[Advayavada Study Plan – week 2] As already explained, Advayavada Buddhism does not tell you what to do or believe, but invites us all to make the very best of our own lives by attuning as best as possible, with the help of our personalized Noble Eightfold Path, with wondrous overall existence advancing over time now in its manifest direction; our reference standard is wondrous overall existence and not misguided and failing mankind.
The purpose of this autonomous Advayavada Study Plan (ASP) is that we study and debate in a local group, the family circle or with good friends the meaning and implications of the weekly subject, not as a formal and impersonal intellectual exercise, but in the context of whatever we ourselves are presently doing or are concerned with, or about, or affected by, such as our health, relationships, work, study, social environment and circumstances, etc.
The 13-week ASP can conveniently be repeated four times a year and last week the first preliminary subject of this first quarter of the new year was again anicca (Pali) or anitya (Sanskrit), which means impermanent, changeable, unstable, transitory, and is traditionally considered the first of the three (in Advayavada Buddhism, four) signs or marks or basic facts of being (lakshanas); the Buddhist aniccata or anityata doctrine teaches that impermanence or changeability is the most fundamental property of everything existing.
The second preliminary subject of this first quarter is again this week anatta (Pali) or anatman (Sanskrit), which literally means no-self and is traditionally considered the second of the three (in Advayavada Buddhism, four) signs or marks or basic facts of being (lakshanas). The Buddhist anatta or anatmata doctrine teaches that no immutable and immortal soul, spirit or self exists in the person, in the sense of a permanent, eternal, integral, and independent substance.
In Mahayana Buddhism, the nissvabhava doctrine teaches further that, as all things without exception are produced by interdependent origination (pratityasamutpada, all-conditionality), indeed all are, in fact, empty (shunya) of self-nature (svabhava). Svabhava-shunyata (lit. self-nature emptiness) is a central notion in Madhyamaka philosophy: in Advayavada Buddhism, the selflessness [and, therefore, finitude] of all things is one of the four signs or marks or basic facts of being (lakshana), the other three being the impermanence or changeability of everything (see last week, week 1), the ubiquity of existential suffering (see next week, week 3), and evolution or, in human terms, progress (see week 4).
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