Dukkha

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Translations of
dukkha
English: suffering,
anxiety,
stress,
discontentment,
unsatisfactoriness,
etc.
Pali: dukkha
(Dev: दुक्ख)
Sanskrit: duḥkha
(Dev: दुःख)
Burmese: ဒုက္ခ
(IPA: [doʊʔkʰa̰])
Chinese:
(pinyin)
Japanese:
(rōmaji: ku)
Korean:
(ko)
Sinhala: දුක්ඛ සත්‍යය
Tibetan: སྡུག་བསྔལ།
(Wylie: sdug bsngal;
THL: dukngal
)
Vietnamese: khổ / Bất toại
Glossary of Buddhism

Dukkha (Pāli; Sanskrit: duḥkha; Tibetan sdug bsngal) is a Buddhist term commonly translated as "suffering", "anxiety", "stress", or "unsatisfactoriness".[a] The principle of dukkha is one of the most important concepts in the Buddhist tradition. The Buddha is reputed to have said: "I have taught one thing and one thing only, dukkha and the cessation of dukkha." The classic formulation of these teachings on dukkha is the doctrine of the Four Noble Truths, in which the Truth of Dukkha (Pali: dukkha saccã; Sanskrit: duḥkha-satya) is identified as the first of the four truths.

Dukkha is commonly explained according to three different categories:

  • The obvious physical and mental suffering associated with birth, growing old, illness and dying.
  • The anxiety or stress of trying to hold onto things that are constantly changing.
  • A basic unsatisfactoriness pervading all forms of existence, because all forms of life are changing, impermanent and without any inner core or substance.

The Buddhist tradition emphasizes the importance of developing insight into the nature of dukkha, the conditions that cause it, and how it can be overcome. This process is formulated in the teachings on the Four Noble Truths.

Centrality to Buddhist thought[edit]

The principle of dukkha is one of the most important concepts in the Buddhist tradition. The Buddha is reputed to have said: "I have taught one thing and one thing only, dukkha and the cessation of dukkha."[b]

Piyadassi Thera states:[web 4]

To the Buddha the entire teaching is just the understanding of dukkha, the unsatisfactory nature of all phenomenal existence, and the understanding of the way out of this unsatisfactoriness.

The classic formulation of these teachings on dukkha is the doctrine of the Four Noble Truths, in which the Truth of Dukkha (Pali: dukkha saccã; Sanskrit: duḥkha-satya) is identified as the first of the four truths.

Neither pessimistic nor optimistic, but realistic[edit]

The central importance of dukkha in Buddhist philosophy has caused some observers to consider Buddhism to be a pessimistic philosophy.[c][d] However, the emphasis on dukkha is not intended to present a pessimistic view of life, but rather to present a realistic practical assessment of the human condition—that all beings must experience suffering and pain at some point in their lives, including the inevitable sufferings of illness, aging, and death.[3] Contemporary Buddhist teachers and translators emphasize that while the central message of Buddhism is optimistic, the Buddhist view of our situation in life (the conditions that we live in) is neither pessimistic nor optimistic, but realistic.[d]

Walpola Rahula explains the importance of this realistic point of view:[12]

First of all, Buddhism is neither pessimistic nor optimistic. If anything at all, it is realistic, for it takes a realistic view of life and of the world. It looks at things objectively (yathābhūtam). It does not falsely lull you into living in a fool's paradise, nor does it frighten and agonize you with all kinds of imaginary fears and sins. It tells you exactly and objectively what you are and what the world around you is, and shows you the way to perfect freedom, peace, tranquility and happiness.

One physician may gravely exaggerate an illness and give up hope altogether. Another may ignorantly declare that there is no illness and that no treatment is necessary, thus deceiving the patient with a false consolation. You may call the first one pessimistic and the second optimistic. Both are equally dangerous. But a third physician diagnoses the symptoms correctly, understands the cause and the nature of the illness, sees clearly that it can be cured, and courageously administers a course of treatment, thus saving his patient. The Buddha is like the last physician. He is the wise and scientific doctor for the ills of the world (Bhisakka or Bhaisajya-guru).

Surya Das emphasizes the matter-of-fact nature of dukkha:[13]

Buddha Dharma does not teach that everything is suffering. What Buddhism does say is that life, by its nature, is difficult, flawed, and imperfect. [...] That's the nature of life, and that's the First Noble Truth. From the Buddhist point of view, this is not a judgement of life's joys and sorrows; this is a simple, down-to-earth, matter-of-fact description.

The Buddha acknowledged that there is both happiness and sorrow in the world, but he taught that even when we have some kind of happiness, it is not permanent; it is subject to change. And due to this unstable, impermanent nature of all things, everything we experience is said to have the quality of duhkha or unsatisfactoriness. Therefore unless we can gain insight into that truth, and understand what is really able to provide lasting happiness, and what is unable to provide happiness, the experience of dissatisfaction will persist.[9][14]

Three patterns[edit]

Within the Buddhist tradition, dukkha is commonly explained according to three different patterns or categories:[e][3][15][16][17][18][19][web 8][web 9][web 10][web 11]

  • The dukkha of ordinary suffering (dukkha-dukkha) - the obvious physical and mental suffering associated with birth, growing old, illness and dying.
  • The dukkha produced by change (vipariṇāma-dukkha) - the anxiety or stress of trying to hold onto things that are constantly changing.
  • The dukkha of conditioned states (saṃkhāra-dukkha) - a basic unsatisfactoriness pervading all forms of existence, because all forms of life are changing, impermanent and without any inner core or substance. On this level, the term indicates a lack of satisfaction, a sense that things never measure up to our expectations or standards.

Dukkha of ordinary suffering[edit]

The dukkha of ordinary suffering (Pali: dukkha-dukkha) is also referred to as the suffering of suffering. This level of dukkha includes:

  • The physical and mental sufferings of birth, aging, illness, dying.
  • The anxiety or frustration of coming across what is not desirable.

