It was taught that this life is an amazing gift. More specifically our gift to understand and overcome the trials of our days is the gift. But we can’t fully appreciate this gift until we give it some perspective. All of life contains these three states:

(1) Suffering

(2) Change

(3) no ‘I’ (or more specifically the defining of “I”)

As regards the first Sign, we have already learned how it was the experience of Suffering that sent the Buddha off on his great spiritual quest, though suffering is not a very good translation of the original word, dukkha. Dukkha implies the generally unsatisfactory and imperfect nature of life. However, it does not follow that Buddhists believe that life is all suffering. Buddhists do believe that there is happiness in life, but know that it does not last and that even in the most fortunate of lives there is suffering. Happiness is subject to the law of change and impermanence.

The second, Change, points out the basic fact that nothing in the world is fixed or permanent. We ourselves are not the same people, either physically, emotionally or mentally, that we were ten years – or even ten minutes ago! Living as we do, then, as shifting beings upon shifting sands, it is not possible for us to find lasting unchanged existence.

No-I is the third teaching and can be the most difficult. Buddhists do not believe that there is anything everlasting or unchangeable in human beings, no soul or self in which a stable sense of ‘I’ might anchor itself. The whole idea of ‘I’ is in fact a basically false one that tries to set itself up in an unstable and temporary collection of elements. Take the traditional analogy of a cart. A cart may be broken down into its basic components -axle, wheels, shafts, sides, etc. Then the cart is no more; all we have is a pile of components. In the same way ‘I’ am made up of various elements or aggregates (khandhas): form (rupa-khandha), feeling-sensation (pleasant, unpleasant, neutral), (vedana-khandha), perception (sanna-khandha), volitional mental activities (sankhara-khandha), sense consciousness (vinnana-khandha). When we can see and understand this concept within our framework of life, we can begin to open up to most vast definitions of being and existence.

Take these three truths for what they are and then sit with each one and ponder it more deeply. You may learn to see and appreciate this gift of life on levels unconsidered before.

Peace and Love, Jim

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