The four seals were spoken by Buddha himself. It is considered that one is a Buddhist if he or she accepts the following four truths -:

  1. All compounded things are impermanent.
  2. All emotions are pain.
  3. All things have no inherent existence.
  4. Nirvana is beyond all concepts.

It’s not like we constantly need to be following OR forcefully applying these four truths. They should just reside in your mind at all times. You should be aware of them.

All compounded things are impermanent.

If one understands that everything is impermanent, he/she does not hold on to things. And when one does not grasp & hold on to things, only then life is lived fully. We have to accept that change is inevitable. When we understand and accept that change is the only constant thing, we are freed from all kinds of personal, political or relationship dramas.

You will become fearless when you appreciate the uncertainty of life and enjoy it. (Preparing for the worst, while allowing for the best)

So, if you are currently feeling hopeless – remember that everything is impermanent, including this feeling. It will change. It has to.

All emotions are pain.

We think that emotions such as anger, jealousy, aggression etc amount to pain & emotions like love are pleasurable. But in-fact, the pleasure we now experience will actually be the cause of the pain that we might experience sooner or later.

If we try and understand the origin of each emotion, we will realize that they are all rooted in mis-understanding and hence are flawed. According to Buddhist teachings, all of these emotions arise from misunderstanding – and this misunderstanding comes from one source – clinging to the self. If we can be aware of our emotions as they arise, we restrict there activity and importance.

As long us we are in control, we’ll be happy. Only when someone else holds the leash – problems arise.

All things have no inherent existence.

The fourth seal can be summarized in this one sentence – the way things appear is not the way they actually are.

“Denying is a form of underestimating, and blind faith is a form of overestimating.”

Anything that is perceived by the mind did not exist before the mind perceived it. It doesn’t exist individually and hence it doesn’t truly exist.

“It is not the appearance that blinds you, it’s the attachment to the appearance that blinds you”

Our suffering and paranoia are based on illusions and hence have no inherit existence.

Nirvana is beyond all concepts.

Nirvana is not a place. It is rather a state of existence and is beyond time and space. It can only be experienced. What I have gathered is that, if one understands the first three seals – he/she is closer to Nirvana!


It just makes sense. Specially in this day and age of Instagram, Facebook and what not. Just understanding and keeping the 4 seals in mind will always help us in some way or the other.


I wrote this article after reading the book “What Makes You Not A Buddhist” by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse. Have quoted the author a couple of times! This is a personal summary of the book I have recorded for myself and for others!


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Prateek Katyal

Prateek Katyal

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