I suppose that there is (are) differences between the tilakkhana (anicca; dukkha and anatta) and the so-called three dhamma-seals (anicca; anatta and nibbana). Can anyone help me?
This article, Four Dharma Seals, says:
As suffering is not an inherent aspect of existence sometimes the second seal is omitted to make Three Dharma Seals.
From that I get the impression that,
- The tilakkhaṇa is the earliest doctrine (in the Pali canon)
- Later someone added nirvana to that list (making the four Dharma seals)
- Then, someone decided that if nirvana is in that list, then dukkha isn't permanent/inevitable, and so they removed dukkha from the list.
The Three Dharma Seals in an error of interpretation by Thích Nhất Hạnh based on an error of interpretation by the majority of Buddhist commentators and translators. It is an example of when an error is made based on accepting an existing error rather than refuting an existing error.
Thích Nhất Hạnh has correctly stated that "suffering" is not an inherent aspect of reality however the word 'dukkha' as one of the tilakkhaṇa does not mean 'suffering' but means 'unsatisfactoriness'.
It is an error to translate the second tilakkhaṇa as 'suffering' or 'stress' thus it is another error, as Thích Nhất Hạnh has done, to accept the wrong translation as valid and then dismiss it because this also dismisses what the Buddha taught and, more importantly, dismisses what is actually real.
Thus, as properly translated from Dhammapada 278 by Acharya Buddharakkhita:
277. "All conditioned things are impermanent" — when one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering. This is the path to purification.
278. "All conditioned things are unsatisfactory" — when one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering. This is the path to purification.
279. "All things [including Nibbana] are not-self" — when one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering. This is the path to purification
The Four Dharma Seals should be (according to reality) as follows:
All compounded things are impermanent
All compounded things are unsatisfactory (cannot bring lasting happiness)
All phenomena [including Nibbana] are not-self/empty
Nirvana is uncompounded, the supreme & true lasting happiness (end of suffering).
The Four Dharma seals are wrong, because Dukkha is a part of the Four Noble Truths. Dukkha cannot be a Dharma seal because suffering can be transcended with enlightenment. But the Three Dharma Seals are the actual Truth that will always be:
- All Samskara are impermanent
- All dharma are without a substantial self
- Nirvana is perfect peace
All three are inherent truth, not something that can be changed with enlightenment.