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The Manual of Insight

Exposition Of Tirana-parinna

The three salient marks or features are:

  1. Anicca-lakkhana: The Mark of Impermanence.
  2. Dukkha-lakkhana: The Mark of Ill.
  3. Anatta-lakkhana : The Mark of No-soul.

Anicca-lakkhana or the Mark of Impermanence, is the characteristic of the sphere of Vaparinama and of Annahabhava.

Viparinama means metastasis, that is, a radical change in nature; a change from the present state into that which is not the present state. Annathabhava means subsequent change of mode. If the spheres of Viparinama and Annathabhava are exposed to the view of the mind's eye, it will be distinctly discerned that the mental and material phenomena, which are within the spheres of these two, Viparinama and Annathabhava, are really impermanent things. Therefore we have said: "The anicca-lakkhana or the mark of impermanence, is the characteristic of the sphere of Viparinama and of Annathabhava. When we closely observe and analyze in mind the flame of a lamp burning at night, we take note of the flame together with its five salient features, i.e. birth, growth, continuance, decay, and death. We note that the fire is momentarily arising. This is the birth of a material phenomenon; but it is not fire. We observe that the flame after arising, is constantly developing. This is the growth of the material phenomenon; but it is not fire. We observe that the flame is uninterruptedly continuing in its normal state. This is the continuance of the material phenomenon, but it is not fire. We observe that the flame is dying down. This is the decay of the material phenomenon; but it is' not fire. We observe that the flame is dying away. This is the death of the material phenomenon, but it is not fire. The property of hotness is, of course, fire. The flame quivers merely on account of the presence of these five salient features. Sometimes it may quiver when the lamp is removed, and in that case it may be said that the quivering is due to wind. These five salient features are therefore the subsequent changes (annathabhava) of the flame, called the Marks of Impermanence. By observing and taking note of these five salient features, it can be understood that the flame is an impermanent thing. Similarly it should be understood that all moving things are impermanent things.

The mobile appearances of the most delicate atoms of matter, which are not discernible by the human eye, are discovered by the help of that clever revealer of nature's secrets, the microscope. Through the discovery of these moving appearances, it is believed nowadays by certain Western people -- Leibnitz and Fechner, for example -- that these material phenomena are living creatures. But in truth they are not living creatures, and the moving appearances are due only to the reproduction of the material phenomena through the function of the physical change (utu). By reproduction we here mean the Acaya-rupa. In some organisms, of course, there may be living creatures in existence.

When we look at the flowing water of a river or a stream, or at the boiling water in the kettle, we discern moving appearances. These are the reproductions of material phenomena produced by physical change. And in water, which seems still or quiet to the naked eye, moving appearances will also be seen with the help of a microscope. These two are reproductions of material phenomena produced by physical change. Here, "reproductions" mean the constant integrations of new phenomena, which are called acaya-rupas. By discerning the integrations of new phenomena, the subsequent deaths or disappearances of the old phenomena which are called the Aniccata-rupas, are also discernible. When the integration of new matter and the death of the old matter take place side by side, the Santati-rupa is discernible. When the reproduction is excessive, the Apacaya-rupa is discernible. When the death of old matter is excessive, the Jarata-rupa is discernible. We have shown above that in every tree, root, branch, leaf, sprout, flower, and fruit there are these five salient marks. So, when we look at them with the aid of a microscope, we see that they are full of very infinitesimal organisms moving about as if they were living creatures; but in fact these are mere reproductions of matter produced by physical change.

As regards the bodies of creatures or persons, these five salient marks are also discernible in every member of the body, such as, hair, hair of the body, finger-nails, toe-hails, teeth, the inner skin, the outer skin, muscles, nerves, veins big bones, small bones, marrow, kidney, heart, liver, membrane, lungs, intestines, entrails, undigested food, digested food, and the brain. So, when we look at them with the help of a microscope, moving organisms like very small creatures are seen. These are the reproductions of matter produced by Kamma, mind, food, and physical change. There may of course be microbes in some cases. Thus, if we look with the mind's eye, the mark of impermanence in all the matter of the whole body will clearly be discerned.

What has just been expounded is the mark of impermanence in the matter.

In mental phenomena, i.e., mind and its concomitants, the mark of impermanence, which has two distinct features, the radical change (viparinama) and the subsequent change (annathabhava), is no less clearly to be seen. In the world, we all know that there are many different terms and expressions, which are applied to the different modes and manners of the elements of mind and body, which are incessantly rising and ceasing. For instance, there are two expressions, "seeing" and "not-seeing," which are used in describing the function of the eye. Seeing is the term assigned to the element of sight-consciousness; or, when we say "one sees," this is the term applied in describing the arising of sight-consciousness from the conjuncture of four causes, namely, eye-basis, visual-form, light, and attention. And when we say, "one does not see," this is the phrase we use in describing the non-existence of sight-consciousness. When, at night in the dark, no source of light is present, sight-consciousness does not arise upon the eye-basis; it is temporarily suspended. But it will arise when the light from a fire, for instance, is introduced. And when the light is put out, sight-consciousness also again will cease. As there are five salient marks present in the flame, if the light comes to be, seeing also comes to be, sight also arises. If the light develops, seeing also develops. If the light continues, seeing also continues. If the light decays, seeing also decays. And if the light ceases, then seeing also ceases. In the daytime also, these twin terms "seeing "not- seeing" may be made use of. If there is no obstruction, one sees; and if there is obstruction, one does not see. As regards eyelids, if they are opened, one sees; and if they are shut, one does not see. What has just been expounded in the Viparinama and Annathabhava of sight- consciousness through the occasioning cause, light. In cases where the destruction of the eye basis occurs after conception, sight consciousness also is lost forever. If the visual form is taken away out of view, sight-consciousness also ceases. While sleeping, as there is no attention, so sight-consciousness subsides for some time. The genesis of all classes of consciousness that take part in the process of eye- door is to be understood by the term seeing"; and the subsidence of the same is to be understood by the term "not-seeing."

Similarly in each function of hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching, a pair of expressions (existing or otherwise) is obtainable, and these must be dealt with as to their impermanency, i.e., Viparinama and Annathabhava, in the same way as sight- consciousness. With regard to mind-cognition, it has many different modes, and each is apparent in its nature of Viparinima and Annathabhava through the changes of the different kinds of thought. Among the mental concomitants, taking feeling for example, the changes of pleasure, pain, joy, grief, and hedonic indifference, are very evident. So also, the changes of perception, initial application, sustained application, from good to bad and vice versa, are very obvious. It may be easily noticed by anyone that in the single posture of sitting alone, greed, disinterestedness, hate, and amity, are each rising by turns.

What has just been expounded is the impermanence of mental phenomena. So much for the Mark of impermanence.

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