Eastern Spirituality

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Impermanence. Impermanence is one of the essential doctrines or three marks of existence in Buddhism. The term expresses the Buddhist notion that all of conditioned existence, without exception, is transient, or in a constant state of flux. The mutability of life, that time passes on no matter what happens, is an important aspect of impermanence. The Pali word anicca literally means "inconstant", and arises from a synthesis of two separate words, 'Nicca' and the "privative particle" 'a'. Where the word 'Nicca' refers to the concept of continuity and permanence, 'Anicca' refers to its exact opposite; the absence of permanence and continuity.

Anicca or impermanence is understood by Buddhists as one of the three marks of existence, the others being dukkha (unsatisfactoriness) and anatta (non-selfhood). All things in the universe are understood by Buddhists to be characterised by these three marks of existence. According to the impermanence doctrine, human life embodies this flux in the aging process, the cycle of birth and rebirth (samsara), and in any experience of loss. This is applicable to all beings and their environs including devas (mortal gods). The Buddha taught that because conditioned phenomena are impermanent, attachment to them becomes the cause for future suffering (dukkha).

Conditioned phenomena can also be referred to as compounded, constructed, or fabricated. This is in contrast to the unconditioned, uncompounded and unfabricated nirvana, the reality that knows no change, decay or death.

Impermanence is intimately associated with the doctrine of anatta, according to which things have no fixed nature, essence, or self. For example, in Mahayana Buddhism, because all phenomena are impermanent, and in a state of flux, they are understood to be empty of an intrinsic self (shunyata).

Glossary Contents: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z