Even if you don’t live in an ashram or eat a Sattvic diet, these 3 powerful Buddhist philosophies from the sacred scripture Dhammapada will surely rock your world. Widely referred to as the 3 marks of existence, here’s how you can make them part of your daily life:
1. Dukkha: Life is painful and has suffering.
This is where Buddhism gets a bad rep. Most people think this philosophy is pessimistic because of its direct translation from Sanskrit. It’s not just about dealing with the rough downs of life.
The deeper translation is knowing that nothing found in the physical world or even the psychological realm can bring lasting deep satisfaction.
In our modern day, it is about seeing how to eradicate the perpetuation of this suffering. If we suppress or avoid the difficult feelings that arise when life throws us curve balls, we can actually suffer more.
And if we also attach ourselves to an outcome, expectation or feeling that is opposite of what we feel, (i.e. joy vs. sadness), we end up disappointed, frustrated and angry. So the philosophy teaches that instead of being afraid of our suffering or discomfort, or instead of constantly trying to end it, just be with it. You aren’t broken. Sickness, aging, loss, these are all a part of life. Accepting this and realizing that life is not always easy, you can create your own “normal” vs. the one marketing industries have tried to impose on us to numb true feelings. And don’t dwell, remember, the discomfort will pass, especially if you practice the Buddhist’s theory of non-attachment.
Embrace the uncertain and let go of expectation. It will open your heart.
2. Anitya: Life is in a constant state of flux.
Anitya translates to “impermanence”. We can never again access the moment that has just passed, nor can we ever fully replicate it. As each day passes, our cells are changing, our thoughts develop and manifest differently, the temperature and air quality shifts. Everything around us is different. Always.
This can help with the dukkha, knowing that our pain can and will pass. But what most of us fear is that the happy moments will also pass. Nonattachment comes into play then, and reminding ourselves that we shouldn’t be attached to the outcome how long that joyous moment should be. It is the moment it is in, be in that moment and that is all.
All we have is the present moment.
In our every day, we can apply this minute to minute. It will help you appreciate all of it- your loved ones, your health, your environment and nature. Remember to cherish the moments you love, and remind yourself of the impermanence in the sad moments you wish would pass.
3. Anatma: Nothing belongs to the self.
How many times have you heard, “I want to find myself?” We are, as a society, always seeking this ‘self’, thinking that once we find him/her, our life problems will be fixed.
This again, is attaching to an outcome. It can actually prolong suffering according to Buddhism.
Anatma describes the idea of a changing self, one that is not fixed or concrete. Just like the impermanence of anitya in regards to our physical bodies, thoughts and moments in time, anatma is the same…everything that makes up “who we are”, is not stable. It can change over time.
Just think of what you ‘label’ as your identity…jobs, family roles, interests.
Sure, if you are a kind person, you will always be a kind person. That is not what anatma negates. It is just about accepting yourself just as you are.
In your day to day, instead of seeking this version of self, focus on creating a self that works for you and you strive for in that day, that moment in time. If you are depressed one day, this does not define you.
Allow forgiveness, for others and yourself, and understand that you can be ‘new’ in a new moment.
These three ideas can allow us to flow with life in a comfortable current of presence and as Thich Nhat Hanh says, opens the door to all moments.