“Monks, the All is aflame. What All is aflame? The eye is aflame. Forms are aflame. Consciousness at the eye is aflame. Contact at the eye is aflame. And whatever there is that arises in dependence on contact at the eye — experienced as pleasure, pain or neither-pleasure-nor-pain — that too is aflame. Aflame with what? Aflame with the fire of lust, the fire of hatred, the fire of delusion. Aflame, I tell you, with birth, aging & death, with sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs” (Adittapariyaya Sutta, SN 35.28).
- Impermanence (anicca) — the only constant is change, and it is ceaseless change, from one instant to the other
- No-self (anatta) — there is no point at which there is a static, enduring self. Instead, the concept of “self” is an illusion that helps us to navigate the world but is not literally true.
- Suffering (dukkha) life is fundamentally suffering and failure to understand these concepts being articulated, perpetuates this suffering.
- Dependent-origination (paticcasamupadda) — We understand the aforementioned concepts through an understanding that everything that is, has an antecedent cause and will produce subsequent effects. This is similar to Leibniz’s principle of sufficient reason, according to which everything has an intelligible cause (and in this case, an effect).
- Emptiness/voidness (Śūnyatā) — This is basically a more abstract articulation of what we see in the more concrete and particularistic concept of dependent-origination, according to which there is simply no such thing as an “essence” or “substance” at all, and the repudiation of an essence or substance follows from (and informs) the previous concepts.
Finally, the purpose if Vipassana (insight) meditation is to cultivate a mental state that causes one to experientially internalize the realities of these concepts rather than just understanding them intellectually, as such an internalization is what is responsible for the transformative nature of Buddhist doctrine.