There are Three Universal Truths – Annica (Impremanence), Dukka (Suffering) and Anatta (No Self). These three laws or truths not only explains human predicaments but also the world and the universe around us.
The Buddha learned of the these truths when one day he sat down under a tree and meditated. He saw the circle of life around him. Everything seemed beautiful. Flowers bloomed and the leaves caught the sun. But despite all these life and beauty there was much suffering. The flowers withered and died. He saw a farmer beating an ox on the field. He saw a bird eating a worm and then an eagle eating this bird. He wondered why must life turn into death and why must living creatures destroy and kill others for sustenance.
Through his meditations, Buddha learned the Three Universal Truths.
Annica or the truth of Impermanence states that everything in this life changes. Seasons change to bring about new life. Springs turns to Summer and Summer to Fall. In the Fall leaves turn red and orange and then the Winter comes to claim all that was green and put the Earth to sleep.
As this is the same with life. We are born, we grow up, become married, bore children, grow old and then die. Death is most certain. We can never cling to life and thus we must accept change. Change is the only thing that remains and that is permanent.
Annica teaches us to LET GO. We need to let go even of the things that make us happy because we can never completely hold on to things.
But impermanence also teaches us that our troubles are also not permanent. Sadness and grief will leave our hearts. Death brings about life, just as we die and become food for the worms and the worms become food for the birds.
One of the core of Buddha’s teachings is about suffering. Many of his teachings revolve around this theme. Buddha teaches man about suffering being part and parcel of our existence. We suffer not only in life but also in reincarnations and rebirth. Even joy can be a source of suffering; because nothing is permanent.
DESIRE BRINGS ABOUT SUFFERING. Humans are creatures of desire. And our desires drive our actions. We hunger for food, but once we have food we want better food. We never learn to be SATISFIED.
Our desires also at times lead us to do evil and act cruel. People often want to protect their “self” and things that they feel is theirs and thus causing them to desire for more things. They also desire status and power. The desire for power has lead humanity to war and much cruelty.
We can however control our desires. We can do this by following the Eightfold Path. We can do this by having the right view (mentality), right intent, right action, right speech, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right meditation. Through this we can shape our path towards compassion and wisdom.
Anatta (No Self)
Buddhism walks away from the teaching of the Atman or the soul or personal essence as taught by Hinduism. It teaches us that there is no soul, but rather an AVACYA or an inexpressible self is reborn. It also teaches that since there is no such thing as a “self” then there should never be a claim on anything.
Buddhist scholars also translate Anatta as egolessness, which means we should not claim or perceive to own anything. On the other hand, there has been much debate about the teaching of the NO SELF. Some say it is about removing ego while others say that it is the absence of an actual soul.
Some doctrines teach about a “great self” a self which is not selfish and thinks not of selfish ways. This teaching imbues that in the state of Nirvana our essence reaches a state of utter “Selflessness”. It is the state of absence of longings and desires. It means renouncing the “I am, this is mine” concept.
Anatta basically teaches us that we should NOT BE SELFISH. We should not try to own things or desire things to be ours. Without perceiving one’s self too highly, we can remove our desires. If one aims to reach a state of Enlightenment, one must release notions of the “self” and be selfless.