Dukkha: 12 definitions


Dukkha means something in Buddhism, Pali, Jainism, Prakrit. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

In Buddhism

Theravada (major branch of Buddhism)

Source: Access to Insight: A Glossary of Pali and Buddhist TermsStress; suffering; pain; distress; discontent.Source: Dhamma Dana: Pali English Glossary

T Characteristic of dissatisfaction inherent to all things. Compound of all that which doesnt bring a complete and lasting satisfaction.

dukkha does manifest in several shapes: Ordinary suffering (pain), dissatisfaction incurred when not obtaining that which we desire, the dissatisfaction to undergo that which we are averse to, and the fact to experience sensations, even pleasurable ones as on one side, we cannot prevent them from being fleeting by nature, as they inescapably enter a stage of decay and the other, their occurence is but the consequence of displeasurable sensations.

dukkha is the first of the three characteristics.

See also: dukkha

Source: Journey to Nibbana: Patthana Dhama

Dukkha means feeling of hard to bear or hard to bear.

Source: Pali Kanon: Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines

(1) 'pain', painful feeling, which may be bodily and mental (s. vedanā).

(2) 'Suffering', 'ill'. As the first of the Four Noble Truths (s. sacca) and the second of the three characteristics of existence (s. ti-lakkhana), the term dukkha is not limited to painful experience as under (1), but refers to the unsatisfactory nature and the general insecurity of all conditioned phenomena which, on account of their impermanence, are all liable to suffering, and this includes also pleasurable experience. Hence 'unsatisfactoriness' or 'liability to suffering' would be more adequate renderings, if not for stylistic reasons. Hence the first truth does not deny the existence of pleasurable experience, as is sometimes wrongly assumed. This is illustrated by the following texts:

"Seeking satisfaction in the world, monks, I had pursued my way. That satisfaction in the world I found. In so far as satisfaction existed in the world, I have well perceived it by wisdom. Seeking for misery in the world, monks, I had pursued my way. That misery in the world I found. In so far as misery existed in the world, I have well perceived it by wisdom. Seeking for the escape from the world, monks, I had pursued my way. That escape from the world I found. In so far as an escape from the world existed, I have well perceived it by wisdom" (A. 111, 101).

"If there were no satisfaction to be found in the world, beings would not be attached to the world .... If there were no misery to be found in the world, beings would not be repelled by the world .... If there were no escape from the world, beings could not escape therefrom" (A. 111, 102).

See dukkhatā. For texts on the Truth of Suffering, see W. of B. and 'Path'.

See The Three Basic Facts of Existence, II. Suffering (WHEEL 191/193).

-- or --

For the 4 Truths of suffering, s. sacca; further s. ti-lakkhana.

context information

Theravāda is a major branch of Buddhism having the the Pali canon (tipitaka) as their canonical literature, which includes the vinaya-pitaka (monastic rules), the sutta-pitaka (Buddhist sermons) and the abhidhamma-pitaka (philosophy and psychology).

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General definition (in Buddhism)

Source: Wisdom Library: Buddhism

Dukkha:—Usually translated as ‘suffering,’ it also means impermanence and that which is unsatisfactory.

Source: Buddhist Door: GlossaryBuddhist word meaning suffering. Broadly speaking, it means not complete and not perfect.Source: WikiPedia: Buddhism

Dukkha is roughly corresponding to a number of terms in English including suffering, pain, unsatisfactoriness, sorrow, affliction, anxiety, dissatisfaction, discomfort, anguish, stress, misery, and frustration. In Buddhism, the cessation of dukkha is regularly identified as the teachings ultimate aim.

In classic Sanskrit, the term duhkha was often compared to a large potters wheel that would screech as it was spun around, and did not turn smoothly. The opposite of dukkha was the term sukha, which brought to mind a potters wheel that turned smoothly and noiselessly. In other Buddhist influenced cultures, similar imagery was used to describe dukkha. An example from China is the cart with one wheel that is slightly broken, so that the rider is jolted each time the wheel rolls over the broken spot.

Dukkha: (Sanskrit duhkha; according to grammatical tradition derived from dus kha "uneasy", but according to Monier Williams more likely a Prakritized form of dus stha "unsteady, disquieted")

Source: Amaravati: Glossary

imperfect, unsatisfying, hard to bear; one of the three characteristics of all worldly phenomena, according to the Buddha.

Source: Shambala Publications: General

1. Duhkha Skt. (Pali, dukkha); suffering; a cen­tral concept in Buddhism, which lies at the root of the four noble truths. The characteristic of suffering is one of the three marks of existence.

Duhkha signifies not only suffering in the sense of unpleasant sensations; rather it refers to everything, both material and mental, that is conditioned, that is subject to arising and pass­ing away, that is comprised of the five skandhas, and that is not in a state of liberation. Thus everything that is temporarily pleasant is suffering, since it is subject to ending. Duhkha arises because of desire and craving (trishnā) and can be overcome by the elimination of desire. The means to bring about the extinc­tion of suffering is shown by the eightfold path.

