acinteyyo wrote:truly seeing one means automatically seeing all three characteristics.
I've heard that too. In fact, I've also heard that one only truly sees them fully with stream-entry... which, if true, almost seems to lead to a bit of a Catch-22 situation.
it's probably like seeing avijja as avijja. Which reminds me of Ven. Ñanavira Theras Notes on paticcasamuppāda
A man with avijjā, practising reflexion, may identify 'self' with both reflexive and immediate experience, or with reflexive experience alone, or with immediate experience alone. He does not conclude that neither is 'self', and the reason is clear: it is not possible to get outside avijjā by means of reflexion alone; for however much a man may 'step back' from himself to observe himself he cannot help taking avijjā with him. There is just as much avijjā in the self-observer as there is in the self-observed. And this is the very reason why avijjā is so stable in spite of its being sankhatā. Simply by reflexion the puthujjana can never observe avijjā and at the same time recognize it as avijjā; for in reflexion avijjā is the Judge as well as the Accused, and the verdict is always 'Not Guilty'. In order to put an end to avijjā, which is a matter of recognizing avijjā as avijjā, it is necessary to accept on trust from the Buddha a Teaching that contradicts the direct evidence of the puthujjana's reflexion. This is why the Dhamma is patisotagāmī (Majjhima iii,6 <M.i,168>), or 'going against the stream'. The Dhamma gives the puthujjana the outside view of avijjā, which is inherently unobtainable for him by unaided reflexion (in the ariyasāvaka this view has, as it were, 'taken' like a graft, and is perpetually available). Thus it will be seen that avijjā in reflexive experience (actual or potential) is the condition for avijjā in immediate experience. It is possible, also, to take a second step back and reflect upon reflexion; but there is still avijjā in this self-observation of self-observation, and we have a third layer of avijjā protecting the first two. And there is no reason in theory why we should stop here; but however far we go we shall not get beyond avijjā. The hierarchy of avijjā can also be seen from the Suttas in the following way.
Katamā pan'āvuso avijjā....
Yam kho āvuso dukkhe aññānam,
ayam vuccat'āvuso avijjā.
(Majjhima i,9 <M.i,54>)
Katamañ ca bhikkhave dukkham ariyasaccam...
Katamañ ca bhikkhave dukkhasamudayam ariyasaccam...
Katamañ ca bhikkhave dukkhanirodham ariyasaccam...
Katamañ ca bhikkhave dukkhanirodhagāminīpatipadā ariyasaccam.
Ayam eva ariyo atthangiko maggo,
Katamā ca bhikkhave sammāditthi...
Yam kho bhikkhave dukkhe ñānam,
ayam vuccati bhikkhave sammāditthi.
(Dīgha ii,9 <D.ii,305-12>)
But which, friends, is nescience?...
That which is non-knowledge of suffering,
non-knowledge of arising of suffering,
non-knowledge of ceasing of suffering,
non-knowledge of the way that leads to ceasing of suffering,
this, friends, is called nescience.
And which, monks, is the noble truth of suffering...
And which, monks, is the noble truth of arising of suffering...
And which, monks, is the noble truth of ceasing of suffering...
And which, monks, is the noble truth of the way that leads to ceasing of suffering?
Just this noble eight-factored path,
that is to say: right view...
And which, monks, is right view?...
That which is knowledge of suffering,
knowledge of arising of suffering,
knowledge of ceasing of suffering,
knowledge of the way that leads to ceasing of suffering,
this, monks, is called right view.
Avijjā is non-knowledge of the four noble truths. Sammāditthi is knowledge of the four noble truths. But sammāditthi is part of the four noble truths. Thus avijjā is non-knowledge of sammāditthi; that is to say, non-knowledge of knowledge of the four noble truths. But since sammāditthi, which is knowledge of the four noble truths, is part of the four noble truths, so avijjā is non-knowledge of knowledge of knowledge of the four noble truths. And so we can go on indefinitely. But the point to be noted is that each of these successive stages represents an additional layer of (potentially) reflexive avijjā. Non-knowledge of knowledge of the four noble truths is non-knowledge of vijjā, and non-knowledge of vijjā is failure to recognize avijjā as avijjā. Conversely, it is evident that when avijjā is once recognized anywhere in this structure it must vanish everywhere; for knowledge of the four noble truths entails knowledge of knowledge of the four noble truths, and vijjā ('science') replaces avijjā ('nescience') throughout.
I think that's why one does only make little Dhamma-progress until the realisation of at least sotapatti. Because it's more a running in circles until the point when one finally has one's foot in the door of Dhamma.
I also agree with Ben,
retrofuturist wrote:In fact, I've also heard that one only truly sees them fully with stream-entry... which, if true, almost seems to lead to a bit of a Catch-22 situation.
I don't believe so. At least for me, its an iterative process. One begins by observing anicca. As one develops one's sensitivity towards the anicca characteristic in phenomena, both dukkha and anatta characteristics becomes increasingly evident, increasing familiarity and knowledge of one support the knowledge of all until culmination as an ariya. And I want to make it clear I am not claiming to be an ariya.
I think this process of gradual realization is inferred also in the nine vipassana nanas.
My experience is quite similar. I'm sure there's a connection between seeing avijja as avijja and seeing the three characteristics, which enables one who sees it for himself to release himself from (at least) the first three fetters for this reason.
best wishes, acinteyyo