Tag Archives: vipassana

Buddhist tool box: Three Characteristics


Recently I’ve been running into a lot of mentions of “insight meditation” and Vipassana (same thing), so I thought I’d do some searching for clearer information.

The Three Characteristics of Existence (Tilakkhana) are central to this practice:

  • Anicca (Sanskrit: Anitya): Impermanence, meaning all things and all existence, all conditions and all feelings, are not fixed, not permanent. All things will change. They are continually changing.
  • Dukkha (Sanskrit: Duhkha): Usually translated as suffering, but in this context, usually translated as unsatisfactoriness.
  • Anatta (Sanskrit: Anatma): Not-self, meaning there exists no essence, soul, or self. “All dharmas are marked by emptiness” is an expression of this.

Note that this is NOT exactly the same list as the Three Seals of Existence (a k a the Three Universal Truths; Three Dharma Seals). That list includes impermanence and no(t)-self, but instead of dukkha, it lists nirvana.

Vipassana refers  to a particular kind of meditation practice. It’s not the same as traditional Zen meditation practice. However, it’s possible to do both.

… it’s certainly good for us to try to sit beneath the Bodhi tree. Then we can be Buddha. But we don’t need to argue with others over this question. When one person says the Buddha was doing one kind of practice beneath the Bodhi tree and another person disputes that, we needn’t get involved. We should be looking at it from the viewpoint of the ultimate, meaning realizing the truth. There is also the conventional idea of “Bodhi tree,” which is what most people talk about, but when there are two kinds of Bodhi tree, people can end up arguing and having the most contentious disputes — and then there is no Bodhi tree at all. (Source: Venerable Ajahn Chah, 1979.)

So for now, I think I won’t worry about Vipassana. I have plenty of hard work to do in learning Zen meditation.