Heard this (trippy) song about ten years ago and loved it, and was intrigued by the lyrics:
Ott – Jack’s Cheese and Bread Snack
One: All composite phenomena are impermanent.
Two: All contaminated things and events are unsatisfactory or in the nature of suffering.
Three: All phenomena are empty and selfless (devoid of self-existence).
And four: Nirvana is true peace.
… but wasn’t entirely clear what they meant, though I knew it was basic Buddhist philosophy ontology. Now I understand (and ten years from now may see more deeply what they mean… :).
Basically, it’s like this:
One: It’s talking about separation and oneness: if a phenomenon, an appearance, which is what an object is composed of, must in order to be perceived as a thing in consciousness (what there is, and what all phenomenon appear within), have some sort of border, boundary, or seeming separateness from other things, then it is part of the world of change – you need time and space to have objects, and a self, and movement – then by nature it will come and go. Anything that is born dies; any perception, sensation, or thought arises then goes away; the only thing that does not change is the totality, which cannot be perceived as a thing because it isn’t – and intuitively it must the same as what is reading these words – the one perceiver.
So in short, “composite”, “phenomenon” and “impermanent” all imply each other: so see what changes and thus is illusory and you will know what is eternal.
Two: By “contaminated” here means the experience of fear and desire: reactions, unconsciousness, which if acted on – a reaction, which is repeated and automatic (karma: cause and effect) via mental activity – this by nature leads to suffering. Pure consciousness is “contaminated” in the sense of obscured: the waters are muddied by personal thinking, mental activity or vibration comes from separateness, which wants to complete itself, but blindly, through objects which it either desires, or fears, thinking they are outside itself, and complete disappearance (non-existence) is implied as a possibility in separateness, and this disturbance is suffering and not peace.
(In a practical sense or example, people can achieve a lot, be ambitious, but create a lot of wreckage in the process through desire and fear – the ego-driven activity, creating stress, suffering, such as coming from competitiveness, anger, driven-ness, unconsciousness, stupidity of learned or clever rather than natural intelligence; but in action through non-attachment the “sage” achieves without doing; life is lived through him, not by him).
Three: Given that self and other arise together (how can there be one without the other – it would just be One), the separate or personal self is a phenomenon like any other, composed of passing, illusory sensations, perception, thoughts: a concept, the “I” thought. So just as this self does not actually exist in any real and substantial sense, so by implication are all others, all of what was considered to be “out there”: as such all phenomenon are as non-existing in-themselves as this self, ultimately. That is, absolutely, all phenomenon do not exist in themselves but as the perceiving ultimate witness, which is universal. That unknowable “this-ness” is empty as far as being objective.
Four: Nirvana is true peace. True peace is nirvana. Is happiness, is love, is beauty is truth. Is Self.