Geshe Tashi Tsering states:[20]

Even animals understand the suffering of suffering. It is unpleasant and explicitly undesirable. Nobody runs after this form of suffering, and we need no sophisticated explanations to understand it. Nor do we need to devise skillful stratagems to avoid it—animals, insects, and humans are all constantly involved with doing so already, even though none of our attempts seems very skillful. We all wish to be free from this gross suffering.

Dukkha produced by change[edit]

The dukkha produced by change (viparinama-dukkha) is also referred to as:

  • suffering of change, or
  • suffering of impermanence.

This level of dukkha includes:

  • The anxiety or stress of trying to hold onto what is desirable.
  • The frustration of not getting what you want.

The Tibetan teacher Chogyam Trungpa expands this category to include "not knowing what you want."[21] Pema Chödrön described this type of suffering as "the suffering of trying to hold onto things that are always changing."[citation needed]

Geshe Tashi Tsering states:[22]

Because this level of suffering is much more subtle and not apparent without some analysis, it is more difficult to recognize. Without investigation, objects at this level actually appear to be causes of happiness, because they bring some temporary pleasure. However, if we have mindfulness, we can see them for what they are. Initially, things and events (such as relationships, possessions, and so forth) appear desirable—they look as if they will bring happiness. That’s why we become attracted to them. However, when time passes and circumstances change, the same desirable, handsome, beautiful object turns into something ugly or undesirable—something we want to avoid.

According to Geshe Tashi Tsering, in order to understand this level of dukkha:[23]

[...] we need an understanding of the gross level of impermanence—how things come into being, remain, and then cease by the power of things other than themselves. Things arise by the power of others, and while they remain they are still under the power of others. Their cessation also depends on the power of others. Nothing happens independently. Understanding this gross level of impermanence and the fact that we actually have so little freedom will help us understand the more subtle levels of impermanence.

Dukkha of conditioned states[edit]

The dukkha of conditioned states (sankhara-dukkha) is also referred to as all-pervasive suffering. (This category is also identified as one of the "eight types of suffering".)

This is the deepest, most subtle level of dukkha; it includes "a basic unsatisfactoriness pervading all existence, all forms of life, because all forms of life are changing, impermanent and without any inner core or substance."[web 12] On this level, the term indicates a lack of satisfaction, a sense that things never measure up to our expectations or standards.

This subtle form of suffering arises as a reaction to qualities of conditioned things, including the skandhas, the factors constituting the human mind.

Pema Chodron describes this as the suffering of ego-clinging; the suffering of struggling with life as it is, as it presents itself to you; struggling against outer situations and yourself, your own emotions and thoughts, rather than just opening and allowing.

Phillip Moffitt states:[24]

Every day, even during the pleasant moments, do you not experience an underlying unease about the future? This worry and anxiety is a manifestation of the third type of suffering the Buddha identified – life's inherent unsatisfactoriness due to its insubstantial compositional nature. Each moment arises due to certain conditions, then it just disappears. There is not a lasting or substantial "there there" in daily life, thus it is often described as being like a dream.

Phillip Moffit relates this level of dukkha with existential angst:[25]

How often in your adult life have you experienced the queasiness and unease that come from a sense of meaninglessness in your life? Think of all those occasions when you felt as though you were wasting your life, or sleepwalking through it, or not living from your deepest, most heartfelt sense of your self. Remember the times when you've felt as though there is little you do each day that has any real, lasting significance. We've all fallen prey at some point in our lives to such dark times of self-doubt and existential angst.

Geshe Tashi Tsering states:[26]

This level of suffering, and the causes and conditions that bring it about, can be understood through the teachings on the subtle levels of impermanence. Pervasive suffering is present wherever we are born in cyclic existence; we cannot avoid it. And yet, because its causes and conditions are very deeply rooted, it is very difficult for us, as ordinary people, to even recognize it and acknowledge at all. However, only when we acknowledge it we can begin to abandon it. The effects of pervasive suffering spread throughout our lives and often manifest in the form of grosser sufferings, which makes it difficult for us to really come to grips with it. It is so enmeshed that even understanding it, let alone overcoming it, takes a lot of effort.

Geshe Tashi Tsering asserts that we will not be free of this level of dukkha "until we are free from samsara, until we are buddhas."[27]

Types[edit]

Eight types[edit]

Dukkha can also be categorized into eight types belonging to the three categories of: inherited suffering, the suffering between the period of birth and death, and general misery. Chogyam Trunga explains these categories as follows:[28][f]

Inherited suffering:

  • Birth (jāti): the discomfort of birth and experiencing the world for the first time; and the discomfort of relating to new demands or experiences.
  • Old age (jarā): the discomfort involved in the process of aging and growing old; this can apply to psychological as well as physical discomfort of aging.
  • Sickness (byādhi): the discomfort of physical or psychological illness.
  • Death (maraṇa): includes the pain of separation and not being able to continue on in your endeavors, as well as the physical discomfort of dying.

Suffering between the periods of birth and death:

  • Getting what you don't want: being unable to avoid difficult or painful situations.
  • Not being able to hold onto what is desirable: the pain of trying to hold onto what is desirable, lovely, splendid, terrific.
  • Not getting what you do want: this underlies the previous two categories; the anxiety of not getting what you want.

General misery:

  • All-pervasive suffering: a very subtle dissatisfaction that exists all the time; it arises as a reaction to the qualities of conditioned things (e.g. the impermanence of things).

Six types[edit]

Aung San Suu Kyi presented a list of six great dukkha at her Nobel Lecture, delivered on 16 June 2012. These are:[web 14]

Developing insight into dukkha[edit]

Four Noble Truths[edit]

The Buddhist tradition emphasizes the importance of developing insight into the nature of dukkha, the conditions that cause it, and how it can be overcome. This process is formulated in the teachings on the Four Noble Truths.

