“Is Everything Suffering?” Thich Nhat Hanh asks in the title of Chapter Five. The First Noble Truth and Three Marks of Existence or Three Dharma Seals would seem to indicate that it is. According to the All-knowing God Wikipedia, the Three Marks of Existence are annicca, anatta, and dhukka, or impermanence, non-self, and suffering. It’s interesting to note the first two are more a lack of something than its presence. All things are impermanent. All things lack a separate self. And all things suffer. Or do they?
Does a buddha suffer? I would think not, because isn’t that sort of the point of buddhahood? Or maybe a buddha does suffer, they just don’t mind because they are a buddha, and if they don’t mind (have to aversion/attachment) is it still suffering? Well, for arguments sake, let’s say a buddha does not suffer. Then by the logic of the Three Marks of Existence, neither does the buddha exist, and don’t we know that’s not the case?
As Thich Nhat Hanh points out, that argument “is illogical.”
“To put suffering on the same level of impermanence and non-self is an error. Impermanence and non-self are “universal.” They are a “mark” of all things. Suffering is not. It is not difficult to see that a table is impermanent and does not have a self separate from all non-table elements, like wood, rain, sun, furniture maker, and so on. But is it suffering?”
TNH points out that it is our attachment/aversion to the table which causes us suffering, our mistaken understanding that the table is permanent and separate. And doesn’t the Third Noble Truth tell us that we have the ability to cause the cessation of suffering.
“In several sutras the Buddha taught that nirvana, the joy of completely extinguishing our ideas and concepts, rather than suffering, is one of the Three Dharma Seals.”
This makes much more sense in light of the understanding that nirvana is now. Nirvana is the present moment, the beauty, the basic goodness of every thing and every moment hiding behind the distorted lenses of our attachments, concepts, desires, and ignorance.
Everything is not suffering; rather, everything is nirvana.