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Understanding the 3 Characteristics

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Understanding the 3 Characteristics
Answer
6/14/13 11:03 AM
Hello all,

I have been a long time lurker and this is my first post.

First of all, this forum has been a great source of information and inspiration for me. My sincere thanks to all the practitioners and contributors. I can’t thank Daniel enough for creating this forum and for being a huge source of inspiration.

Here is my question:

When the sensations are observed, it is said to understand the 3 characteristics within each sensation. How exactly do you do that? Do you actually need to *do* anything other than simply observe the rise and fall of each sensation and let nature take its own course for the insights to arise?

I come from Goenkaji’s tradition and there is heavy emphasis on Anicca with an understanding that the other two will follow. I always have this nagging feeling that I have not really understood the true meaning of “understanding the 3 characteristics in every sensation” concept.

I request practitioners to jump in with their explanations because sometimes, one particular explanation gives me that Aha moment compared to others, so it would be great to see multiple explanations and hopefully, this is such an important concept that others may also benefit from such explanations.

With Metta,
Niranjan.

RE: Understanding the 3 Characteristics
Answer
6/14/13 12:09 PM as a reply to Niranjan Thirukkovalur.
Hi!

So,,my understanding is something likethis: the three characteristics are just this: characteristics. Of what? Of how realitylooks like, when it is experienced without delusion. This means that, if you are observing sensations and youcan tell "Ok, this is impermanent, 'cause it's constantly changing constantly arising and passing away", then youare on the right track: you are seeing things the way you need to see them if you wanna get path and fruit.

So, basically, the way I see it they are just concepts, and they have a lot of pragmatic value because they tell you whether you are doing things correctly or not;
If some sensation seems to be yours, then you are not perceiving it correctly, and so it deserves a more precise attention; if something seems tobe permanent, then you are off-track. If everything is observed, and thus is not you, then you are practicing correctly. If everything is flowing and vibrating, thenyou are doing fine.

That's my take on it... hope it helped; bye!

RE: Understanding the 3 Characteristics
Answer
6/14/13 12:32 PM as a reply to Niranjan Thirukkovalur.
This talk (not from a Goenka perspective) really helped to clarify the issue for me.

Thanissaro:
...as you're learning to comprehend suffering, there should come a point when the mind realizes: This is not worth it. The image the Buddha gives is of a blind man who has been given a soiled oily rag. The person giving it to him tells him that it's a clean white rag, so the blind man is very protective of it. He folds it up, and takes very good care of it because he thinks it's a nice white piece of cloth. Later, when he's finally he is treated by a doctor and gets his eyesight back, he can see what it really is: It's just a soiled old rag.

So this is why we try to comprehend the five aggregates, the six sense media in terms of those three perceptions: to see that they're just soiled old rags. At the same time, we're looking for where the gratification is in holding onto them — our ignorant misunderstanding that they're something of value. Then you want to comprehend the drawbacks of craving these things until you really do develop a sense of dispassion. With the dispassion, you start letting go of the craving.

[Further on...]

All these teachings have their strategic purpose. And it's important that we keep using them for their strategic purpose. We're not here to argue, we are not here to establish the one right view about reality. We're here to find ways of putting an end to suffering.

So remember those three perceptions. And that's what the Buddha called them, "perceptions": the perception of inconstancy, the perception of stress, the perception of not-self. He never called them characteristics. He never talked about three characteristics. You do a search for the term, "three characteristics" in the Pali Canon, and you're not going to find it. The Buddha's talking about a way of perceiving that helps you see through your attachments, that helps you see through your delusions about where you can find happiness, so that the question that lies at the beginning of wisdom — What when I do it will lead to my true long-term welfare and happiness?" — finally gets its answer in the skills you've developed.


([url=http://dhammatalks.org/Archive/090420%20A%20Soiled,%20Oily%20Rag%20(3%20Perceptions%20in%20Context).mp3]audio of talk)

RE: Understanding the 3 Characteristics
Answer
6/14/13 1:27 PM as a reply to Niranjan Thirukkovalur.
Rob Burbea offers a slightly different and IMO very helpful and practical angle on the 3Cs: liberating ways of looking.

According to his interpretation, the 3Cs are ways of approaching experience that one can train, and that bring freedom and insight.

What I like best about this talk is that it explains how one can practice the three characteristics without falling into the "soiled rag" interpretation, where everything is filthy, worthless etc. just because its empty, unsatisfactory & subject to change.

RE: Understanding the 3 Characteristics
Answer
6/14/13 5:35 PM as a reply to Niranjan Thirukkovalur.
Niranjan Thirukkovalur:
Hello all,

I have been a long time lurker and this is my first post.

First of all, this forum has been a great source of information and inspiration for me. My sincere thanks to all the practitioners and contributors. I can’t thank Daniel enough for creating this forum and for being a huge source of inspiration.

Here is my question:

When the sensations are observed, it is said to understand the 3 characteristics within each sensation. How exactly do you do that? Do you actually need to *do* anything other than simply observe the rise and fall of each sensation and let nature take its own course for the insights to arise?

I come from Goenkaji’s tradition and there is heavy emphasis on Anicca with an understanding that the other two will follow. I always have this nagging feeling that I have not really understood the true meaning of “understanding the 3 characteristics in every sensation” concept.

I request practitioners to jump in with their explanations because sometimes, one particular explanation gives me that Aha moment compared to others, so it would be great to see multiple explanations and hopefully, this is such an important concept that others may also benefit from such explanations.

With Metta,
Niranjan.


Hi Niranjan,

Here is how I gave rise to/observed the 3 perceptions in my own practice.

Nick

RE: Understanding the 3 Characteristics
Answer
6/14/13 9:36 PM as a reply to Niranjan Thirukkovalur.
Mario, fiveballs, Christian and Nikolai, thank you for all of your comments and for the links. I will post my thoughts or any further questions after I digest all the information. Once again, thank you for all of your comments.

-Niranjan.