THE BUDDHA'S DISCOVERY OF THE THREE UNIVERSAL NATURE CHARACTERISTICS OF EXISTENCE
International Journal of Education & Applied Sciences Research
The paper subject is the three universal characteristics of existence. This is an important part of the teachings of the Buddha. Like the Four Noble Truths, karma, the teaching of dependent origination and the five aggregates, the teaching of the three characteristics is part of what we might call the doctrinal contents of wisdom. In other words, when we talk about the knowledge and the understanding that is implied by wisdom, we have this teaching in mind. Before we examine the characteristics
... the characteristics individually, let us come to an understanding of what they mean and in what way they are useful. First of all, what is a characteristic and what is not? A characteristic is something which is necessarily connected with something else. Because the characteristic is necessarily connected with something, it can tell us about the nature of that thing. Let us take an example. Heat for instance is a characteristic of fire but not a characteristic of water. Heat is the characteristic of fire because the heat of the fire is always and invariably connected with fire. On the other hand, the heat of water depends on external factors-an electric stove, the heat of the sun and so forth. But the heat of fire is natural to fire. It is in this sense that the Buddha uses the term "characteristic" to refer to facts about the nature of existence, that are always connected with existence and that are always found in existence. The characteristic heat is always connected with fire. So we can understand something about the nature of fire from heat. We can understand that fire is hot. We can understand that we can use fire to cook our food, to warm ourselves and so forth. The characteristic of heat tells us something about fire, how to use fire and what to do with fire. If we were to think of the characteristic of heat as connected with water, it would not help us to use water because heat is not always connected with water. We cannot cook our food with water. We cannot warm ourselves with water. So when the Buddha said that there are three characteristics of existence, He meant that these characteristics are always present in existence, and that they help us to understand what to do with existence.