Buddhism · Spirituality

Spiritual Glossary: Three Marks of Existence

The Marks of Existence are the characteristics shared by all beings and are the basic facts of life:

  • anicca (impermanence)
  • anatta (non-self)
  • dukkha (suffering)

Everything that exists is impermanent. All things are in a constant state of change, even things which seem fairly solid and immovable, like a mountain. Entropy is a fact of life. What is born, will die. What goes up, will come down.


In order to exist, everything depends upon other things, other conditions. Everything is impermanent and interdependent. There is nothing that exists that is permanent and self-existent. In fact, something that doesn’t depend on other conditions for its existence is impossible. If all things were permanent and self-existing, they could never exist. Therefore it can be stated that nothing inherently exists. Things only exist conditionally and in relationship to other things. They have no inherent existence in and of themselves, or no self.


Because everything changes and nothing is permanent, we tend to suffer. We don’t like the nature of life and the fact we will die. We don’t like it when things go wrong: we fall ill, get old, lose our job, or run out of ketchup and have to eat our burger dry. So suffering is one of the facts of life and the first fact stated in the Four Noble Truths.

Out of interest, dukkha means ‘ill-fitting chariot wheel’ – so like riding in a cart with a wonky wheel, life is often uncomfortable and liable to give you a painful jolt when you least expect.

See also: Buddha Nature

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