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Tri Lakshana
By Amarasiri Weeraratne
The Three Characteristics of Existence (Contd.)

Therefore, the Buddha exhorts us to follow the Noble Eightfold Path and make an end of the sufferings in Sansara. The delusion called attachment to existence has to be abandoned by under standing the true nature of life in the light of the knowledge of the First Noble Truth-viz. Suffering (in Pali, Dukkha). This understanding is conducive to progress on the Noble Eightfold Path.

Therefore it is said in verse 288 of the Dhammapada:-
"When with wisdom one does see, that in all things there's no felicity. Disgusted with ill, he will be Treading the path to purity"

In Pali:- Sabbe sankahara dukka ti
Yada Pannaya pasati Atha nibbhindai dukkhe Esa maggo visudhiya"

Anatma:
The third feature of all forms of existence is Anatma, or the absence of anything, enduring, or an Ego. This is the most difficult of the Buddha's teaching. All, other religious systems including the six systems of Hindu philosophy, teach that there is something enduring permanently in man, and that they call the "soul". The Buddha was the only teacher who was able to overcome this universal illusion. Plato ard the Greek philosophers spoke of the immortality of the soul. They have mistaken the impermanent stream of consciousness that exists in a flux and manifests itself from one life to another, for an immortal soul.

The Buddha rejected the all theories regarding the immortality of the soul, and said that the mind of man undergoes change even more rapidly than the body, and there is no place for a soul in either the mind or the body. The mind-flux that persists during one's life and remanifests itself in a new life after death is not to be mistaken for an unchanging, eternal soul. According to the Buddha, the illusion that this mind-flux is an eternal soul, imutable and changeless is the greatest of all delusions. The fallacy is the cause of all trammells, and unrest in the world.

"The Ego-illusion is the cause of all passions and defilements" worte Santideva in his classic "Bodhichariyavatara". As Santideva is a Mahayanist teacher, this is sufficient proof that the Anatma doctrine is accepted by the Mahayana Buddhists. The ego-illusion is a deep-seated fallacy in the human mind, and can only be eliminated by attaining the first stage on the patch to sainthood, namely the Sotapatti stage.

In the Sanyutta Nikaya, Chapter 12, the Buddha says "It would be better for the world ling to regard this body built up, of the four elements as his Ego rather than the mind, for it is evident that the body may last a year, two, three unto a hundred years, and more, but that which is called thought, mind or consciousness is arising continually during day, and night, as one thing, as passing away as another thing. The Buddha analysed the mind for the vestige of a soul, and declared that only sensations, perceptions and thought processes and consciousness were there. All these He declares to be impermanent, arising, and passing away. But their rapid continuation created the illusion of an egoentity persisting in man. Just as when the parts are rightly set, we use the term chariot to a combination of wheels shaft, axle etc., we use the term man, to a combination of psycho-physical forces.

"Just as the ship goes by the winds impelled, Just as the shaft goes by the bowstring's force So goes the body in its forward move, Full driven by the virant thrust of air,
As to the puppet's back the dodge-tread tied, So to the body-doll the mind is tied,
And pulled to that body, moves, stands, sits."

For modern psychology the soul is a complete superfluity, having no right to a place among its first principles. That the belief is thoroughly unscientific is borne out by the following statement of Prof: Mac Dougal:-
"It is a matter of common knowledge that science has given its verdict against the soul, has declared the conception of a soul.. is a mere survival from primitive culture, one of the many relics from savage superstition that obstinately persists among us in defiance of the clear teaching of modern science."

It is the acceptance of this doctrine that distinguishes the genuine Buddhist from the spurious one. In determining the true doctrines of the Buddha, the Elders who took part in the Third Council have declared that three words consisting of eight letters cpnstitute the core of the Buddha-Dharma.
Those three Pali words when written in the original scripts are, Anicca, Dukkha, and Anatta. In Pali Language:-
"Na hi sila kattam hetu, Uppajjanti Tathagatha Attakkhra tini pad a 5ambuddhena pakasita."

Translation:-
"Not mere teachers of ethics right, Are the Buddhas who the Dhamma teach, Three words contained in letters eight, Constitute the core of what they preach."

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