Meditation[edit]

Meditation (Pali: jhana) is considered to be an essential tool for developing insight into the nature of dukkha. Contemporary Buddhist teacher Ajahn Brahm emphasizes that without the experience of meditation, one's knowledge of the world is too limited to fully understand dukkha.[29] In the following simile, Ajahn Brahm compares the experience of dukkha to being in prison, and compares meditation (Pali: jhana) to a tunnel that leads out of the prison:[g]

Another simile [...] is that of the man who was born and raised in a prison and who has never set foot outside. All he knows is prison life. He would have no conception of the freedom that is beyond his world. And he would not understand that prison is suffering. If anybody suggested that his world was dukkha, he would disagree, for prison is the limit of his experience. But one day he might find the escape tunnel dug long ago that leads beyond the prison walls to the unimaginable and expansive world of real freedom. Only when he has entered that tunnel and escaped from his prison does he realize how much suffering prison actually was, and the end of that suffering, escaping from jail is happiness.

In this simile the prison is the body, the high prison walls are the five senses, and the relentless demanding prison guard is one's own will, the doer. The tunnel dug long ago, through which one escapes, is called jhana [meditation] (as at AN IX, 42). Only when one has experienced jhana does one realize that the five-sense world, even at its best, is really a five-walled prison, some parts of it is a little more comfortable but still a jail with everyone on death row! Only after deep jhana does one realize that "will" was the torturer, masquerading as freedom, but preventing one ever resting happily at peace. Only outside of prison can one gain the data that produces the deep insight that discovers the truth about dukkha.

In summary, without experience of jhana, one's knowledge of the world is too limited to fully understand dukkha, as required by the first noble truth, and proceed to enlightenment.[29]

Contemporary scholar Michael Carrithers emphasizes the need to examine one's life. Carrithers asserts that insofar as it is dynamic, ever-changing, uncontrollable and not finally satisfactory, unexamined life is itself precisely dukkha.[30] Carrithers also asserts that the question which underlay the Buddha's quest was "in what may I place lasting relevance?" He did not deny that there are satisfactions in experience: the exercise of vipassana assumes that the meditator sees instances of happiness clearly. Pain is to be seen as pain, and pleasure as pleasure. It is denied that happiness dependent on conditions will be secure and lasting.[30]

Contemporary teacher Chogyam Trungpa presents a perspective on how meditation practice can help the practitioner relate with dukkha; he states:

Understanding suffering [dukkha] is very important. The practice of meditation is designed not to develop pleasure, but to understand the truth of suffering; and in order to understand the truth of suffering, one also has to understand the truth of awareness. When true awareness takes place, suffering does not exist. Through awareness, suffering is somewhat changed in its perspective. It is not necessarily that you do not suffer, but the haunting quality that fundamentally you are in trouble is removed. It is like removing a splinter. It might hurt, and you might still feel pain, but the basic cause of that pain, the ego, has been removed.[31]

Within the discourses[edit]

The Buddha taught on dukkha repeatedly throughout his lifetime. In the Alagadduupama sutta, the Buddha states:[b]

"I have taught one thing, and one thing only, dukkha and the cessation of dukkha."

In the Anuradha Sutta, the Buddha states:[web 15]

"Both formerly & now, it is only dukkha that I describe, and the cessation of dukkha."

The classic formulation of these teachings on dukkha is the doctrine of the Four Noble Truths, in which the Truth of Dukkha (Pali: dukkha saccã; Sanskrit: duḥkha-satya) is identified as the first of the four truths. The Four Noble Truths are presented within the Buddha's first discourse, Setting in Motion the Wheel of the Dharma (Dharmacakra Pravartana Sūtra); in this discourse, the Buddha defines dukkha as follows:[web 16]

"This is the noble truth of dukkha: birth is dukkha, aging is dukkha, illness is dukkha, death is dukkha; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair are dukkha; union with what is displeasing is dukkha; separation from what is pleasing is dukkha; not to get what one wants is dukkha; in brief, the five aggregates subject to clinging are dukkha."[32]

In the Cula-Malunkyovada Sutta, the Buddha states:[web 17]

"And what is declared by me? 'This is dukkha,' is declared by me. 'This is the origination of dukkha,' is declared by me. 'This is the cessation of dukkha,' is declared by me. 'This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of dukkha,' is declared by me. And why are they declared by me? Because they are connected with the goal, are fundamental to the holy life. They lead to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation, calming, direct knowledge, self-awakening, Unbinding. That's why they are declared by me.

In the sutra Samyutta Nikaya #35, the Buddha says:

What ordinary folk call happiness, the enlightened ones call dukkha.

The Anapanasati Sutta and Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta emphasize the importance of the practice of meditation (jnana) to purify the mind of the five hindrances before contemplating the nature dukkha in the context of the Four Noble Truths.

Relation to the five skandhas[edit]

According to the Buddhist tradition, the dukkha of conditioned states (saṃkhāra-dukkha) is related to clinging to the skandhas. Oxford scholar Noa Ronkin presents her understanding of the relation between the skandhas (Sanskrit; Pali: khandhas) and dukkha:

Her conclusion is that the associating of the five skandhas as a whole with dukkha indicates that experience is a combination of a straightforward cognitive process together with the psychological orientation that colours it in terms of unsatisfactoriness. Experience is thus both cognitive and affective, and cannot be separated from perception. As one's perception changes, so one's experience is different: we each have our own particular cognitions, perceptions and volitional activities in our own particular way and degree, and our own way of responding to and interpreting our experience is our very experience. In harmony with this line of thought, Gethin observes that the skandhas are presented as five aspects of the nature of conditioned existence from the point of view of the experiencing subject; five aspects of one's experience. Hence each khandha represents 'a complex class of phenomena that is continuously arising and falling away in response to processes of consciousness based on the six spheres of sense. They thus become the five upādānakhandhas, encompassing both grasping and all that is grasped.'[33]

Three marks of existence[edit]

Dukkha is also listed among the three marks of existence. These are:

  • Impermanence (anicca)
  • Suffering (dukkha)
  • Not-self (anatta).

