortunate enough to be born in human realms or the realms above it.
- And the process does not stop at death unlike for an inert object. It just keep repeating.
4. A living being’s suffering is also enhanced by the “sankata characteristics of inert objects” too. We work hard to acquire “things” but either they get run down/destroyed (houses, cars, furniture,…. ) or we die leaving them behind. Then if we are lucky to be born human in the next birth we just start this “accumulation process” and get distraught at death again….
- If we think through logically (and this is real meditation), we should be able to grasp this main concept of anicca, dukkha, anatta.
- Through the ages, philosophers (as well as most people) have wondered, “What is the meaning of life?”. And they normally think about just this present life; see, ““Why Does the World Exist?” by Jim Holt“
5. Someone who has accomplished something significant may think otherwise at the moment of that accomplishment. But it lasts only a short time; at death, it is all gone. If he/she wanted to accomplish something significant in the next life (provided one is lucky to be reborn human), then one has to start all over.
- This point becomes poignantly clear, if one takes a little time and think about the life of any famous personality (emperors, kings, politicians, movie stars,…from times past to the present). Most of them are bound to be born in lower realms because of the heinous acts they did to get some of those positions.
- If one knows the “big picture” about the wider world and the beginning-less journey we have made, it becomes clear that all through uncountable number of lives we have struggled in vain “seeking an elusive happiness”. There is no meaning to life in the long run, AND it makes one suffer, and this is the nature of this world: anicca, dukkha, anatta.
6. If there is a birth, there MUST be a death. There is no exception, other than Nibbāna.
This is the “akālika” or “timeless” quality of Nibbāna.
- All sankata operate on the basis of kamma vipaka, which normally take time to bring their fruits. This is why people are unable to “see” the working of kamma. There may be drug dealers who live like kings, but they will be paying with interest in the future.
- Nibbāna brings fruits instantaneously, there is no time gap involved (it is “akalika”), unlike a sankata. Furthermore, once attained there is no time duration after which it is destroyed; it is forever.
- The magga phala (Sotapanna, Skadagami, Anagami, Arahant) are attained in one citta (lasting less than a billionth of a second). And since they were attained via ELIMINATION OF CAUSES, there is no destruction associated with them. i.e., they are forever.
- In comparison, a living being arises DUE TO CAUSES, and when the underlying cause or the fuel is spent, the living being dies. But the process does not stop, because the being had acquired NEW CAUSES (new kamma) during that life or in the previous lives.
7. In the Dhamma Vandana:
“Svākkhatō Bhagavatä Dhammö Sanditthikō Akālikō Ehi-passikō Opanīyikō Paccattam
the quality of Dhamma that is described by “akālika” is that it leads to effects that do not depend on time.
- And that is achieved via the quality listed before that: “sanditthikō” (“san” + “ditthikō“). Dhamma explains and clarifies “san” that are the causes (avijjā and tanhā) for arising of sankata (whether they are living or inert); see, “What is “San”? Meaning of Sansara (or Samsara)“.
- “Bhagavatā Dhammō” can be taken as “Buddha’s Dhamma“, but it has a deeper meaning too (This Dhamma was only DISCOVERED by the Buddha Gotama, as had countless other Buddhas before him). “Bhagavatā” (“bhaga” + “vata” where “bhaga” means divide and “vata” means “the process” that looks like a “living being”“) means this Dhamma, by analyzing a “person” in terms of “actions”, illustrates that there in no enduring entity in a “living being”.
- And this process leads to “svakkhata” (“sva” for “self” and “akkata” or “akrutha” or “akriya” or means putting out of action) meaning it leads to getting rid of the concept of a “me” (asmai māna) — which happens at the Arahant stage. It is not about whether a “self” exists or not; it is rather to realize that nothing in this world is worth to be considered “mine”.
8. Some people erroneously interpret “uppāda vayattena anicca” as “things are IMPERMANENT because EVERYTHING is formed and destroyed within 17 thought moments”.
- This serious misconception is discussed in the post, “Does any Object (Rupa) Last only 17 Thought Moments?“.
- Each sankata that arises has its own lifetime: a fly lives only for a few days, a human lives for about 100 years.
Next, “How to Cultivate the Anicca Sanna“, ………