The Three Marks of Existence

The Buddha said that there are three marks of existence—characteristics that are always present in existence and that can help us understand what to do with existence.

The three characteristics of existence (Dharma Seals) are:

  • Impermanence (Anicca)
  • Suffering (Dukkha)
  • Not-self (Anatta)

These three characteristics are always present in or connected with existence, and they tell us about the nature of existence. They help us know what to do with existence. Once we understand that existence is universally characterized by impermanence, suffering, and not-self, we eliminate our attachment to existence. And once we eliminate our attachment to existence, we gain the threshold of nirvana.

Understanding the three marks removes attachment by removing delusion—the misunderstanding that existence is permanent, pleasant, and has something to do with the self. This is why understanding the three characteristics is part of the development of wisdom.

Three Marks of Existence

The Three Universal Characteristics
Dr. Peter Della Santina

Three Universal Characteristics
Bhikkhu Buddhadasa

The Practice of Looking Deeply Using Three Dharma Seals: Impermanence, No-self and Nirvana
Thich Nhat Hanh

Tri Lakshana: The Three Characteristics of Existence
Amarasiri Weeraratne


No-self or Not-self?
Thanissaro Bhikkhu

The Not-Self Strategy
Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Meditating on No-Self
Sister Khema

Anitya Anicca
by Ven. Dr. Karuna Dharma

Anatta (Non-Self)
Ajahn Brahmavamso

The Ending of Things A Discourse On "Non-Self"
Ajahn Brahmavamso

Bhikkhu Buddhadasa

What is the Use of the Knowledge of Impermanence?
H. Gunaratana Mahathera