In this context, dukkha denotes the experience that all formations (sankhara) are impermanent (anicca) - thus it explains the qualities which make the mind as fluctuating and impermanent entities. It is therefore also a gateway to anatta, not-self.

Translating the term dukkha[edit]

Contemporary translators of Buddhist texts use a variety of English words to convey the different aspects of dukkha.

Early Western translators of Buddhist texts (prior to the 1970s) typically translated the Pali term dukkha as "suffering", a translation which tended to convey the impression that Buddhism was a pessimistic or world-denying philosophy.[c] Later translators, however, including Walpola Rahula (What Buddha Taught, 1974) and nearly all contemporary translators, have emphasized that "suffering" is too limited a translation for the term dukkha, and have preferred to either leave the term untranslated or to clarify that translation with terms such as anxiety, stress, frustration, unease, unsatisfactoriness, etc.[34][35][36][web 19][h]

For example, Piyadassi Thera states:[web 4]

The word dukkha (or Sanskrit duhkha) is one of those Pali terms that cannot be translated adequately into English, by one word, for no English word covers the same ground as dukkha in Pali. Suffering, ill, anguish, unsatisfactoriness are some favourite render­ings; the words pain, misery, sorrow, conflict, and so forth, are also used. The word dukkha, however, includes all that, and more than that.

Contemporary scholar Rupert Gethin states:[3]

Rich in meaning and nuance, the word duḥkha is one of the basic terms of Buddhist and other Indian religious discourse. Literally 'pain' or 'anguish', in its religious and philosophical contexts duḥkha is, however, suggestive of an underlying sense of 'unsatisfactoriness' or 'unease' that must ultimately mar even our experience of happiness.

Contemporary translator Bhikkhu Bodhi states:[38]

The Pāli word [dukkha] is often translated as suffering, but it means something deeper than pain and misery. It refers to a basic unsatisfactoriness running through our lives, the lives of all but the enlightened. Sometimes this unsatisfactoriness erupts into the open as sorrow, grief, disappointment, or despair; but usually it hovers at the edge of our awareness as a vague unlocalized sense that things are never quite perfect, never fully adequate to our expectations of what they should be.

Many contemporary teachers, scholars, and translators have used the term "unsatisfactoriness" to emphasize the subtlest aspects of dukkha.[i] For example, contemporary scholar Damien Keown states that in the context of the subtle aspects of dukkha:[42]

[...] the word dukkha has a more abstract and pervasive sense: it suggests that even when life is not painful it can be unsatisfactory and unfulfilling. In this and many other contexts ‘unsatisfactoriness’ captures the meaning of dukkha better than ‘suffering’.

The writer Mark Epstein states:[43] 'A more specific translation [of the term dukkha] would be something on the order of “pervasive unsatisfactoriness.” '

Many translators prefer to leave the term untranslated.[h] For example, scholar and translator Walpola Rahula states:[45]

It is true that the Pali word dukkha (or Sanskrit duḥkha) in ordinary usage means ‘suffering’, ‘pain’, ‘sorrow’ or ‘misery’, as opposed to the word sukha meaning ‘happiness’, ‘comfort’ or ‘ease’. But the term dukkha as the First Noble Truth, which represents the Buddha’s view of life and the world, has a deeper philosophical meaning and connotes enormously wider senses. It is admitted that the term dukkha in the First Noble Truth contains, quite obviously, the ordinary meaning of ‘suffering’, but in addition it also includes deeper ideas such as ‘imperfection’, ‘impermanence’, ‘emptiness’, ‘insubstantiality’. It is difficult therefore to find one word to embrace the whole conception of the term dukkha as the First Noble Truth, and so it is better to leave it untranslated, than to give an inadequate and wrong idea of it by conveniently translating it as ‘suffering’ or ‘pain’.

Alternate translations[edit]

Translations used for dukkha in the context of the four noble truths are:

  • Anguish
  • Anxiety (Chogyam Trungpa, The Truth of Suffering, pp. 8–10)
  • Affliction (Brazier)
  • Dissatisfaction (Pema Chodron, Chogyam Trunpa)
  • Discomfort
  • Discontent
  • Frustration (Dalai Lama, Four Noble Truths, p. 38)
  • Misery
  • Sorrow
  • Stress (Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Jon Kabat-Zin)
  • Suffering (Thich Nhat Hanh, Ajahn Succito, Chogyam Trungpa, Rupert Gethin, Dalai Lama, et al.)
  • Uneasiness (Chogyam Trungpa)
  • Unease (Rupert Gethin)
  • Unhappiness
  • Unsatisfactoriness (Dalai Lama, Bhikkhu Bodhi, Rupert Gethin, et al.)[i]

Translations into other languages[edit]

In Chinese Buddhism, dukkha is translated as ( "bitterness; hardship; suffering; pain"), and this loanword is pronounced ku (苦) in Japanese Buddhism and ko (苦) in Korean Buddhism and khổ in Vietnamese Buddhism. The Tibetan (phonetic) is dukngal. In Shan, it is [tuk˥kʰaː˥] and in Burmese, it is [doʊʔkʰa̰].

