The Three Signs


This book is a translation of chapter 3 of Buddhadhamma, explaining the Buddha’s key teaching on the Three Characteristics (tilakkhaṇa): impermanence (anicca), suffering/stress (dukkha), and not-self (anattā).

As Ajahn Payutto points out early in this chapter, a true understanding of the Three Characteristics is equivalent to understanding the teaching on Dependent Origination—these two teachings reveal the same truth from different angles. By understanding these teachings, a person reaches the heart of Buddhism.

This book clarifies the meaning of the term dukkha, which has led to many misunderstandings through inadequate translations. For example, how many times have we heard the confusing rendering of ‘All life is suffering’? Similarly, the book offers a comprehensive explanation of the term anattā (‘not-self’), which can be perplexing to students new to Buddhism.


Introduction (pdf file)

Chapter 1: Understanding the Terms Dhamma and Saṅkhāra

Chapter 2: Scriptural Definitions

Scriptural Definitions (pdf file)

Chapter 3: Concealers of the Three Characteristics

Chapter 4: Nonself and No-self

Chapter 5: Ego and Conceit

Chapter 6: Practical Value

Practical Value (pdf file)


The Buddha’s Words

      The Buddha’s Words (pdf file)