The “Four Seals” are four fundamental Buddhist principles.

Do you have a set of beliefs or principles that you follow to govern your life and personal development?

What are your core beliefs? About:

  • How does the world work?
  • What is the point of life?
  • What is the self’s nature?
  • What is your human responsibility?
  • What effect do your words, ideas, and deeds have?
  • Why are you in pain?
  • What happens after you pass away?
  • Are your beliefs in accord with what is actually happening in the world?
  • In your belief system, what does true happiness and freedom entail?

Do your views, whether consciously selected or unconsciously acquired, frequently result in happiness or pain for yourself and others?

As a young adult, I lacked a belief system. I just walked around aimlessly, bouncing off events, people, and situations. I wanted to be joyful, but I was primarily on autopilot and reacting to situations.

Happiness came and went at random times, but emotional agony was more prevalent. I had a nagging sense of unease, broken by bursts of great drama.

Years later, my ideas have crystallized into guiding principles that I’ve cherished for decades and trust will offer me the most freedom possible.

My beliefs are in keeping with the “Four Seals,” which are four important Buddhist principles. The Four Seals are used to determine whether or not a teaching is Buddhist. They also define what being a Buddhist entails. No matter how much you adore the lovey-dovey aspects of Buddhism or embrace some of its less earth-shattering beliefs, if you don’t believe in all four of these principles, you’re not a Buddhist.

The Four Seals, on the other hand, aren’t limited to Buddhism. This is a way of seeing the world that everyone can have.

Let’s look at The Four Seals and what they signify.

A Set of Guiding Beliefs: The Four Seals
The Four Seals inform us that:

  • All compounded things have a finite lifespan.
  • Every feeling is a source of suffering.
  • There is no intrinsic existence in anything.

Nirvana (the state of non-suffering) is unfathomable.

These are fundamental realities perceived by the Buddha – his grasp of reality as it is — rather than mere concepts. He didn’t expect his followers to believe these realities without question. Observe for yourself, he said. I’d want to extend the same invitation to you.

These four facts may appear radical, counter-intuitive, and diametrically opposed to practically everything you’ve learnt in life at first. However, I know from personal experience that if you take the time to reflect on them, their truth will eventually emerge.

Understanding them logically is, of course, a long way from embodying them in your heart. It takes years for even brilliant minds and meditators to fully comprehend them. However, intellectual comprehension is the first stage, and it has the potential to fundamentally alter your perspective of the world and how it operates.

Although these unusual concepts may cause worry at first, they can eventually bring more comfort and ease into your life.

So, what exactly are the Four Seals?

Based on Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse’s book, What Makes You Not a Buddhist, and other teachings I’ve received on the subject, this is my plain interpretation.

  1. Everything is temporary, including compounded goods.
    They are ephemeral when two or more objects come together, whether in solid form or as thoughts, emotions, and feelings.

Although it may seem self-evident, the majority of us are victims to the idea of permanency. Then, when change occurs, we suffer. Suffering begins to fade away as we allow the reality of impermanence to take root in our hearts and thoughts, making room for genuine happiness.

This reality tells us not to expect the ephemeral to last forever, causing us unneeded sorrow.

“Of all the footprints, the elephant’s is the most important; of all the mindfulness exercises, the one on death is the most important.”

— According to Buddha

  1. Pain is the root of all emotions.
    The majority of us would prefer to be free of negative feelings such as rage, irritation, jealously, grief, and shame. What about “positive” feelings like as joy, pleasure, love, and peace?

When we cling to good feelings, they remain inside the realm of conceptual thinking and can thus be a source of misery. The issue isn’t with the moment of joy that occurs in our lives, but with how we cling onto it and try to make it stay and continue.

Emotions are merely transient occurrences with no lasting significance, but we have a tendency to treat them as if they were concrete and genuine. Then they become the source of hurtful words and acts, trapping us in a never-ending cycle of misery.

The approach is to just be mindful of whatever arises in the mind rather than resisting, fabricating, or clinging to any one condition. This skill starts with mindfulness meditation and progresses to more sophisticated forms of meditation.

Finally, the ability to be totally present in the present moment provides a profound sense of freedom that transcends happiness and unhappiness.

“Awareness does not prohibit you from living; rather, it allows you to live more fully.” If you enjoy a cup of tea and are aware of the bitter and sweet aspects of transient things, you will thoroughly enjoy the cup of tea.” Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse, Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse, Dzongsar Jamyang Kh

  1. There is no inherent existence in anything.
    This leads us to the concept of “emptiness,” which is widely misunderstood.

Mingyur Rinpoche explains the mental level as follows:

“The feeling of openness people have when they simply rest their minds is described in Buddhist terms as emptiness, which is probably one of the most misunderstood phrases in Buddhist philosophy.” —Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

Take, for example, a cup on a physical level. There is no such thing as a “independent” or “permanent” “cup.” What is the cup, when you truly look at it? Is it the handle that’s causing the problem? Is it something on the inside? Is it the weather? Is it an atom-by-atom arrangement that moves? When you look within it, you’ll never be able to find a permanent, solitary, and self-contained cup.

“Cup” is only a label for several pieces that have joined together temporarily owing to causes and conditions and will fall apart at some time due to causes and conditions. For example, if you drop the “cup,” which is a possible reason, it is likely to break.

Emptiness isn’t voidness; it’s the possibility for anything to appear, change, or vanish depending on reasons and situations. Everything that happens is interrelated, and emptiness and appearance are inextricably linked.

“Form is emptiness, and emptiness is both form and emptiness.” “Form is no other than emptiness, and emptiness is no other than form.” The Heart Sutra (

Our issue is that we have a tendency to ascribe permanence to the exhibition of transient events all around us — from material objects to thoughts and emotions — which, more often than not, results in pain.

When we comprehend that life is more like an ever-changing dream, attachment and repulsion diminish. Our lives become more expansive and easy as a result of this realization.

At the same time, we recognize that, because of interdependence, our ideas, words, and acts have an impact — either positive or negative. As a result, we operate responsibly.

“Recognize and lessen attachment and aversion to life’s surreal characteristics.” Practice kindness to all living things. No matter what others do to you, be loving and sympathetic. When you regard it as a dream, it doesn’t matter what they do. The key is to keep a good mindset throughout the dream. This is the most important point. This is spirituality in its purest form.” —Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, Chagdud Tulku Rin

  1. Nirvana (the state of non-suffering) is unfathomable.
    Enlightenment is neither a physical location nor a mental condition.

It is the escape from suffering that comes from believing that everything is permanent, autonomous, and singular. It’s the awareness of our own pure awareness, which is always present within us.

We’re so caught up in our ideas and feelings that we miss out on this pure awareness, which is like the sky hidden behind the clouds yet constantly present.

You can go from identifying with your ideas and feelings to merely being aware at any time. That is the state of nirvana.

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