Etymology[edit]

In ordinary usage, the Pali word dukkha (Sanskrit duḥkha) means ‘suffering’, ‘pain’, ‘sorrow’ or ‘misery’, as opposed to the word sukha meaning ‘happiness’, ‘comfort’ or ‘ease’.[45] Contemporary scholar Winthrop Sargeant explains the etymological roots of these terms as follows:[46]

The ancient Aryans who brought the Sanskrit language to India were a nomadic, horse- and cattle-breeding people who travelled in horse- or ox-drawn vehicles. Su and dus are prefixes indicating good or bad. The word kha, in later Sanskrit meaning "sky," "ether," or "space," was originally the word for "hole," particularly an axle hole of one of the Aryan's vehicles. Thus sukha … meant, originally, "having a good axle hole," while duhkha meant "having a poor axle hole," leading to discomfort.

Nineteenth century translator Monier-Williams states that according to grammatical tradition, dukkha is derived from dus-kha "uneasy"; but Monier-Williams asserts that the term is more likely a Prakritized form of dus-stha "unsteady, disquieted".[47]

Within non-Buddhist literature[edit]

Hinduism[edit]

In Hindu literature, the earliest Upaniads — the Bṛhadāraṇyaka and the Chāndogya — are believed to predate or coincide with the advent of Buddhism.[j] In these texts' verses, the Sanskrit word dukha (translated below as "suffering" and "distress") occurs only twice. In the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad, it states (in English and Sanskrit):

English Sanskrit
While we are still here, we have come to know it [ātman].
If you've not known it, great is your destruction.
Those who have known it — they become immortal.
As for the rest — only suffering awaits them.[48]
ihaiva santo 'tha vidmas tad vayaṃ na ced avedir mahatī vinaṣṭiḥ
ye tad vidur amṛtās te bhavanty athetare duḥkham evāpiyanti
[web 20]

In the Chāndogya Upaniṣad, it is written:

English Sanskrit

When a man rightly sees,
he sees no death, no sickness or distress.
When a man rightly sees,
he sees all, he wins all, completely.[49][k]

na paśyo mṛtyuṃ paśyati na rogaṃ nota duḥkhatām
sarvaṃ ha paśyaḥ paśyati sarvam āpnoti sarvaśaḥ
[web 21]

Thus, as in Buddhism, these texts emphasize that one overcomes dukha through the development of a transcendent understanding.[l]

Panetics[edit]

In 1986, the Journal of Humanistic Psychology published an article by Ralph G.H. Siu entitled Panetics—The Study of the Infliction of Suffering.[50] In the abstract for the article, Sui proposed using the term dukkha as a quantitative measurement; he wrote:

After analyzing the unceasing mutual inflictions of suffering by practically everyone and the neglect of this pervasive and degenerating human deficiency by the academic community, I urge the immediate creation of a new and vigorous academic discipline, called panetics, to be devoted to the study of the infliction of suffering. The nature, scope, illustrative contents, and social value are outlined. The dukkha is proposed as a semiquantitative unit of suffering to assist in associated analytical operations.

Related publications include:

  • Panetics: The study of the infliction of suffering. J. Humanistic Psychology 28(3), 6-22. 1988
  • The humane chief of state and the Gross National Dukkhas (GND). Panetics 2(2), 1-5. 1993.
  • Panetics Trilogy. The International Society for Panetics, 1994.
    • Vol. I, Less Suffering for Everybody. Ibid.
    • Vol. II, Panetics and Dukkhas. Ibid.
    • Vol. III, Seeds of Reflection, Panetic Word Clusters. Ibid

