1, Impermanence (Anitya)
The Buddha taught that everything is impermanence. All things change. We cannot find anything that is permanent.
When we know that everything is changing, we can forecast predict what will happen in the future and prepare for it.
And, we understand that without exception, everything will decay and disappear. In this way our strong attachment to material will be reduced. For example, The cells of our body are changing each moment.
The existence called a human being is an existence that becomes old and dies. If we can understand this, we can accept our own death objectively. And eventually our fear of aging and death will be healed.
It is not enough to understand impermanence with our intelligence alone. Through our daily life experience and faith and practice, we become able to accept impermanence from the bottom of our heart.
2, Nonself (Anatman)
In Buddhist studies it is taught that the Buddha denied an absolute, eternal self or soul, which resides within us. In regards to this there are many opinions according to the translative interpretations of later ages.
That is why we cannot say that the Buddha truly denied the soul. The Buddha did not deny the soul. The Buddha said that the soul is not like the artman of Hindu philosophy.
I should say Buddha did not deny the sacred existence that resides within us. While His Holiness the Dalai Lama also says that Buddhism does not recognize an absolute eternal existence, that is the thinking of his school of Buddhism, and we the listeners must be mindful of that fact.
Buddhism has a very large number of schools and each school has a different opinion and thinking about the soul.
And there is a problem with also the translation of nonself.
Nonself must be translated as nothing like a self.
The summary of this teaching is we human beings are being controlled by previous causes and conditions.
Human beings, we feel as we are living and taking action according to our thinking and wishes. But the truth the realty is that
there is a condition that is prepared in the past, and for the first time we can take that action.
I am able to speak to you here is also because I am in good health and could stand here. You have gathered here. You were all right today and so forth. It was because of various conditions that I can speak to you here. No matter how I want to speak to you here, unless the conditions are complete, this moment is not realized.
Although human beings think that they are living according through their ego, but truth is we are really controlling by our karma (cause and condition). This teaching is the teaching of anatman.
Nirvana means the extinction of a burning fire. What is burning? The illusions and desires within the human mind. These illusions are being likened to a fire.
The state of mind, where the illusion and desires have completely vanished is nirvana.
However, human beings cannot completely extinguish their desires. Human beings have such minimal desires as the desire for food and sleep in order to live. These are desires for survival that are different from material greed.
Moreover, human beings also have the good desire of bringing happiness to another.
The mission of Buddhism is to control the desires that bring suffering to human beings.
When we have perfectly controlled our mind’s condition, our mind is in the true state of nirvana. In truth, the mind is not the human being’s master. The mind is the human being’s servant. Our soul is the master. The mind is its servant.
We must not be the servants of our mind. We must not be servant by our emotions. We must control our mind and use it. By living our daily lives while being mindful of this, a peaceful tranquil life will come to us. For this to happen, we must understand these two teachings, and make them a part of our daily actions. By so doing, we can naturally arrive at the state of nirvana.
By Rev. Takamasa Yamamura.
Translated by Mr. Dean Makinodan.