Three Seals (Three Laws) of the Dharma and the Fourth Law



In the fundamental teachings of Buddhism, the Three Laws are:

  1. All things are impermanent
  2. Nothing has an ego
  3. Nirvana is quiescence


(1) “All things are Impermanent”

Everyone knows from experience how the suffering, sorrow, joy, or pleasure that we feel can change in an instant. Simply because such a state of constant change bears witness to the teaching that “All things are Impermanent.”  However, it would be a fundamental error to think that the Buddha’s teaching suggests that we take things as they are in this transient and unreliable existence.  The law that all things are impermanent is the teaching that we should be aware of the changing nature of all things and should not be surprised at or shaken by trifling changes in phenomena or circumstances.


(2)  “Nothing Has an Ego”

The law that “Nothing Has an Ego” is the teaching that all things in this world, without exception, are related to one another. There is nothing that leads an isolated existence that is wholly separated from other things.

When we consider that the tiny insects, birds flying high in the sky, and even the pine trees growing on a distant hill, are all part of the same matter at the beginning of time on earth billions of years ago, we realize that these creatures are permeated by the same life energy that gives us life. The same applies to earth, stone, clouds, and air.

When we turn our attention to the present and consider our own existence, we know that we are given life by earth and stone, and that we are obligated even to insects and birds. For example, if there were no clouds in the sky, we would have no rain; if there was no rain, no plants would grow, if there were no plants, we would have no food nor would the plants produce oxygen; and if there were no air, we could not live for even a few minutes. Without exception, we have some invisible relationship even with those things that seem externally to have no connection with us.

It goes without saying that we have a much closer and stronger relationship to other human beings. We are inseparably bound up with one another, and we all exist through being permeated by the same life-energy.  In spite of this, opposition, dispute, struggle, and killing cause each of us to be swayed by our ego and to live selfishly for his personal profit alone. This is the important reason why we must realize the truth that “Nothing Has an Ego.”


(3)  “Nirvana is Quiescence”

The law “Nirvana is Quiescence” teaches us that we can completely extinguish all the sufferings of human life and obtain peace and quietude when we destroy all illusions. How can we reach this state? The only way is to realize the two laws “All Things are Impermanent” and “Nothing Has an Ego.”

The reason we worry about various kinds of sufferings is that we forget that all phenomena in this world are impermanent, that all things continuously change according to the law of cause and effect. We are deluded by phenomena and influenced by considerations of immediate gain or loss. If we study the way to Buddhahood and by practicing it realize the truth of the impermanence of all things, we become able to attain a state of peace and quietude in which we can never be swayed by shifting circumstances. This is the state of “Nirvana is Quiescence.”

We sometimes feel troubled by shortages of goods, setbacks in business, or personal conflicts and disputes. This is because we lack harmony with others and inanimate things.  Why are we not in harmony with one another? This is because either we do not realize the truth that nothing has an ego or we have forgotten this truth.

We can attain harmony with others spontaneously when we remember the truth that all things and all men are permeated by one great life energy, and that all things are invisibly interconnected, and when we make the best use of this interconnection by abandoning the idea of ego, that is, by enhancing this interconnection to benefit both ourselves and others. When in harmony with others, we can give up excess and deficiency, struggle and friction, and can maintain peaceful minds. This is the state expressed in the law “Nirvana is Quiescence.” It is an ideal state that can be only attained by realizing the other two laws, “All things are Impermanent” and “Nothing has an Ego.”
Following is a brief explanation of the three great truths known as the “Seal of the Three Laws” to help the reader gain a better understanding of true Buddhism and thus the ability to lead a better daily life.

The Seal of the Three Laws

  1. All Things are Impermanent – All phenomena of this world is always changing
  2. Nothing has an Ego – All things in this world, without exception, are related to one another. There is nothing that leads an isolated existence (that is self ego).
  3. Nirvana is Quiescence – An ideal state of mind and body that completely extinguish all the sufferings of human life and obtain peace and quietude.