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ See the section #Translating the term dukkha for clarification of translated terms.
  2. ^ a b The Buddha is reputed to have said: "I have taught one thing, and one thing only, dukkha and the cessation of dukkha."
    • David Maurice states: "[The Buddha] said: 'I teach only one thing, suffering and the release from suffering' (MN Alagadduupamasutta) [...]"[web 1]
    • The Dhamma wiki states: "The Buddha said many times that his role was to show us the way out of suffering, ‘One thing and one thing only do I teach, suffering and how to end suffering’ (Majjhima Nikaya 1. 140)."[web 2]
    • Sharon Salzburg states: "Everything within the Buddha’s teachings can be encapsulated with I teach one thing and one thing only. That is suffering and the end of suffering. And the normal formulation of that is what is called the Four Noble Truths."[web 3]
    • Rupert Gethin states: "In a Nikāya passage the Buddha thus states that he has always made known just two things, namely suffering and the cessation of suffering. This statement can be regarded as expressing the basic orientation of Buddhism for all times and all places. Its classic formulation is by way of 'four noble truths'..."[1]
    • Ajahn Succitto states: And many would say that [the Buddha's first discourse] was his most important discourse because it established the basis of the teaching that he added to throughout his life—the teaching of "suffering and the cessation of suffering," which he encapsulated in four great or "noble" truths.[2]
  3. ^ a b Some observers, such as the early Western translators of Buddhist texts (prior to the 1970s), have presented Buddhism as a pessimistic or world-denying philosophy. For example:
    • Walpola Rahula states: "The First Noble Truth (Dukkha-ariyasacca) is generally translated by almost all scholars as ‘The Noble Truth of Suffering’, and it is interpreted to mean that life according to Buddhism is nothing but suffering and pain. Both translation and interpretation are highly unsatisfactory and misleading. It is because of this limited, free and easy translation, and its superficial interpretation, that many people have been misled into regarding Buddhism as pessimistic.[34]
    • Ringu Tulku states: "It is sometimes said that Buddhism is a very pessimistic religion, since it constantly talks about suffering. But Buddhism does not aim at creating suffering or a pessimistic attitude. It talks about suffering to engender an optimistic outlook. It conveys the message, "Yes there is suffering, but it can be removed." In order to do so, we have to open our eyes. If we pretend that everything is all right, it will not be of much avail, especially when a problem arises that is so great that it can not be denied." [8]
    • Ratan and Rao state: "The average man's understanding of Buddhist thought is likely to lead one to understand that it is a philosophy of pessimism, a life negating philosophy. But a careful understanding of Buddhism discloses to us that pessimism in Buddhism is initial and not final, for, he suggests a way for the cessation of dukkha […]"[11]
    • Nyingma Trust website states: "Some critics argue that Buddhism is pessimistic and encourages hopelessness toward life. These people base their views on just the First Noble Truth of Suffering. Yet one should not categorize Buddhism as pessimistic, because even though it stresses the unsatisfactory nature of everything in this world it also teaches us how to get out of this net of suffering."[web 18]
  4. ^ a b Contemporary translators and teachers point out that the centrality of dukkha in Buddhist philosophy is not intended to be pessimistic, but rather to present a realistic view of life. For example:
    • Zasep Tulku Rinpoche states: "Some people think just thinking about or considering suffering is pessimistic. But when the Buddha taught the four noble truths he first talked about suffering and the cause of suffering. It is not because he was pessimistic. He was being realistic. He was saying this is how it is. This is what is happening. Look! If you want to have cessation, happiness, freedom then you must look for the cause and you need a path. You have to see suffering otherwise you have no motivation to look for a path. Don't be naïve be realistic. Look! There is suffering, physically. Old age is happening. Sickness is around us. Death is happening all the time. So that's what I mean when I say Buddhism is realistic."[web 5]
    • Thanissaro Bhikkhu states: "You've probably heard the rumor that "Life is suffering" is Buddhism's first principle, the Buddha's first noble truth. It's a rumor with good credentials, spread by well-respected academics and Dharma teachers alike, but a rumor nonetheless. The truth about the noble truths is far more interesting. The Buddha taught four truths — not one — about life: There is suffering, there is a cause for suffering, there is an end of suffering, and there is a path of practice that puts an end to suffering. These truths, taken as a whole, are far from pessimistic. They're a practical, problem-solving approach — the way a doctor approaches an illness, or a mechanic a faulty engine. You identify a problem and look for its cause. You then put an end to the problem by eliminating the cause."[web 6]
    • Philip Moffitt states: "Oftentimes, the First Noble Truth is misquoted as `All life is suffering," but that is an inaccurate and misleading reflection of the Buddha's insight. He did not teach that life is constant misery, nor that you should expect to feel pain and unhappiness at all times. Rather, he proclaimed that suffering is an unavoidable reality of ordinary human existence that is to be known and responded to wisely.[4]
    • Cynthia Thatcher states: "Although the first Noble Truth has been called pessimistic, Buddhist scholars have pointed out that Buddhism is neither pessimistic nor optimistic, but realistic. It presents things just as they are, neither better nor worse. We might add that the Buddhist outlook is one of tremendous hope, since a solution to the problem of dukkha is given in the fourth Noble Truth, a solution which amounts to a guarantee. That solution is the eight-fold path."[web 7]
    • Joseph Goldstein states: "Sometimes people feel that recognizing the truth of suffering conditions a pessimistic outlook on life, that somehow it is life-denying. Actually, it is quite the reverse. By denying what is true, for example, the truth of impermanence, we live in a world of illusion and enchantment. Then when circumstances change in ways we don't like, we feel disappointed, angry, or bitter. The Buddha expressed the liberating power of seeing the unreliability of conditions: "All that is subject to arising is subject to cessation. Becoming disenchanted one becomes dispassionate. Through dispassion the mind is liberated." "[5]
    • Rupert Gethin states: "On the basis of its analysis of the problem of suffering, some have concluded that Buddhism must be judged a bleak, pessimistic and world-denying philosophy. From a Buddhist perspective, such a judgement may reflect a deep-seated refusal to accept the reality of duḥkha itself, and it certainly reflects a particular misunderstanding of the Buddha's teaching. The Buddha taught four truths and, by his own standards, the cessation of suffering and the path leading to its cessation are as much true realities as suffering and its cause. The growth of early Buddhism must be understood in the context of the existence of a number of different 'renouncer' groups who shared the view that 'suffering' in some sense characterizes human experience, and that the quest for happiness is thus only to be fulfilled by fleeing the world."[6]
    • Ajahn Sucitto states: "As the Buddha points out in his many discourses, things change, and change can be effected without the naïveté that assumes that solutions are going to be permanently satisfactory and without the pessimism that assumes that it's all hopeless. The Buddha taught dukkha, but also the cessation of dukkha. The particulars of unpleasant circumstances can come to an end or be brought to an end, even if problems then surface in other areas. And the way of meeting conflict and problems can be compassionate, calm, and peaceful in itself. So accepting that life has its dark, problematic side needn't be depressing. Most fruitfully, the kind of suffering that is the mental reaction to a situation, even on an instinctive plane, can be completely abolished. With the ending of that kind of suffering, the mind is clearer and wiser and more capable of effecting positive change in the world of ever-changing circumstances."[7]
    • Ringu Tulku states: "It is sometimes said that Buddhism is a very pessimistic religion, since it constantly talks about suffering. But Buddhism does not aim at creating suffering or a pessimistic attitude. It talks about suffering to engender an optimistic outlook. It conveys the message, "Yes there is suffering, but it can be removed." In order to do so, we have to open our eyes. If we pretend that everything is all right, it will not be of much avail, especially when a problem arises that is so great that it can not be denied." [8]
    • Traleg Kyabgon states: "Normally we think our happiness is contingent upon external circumstances and situations, rather than upon our own inner attitude toward things, or toward life in general. The Buddha was saying that dissatisfaction is part of life, even if we are seeking happiness and even if we manage to find temporary happiness. The very fact that it is temporary means that sooner or later the happiness is going to pass. So the Buddha said that unless we understand this and see how pervasive dissatisfaction or duhkha is, it is impossible for us to start looking for real happiness."[9]
    • Edward Holmes states: "So far was [the Buddha] from being a pessimist in the deeper and darker sense of the word, that at the heart of nature he could see nothing but light."[10]
    • Ratan and Rao state: "To accuse Buddhism of pessimism would amount to the lack of imaginative sympathy for its insight into the suffering of others. Having an existence of identifying oneself with the fleeting pleasures of the world without an insight into the suffering within, is a shallow existence. If a system advocates that life is full of misery and there is no way out, man is born in misery, brought up in misery and dies in misery, then it is pessimism. But a system such as Buddhism that suggests a positive way out of suffering through the Noble Eightfold path (Ariya Attangiko Maggo) can not be called pessimistic. It would, therefore, be appropriate to state that Buddhism encounters pessimism not to succumb to it, but to circumvent it."[11]
  5. ^ Walpola Rahula writes: "The conception of dukkha may be viewed from three aspects: (1) dukkha as ordinary suffering (dukkha-dukkha), (2) dukkha as produced by change (vipariṇāma-dukkha) and (3) dukkha as conditioned states (saṃkhāra-dukkha)."[15]
  6. ^ Bhikkhu Bodhi presents a slightly different list of the eight types of suffering, as follows:[web 13]
    • Birth (jāti)
    • Aging (jarā)
    • Disease (byādhi)
    • Death (maraṇa)
    • Sorrow, lamentation, pain , grief and despair
    • Union with the unpleasant
    • Separation from the pleasant
    • Not getting what we desire
  7. ^ This simile is comparable to Plato's Allegory of the Cave
  8. ^ a b Many contemporary translators prefer to leave the term untranslated or use additional English words. Geshe Tashi Tsering states: "The concept of suffering is a very subtle one, so much so that many books, instead of translating it, use the original word, dukkha in Pali or duhkha in Sanskrit. Suffering in English conveys only a gross level of meaning, and I can see why scholars are tempted to keep to the original or try other terms such as dissatisfaction."[37]
  9. ^ a b Many contemporary teachers, scholars, and translators have used the term "unsatisfactoriness" to emphasize the subtle aspects of dukkha. For example:
    • The Dalai Lama states:[39] "So the first step we must take as practicing Buddhists is to recognize our present state as duhkha, or suffering, frustration and unsatisfactoriness."
    • Rupert Gethin states:[3] Rich in meaning and nuance, the word duḥkha is one of the basic terms of Buddhist and other Indian religious discourse. Literally 'pain' or 'anguish', in its religious and philosophical contexts duḥkha is, however, suggestive of an underlying sense of 'unsatisfactoriness' or 'unease' that must ultimately mar even our experience of happiness.
    • Piyadassi Thera states:[web 4] "The word dukkha (or Sanskrit duhkha) is one of those Pali terms that cannot be translated adequately into English, by one word, for no English word covers the same ground as dukkha in Pali. Suffering, ill, anguish, unsatisfactoriness are some favourite render­ings; the words pain, misery, sorrow, conflict, and so forth, are also used. The word dukkha, however, includes all that, and more than that."
    • Ajahn Sucitto states:[40] "dukkha [...] means “suffering,” “trouble,” and “general unsatisfactoriness.”
    • Smith and Huston:[41] " The three insights described [in a description of right mindfulness] are insights into the three marks of existence—impermanence (anicca), lack of self-existence (anatta), and unsatisfactoriness (dukkha) [...]."
    • Phillip Moffitt:[24] "Furthermore, every day, even during the pleasant moments, do you not experience an underlying unease about the future? This worry and anxiety is a manifestation of the third type of suffering the Buddha identified-life's inherent unsatisfactoriness due to its insubstantial compositional nature. Each moment arises due to certain conditions, then it just disappears. There is not a lasting or substantial "there there" in daily life, thus it is often described as being like a dream."
    • Damien Keown states:[42] "In this context the word dukkha has a more abstract and pervasive sense: it suggests that even when life is not painful it can be unsatisfactory and unfulfilling. In this and many other contexts ‘unsatisfactoriness’ captures the meaning of dukkha better than ‘suffering’."
    • Mark Epstein states:[43] "A more specific translation would be something on the order of “pervasive unsatisfactoriness.” The Buddha is speaking on a number of levels here. Life, he says, is filled with a sense of pervasive unsatisfactoriness, stemming from at least three sources."
    • Walpola Rahula states:[44] "The First Noble Truth is Dukkha, the nature of life, its suffering, its sorrows and joys, its imperfection and unsatisfactoriness, its impermanence and insubstantiality."
    • Bhikkhu Bodhi states:[38] "The Pāli word is often translated as suffering, but it means something deeper than pain and misery. It refers to a basic unsatisfactoriness running through our lives, the lives of all but the enlightened. Sometimes this unsatisfactoriness erupts into the open as sorrow, grief, disappointment, or despair; but usually it hovers at the edge of our awareness as a vague unlocalized sense that things are never quite perfect, never fully adequate to our expectations of what they should be. This fact of dukkha, the Buddha says, is the only real spiritual problem.
    • Oxford scholar Noa Ronkin states: "Her conclusion is that the associating of the five skandhas as a whole with dukkha indicates that experience is a combination of a straightforward cognitive process together with the psychological orientation that colours it in terms of unsatisfactoriness." [33]
  10. ^ See, e.g., Patrick Olivelle (1996), Upaniads (Oxford: Oxford University Press), ISBN 978-0-19-283576-5, p. xxxvi: "The scholarly consensus, well-founded I think, is that the Bṛhadāraṇyaka and the Chāndogya are the two earliest Upaniads.... The two texts as we have them are, in all likelihood, pre-Buddhist; placing them in the seventh to sixth centuries BCE may be reasonable, give or take a century or so."
  11. ^ This statement is comparable to the Pali Canon's Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta (SN 56.11) where sickness and death are identified as examples of dukkha.
  12. ^ For a general discussion of the core Indian spiritual goal of developing transcendent "seeing," see, e.g., Hamilton, Sue (2000/2001), Indian Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction, (Oxford: Oxford U. Press), pp. 9-10, ISBN 978-0-19-285374-5.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gethin 1998, p. 59.
  2. ^ Ajahn Sucitto 2010, p. 2.
  3. ^ a b c d Gethin 1998, p. 61.
  4. ^ Moffitt 2008, Kindle locations 459-461.
  5. ^ Goldstein 2002, p. 150.
  6. ^ Gethin 1998, p. 62.
  7. ^ Ajahn Sucitto 2010, p. 36.
  8. ^ a b Ringu Tulku 2005, p. 23.
  9. ^ a b Traleg Kyabgon 2001, p. 4.
  10. ^ Holmes 1957, p. 183.
  11. ^ a b Ratan & Rao 2003, p. 57.
  12. ^ Walpola Rahula 2007, Kindle locations 525-541.
  13. ^ Lama Surya Das 1997, loc.1300.
  14. ^ Thich Nhat Hanh 1999, p. 11.
  15. ^ a b Walpola Rahula 2007, loc. 590-592.
  16. ^ Chogyam Trungpa 2009, p. 26-28.
  17. ^ Sakyong Mipham 2003, p. 159-160.
  18. ^ Ringu Tulku 2005, p. 24.
  19. ^ Lama Surya Das 1997, p. 78-80.
  20. ^ Geshe Tashi Tsering 2005, Kindle Locations 614-617.
  21. ^ Chogyam Trungpa 2009, p. 127.
  22. ^ Geshe Tashi Tsering 2005, Kindle Locations 628-633.
  23. ^ Geshe Tashi Tsering 2005, Kindle Locations 637-640.
  24. ^ a b Moffitt 2008, Kindle Locations 530-533.
  25. ^ Moffitt 2008, Kindle Locations 533-536.
  26. ^ Geshe Tashi Tsering 2005, Kindle Locations 660-665.
  27. ^ Geshe Tashi Tsering 2005, Kindle Locations 691.
  28. ^ Chogyam Trungpa 2009, p. 16-26.
  29. ^ a b Ajahn Brahm 2006.
  30. ^ a b Carrithers 1986, op cit., pp. 55-56..
  31. ^ Chogyam Trungpa 2009, p. 34.
  32. ^ Bhikkhu Bodhi 2000, p. 1844.
  33. ^ a b Ronkin 2005, p. 43.
  34. ^ a b Walpola Rahula 2007, Kindle locations 524-528.
  35. ^ Prebish 1993.
  36. ^ Keown 2003.
  37. ^ Geshe Tashi Tsering 2005, Kindle Locations 586-591.
  38. ^ a b Bhikkhu Bodhi 2011, p. 6.
  39. ^ Dalai Lama 1998, p. 38.
  40. ^ Ajahn Sucitto 2010, p. 3.
  41. ^ Smith & Novak 2009, Kindle location 2769.
  42. ^ a b Keown 2000, Kindle Locations 932-934.
  43. ^ a b Epstein 2004, p. 46.
  44. ^ Walpola Rahula 2007, Kindle Locations 1242-1243.
  45. ^ a b Walpola Rahula 2007, Kindle Locations 542-550.
  46. ^ Sargeant 2009, p. 303.
  47. ^ Monier-Williams 1899, 1964, p. 483.
  48. ^ BU 4 April 2014, trans. Olivelle (1996), p. 66.
  49. ^ CU 7.26.2, trans. Olivelle (1996), p. 166.
  50. ^ Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Vol. 28, No. 3, 6-22 (1988).

Web references[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.vgweb.org/bsq/d_maurice.htm
  2. ^ http://www.dhammawiki.com/index.php?title=Four_Noble_Truths
  3. ^ The Four Noble Truths - a talk by Sharon Salzburg
  4. ^ a b c The Ancient Path - By Piyadassi Thera, Chapter 3
  5. ^ Neither optimistic nor pessimistic but realistic by Zasep Tulku Rinpoche
  6. ^ Life Isn't Just Suffering by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
  7. ^ Buddhism by Cynthia Thatcher
  8. ^ Suffering in Depth, by Bhikkhu Bodhi
  9. ^ The Three Kinds of Suffering, by Toni Bernhard
  10. ^ Dukkha Sutta: Stress, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
  11. ^ Embracing Imperfection by Ines Freedman
  12. ^ The Four Noble Truths - By Bhikkhu Bodhi
  13. ^ The First Noble Truth - Dukkha by Bhikkhu Bodhi
  14. ^ Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize lecture, Oslo, 16 June, 2012
  15. ^ SN 22.86, trans., Thanissaro Bhikkhu, retrieved from "Access to Insight" at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn22/sn22.086.than.html
  16. ^ Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
  17. ^ MN 63, trans. Thanissaro Bhikkhu, retrieved from "Access to Insight" at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.063.than.html
  18. ^ Nyingma Trust, Four Noble Truths
  19. ^ Is Buddhism a Pessimistic Way of Life? by Jeffrey Po
  20. ^ BrhUp 4,4.14. Retrieved 28 December 2008 from "Georg-August-Universität Göttingen" at http://www.sub.uni-goettingen.de/ebene_1/fiindolo/gretil/1_sanskr/1_veda/4_upa/brup___u.htm.
  21. ^ ChUp 7,26.2. Retrieved 27 December 2008 from "Georg-August-Universität Göttingen" at http://www.sub.uni-goettingen.de/ebene_1/fiindolo/gretil/1_sanskr/1_veda/4_upa/chup___u.htm.

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External links[edit]

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