2. The first of the Four Noble Truths is suf­fering, which is the usual translation of the Sanskrit word duhkha (Pali, dukkha).

In Jainism

General definition (in Jainism)

Source: archive.org: Een Kritische Studie Van Svayambhūdeva’s Paümacariu

Dukkha (दुक्ख) participated in the war between Rāma and Rāvaṇa, on the side of the latter, as mentioned in Svayambhūdeva’s Paumacariu (Padmacarita, Paumacariya or Rāmāyaṇapurāṇa) chapter 57ff. Svayambhū or Svayambhūdeva (8th or 9th century) was a Jain householder who probably lived in Karnataka. His work recounts the popular Rāma story as known from the older work Rāmāyaṇa (written by Vālmīki). Various chapters [mentioning Dukkha] are dedicated to the humongous battle whose armies (known as akṣauhiṇīs) consisted of millions of soldiers, horses and elephants, etc.

General definition book cover
context information

Jainism is an Indian religion of Dharma whose doctrine revolves around harmlessness (ahimsa) towards every living being. The two major branches (Digambara and Svetambara) of Jainism stimulate self-control (or, shramana, ‘self-reliance’) and spiritual development through a path of peace for the soul to progess to the ultimate goal.

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Languages of India and abroad

Pali-English dictionary

Source: BuddhaSasana: Concise Pali-English Dictionary

dukkha : (nt.) suffering; pain; misery; agony; discomfort.

Source: Sutta: The Pali Text Society's Pali-English Dictionary

Dukkha, (adj.-n.) (Sk. duḥkha fr. duḥ-ka, an adj. formation fr. prefix duḥ (see du). According to others an analogy formation after sukha, q. v.; Bdhgh (at Vism.494) explains dukkha as du+kha, where du=du1 and kha=ākāsa. See also def. at Vism.461.) A. (adj.) unpleasant, painful, causing misery (opp. sukha pleasant) Vin.I, 34; Dh.117. Lit. of vedanā (sensation) M.I, 59 (°ṃ vedanaṃ vediyamāna, see also below III, 1 e); A.II, 116=M. I.10 (sarīrikāhi vedanāhi dukkhāhi). ‹-› Fig. (fraught with pain, entailing sorrow or trouble) of kāmā D.I, 36 (=paṭipīḷan-aṭṭhena DA.I, 121); Dh.186 (=bahudukkha DhA.III, 240); of jāti M.I, 185 (cp. ariyasacca, below B I.); in combination dukkhā paṭipadā dandhābhiññā D.III, 106; Dhs.176; Nett 7, 112 sq., cp. A.II, 149 sq. ekanta° very painful, giving much pain S.II, 173; III, 69. dukkhaṃ (adv.) with difficulty, hardly J.I, 215.

B. (nt.; but pl. also dukkhā, e.g. S.I, 23; Sn.728; Dh.202, 203, 221. Spelling dukha (after sukha) at Dh.83, 203). There is no word in English covering the same ground as Dukkha does in Pali. Our modern words are too specialised, too limited, and usually too strong. Sukha & dukkha are ease and dis-ease (but we use disease in another sense); or wealth and ilth from well & ill (but we have now lost ilth); or wellbeing and ill-ness (but illness means something else in English). We are forced, therefore, in translation to use half synonyms, no one of which is exact. Dukkha is equally mental & physical. Pain is too predominantly physical, sorrow too exclusively mental, but in some connections they have to be used in default of any more exact rendering. Discomfort, suffering, ill, and trouble can occasionally be used in certain connections. Misery, distress, agony, affliction and woe are never right. They are all much too strong & are only mental (see Mrs. Rh. D. Bud. Psy. 83—86, quoting Ledi Sadaw).

I. Main Points in the Use of the Word.—The recognition of the fact of Dukkha stands out as essential in early Buddhism. In the very first discourse the four socalled Truths or Facts (see saccāni) deal chiefly with dukkha. The first of the four gives certain universally recognised cases of it, & then sums them up in short. The five groups (of physical & mental qualities which make an individual) are accompanied by ill so far as those groups are fraught with āsavas and grasping. (Pañc’upādānakkhandhā pi dukkhā; cp. S.III, 47). The second Sacca gives the cause of this dukkha (see Taṇhā). The third enjoins the removal of this taṇhā. And the fourth shows the way, or method, of doing so (see Magga). These ariyasaccāni are found in two places in the older books Vin.I, 10=S.V, 421 (with addition of soka-parideva ... etc. (see below) in some MSS). Comments on this passage, or part of it, occur S.III, 158, 159; with explanation of each term (+soka) D.I, 189; III, 136, 277; M.I, 185; A.I, 107; Sn.p. 140; Nd2 under saṅkhārā; It.17 (with dukkhassa atikkama for nirodha), 104, 105; Ps.I, 37; II, 204, 147; Pug.15, 68; Vbh.328; Nett 72, 73. It is referred to as dukkha, samudaya, nirodha, magga at Vin.I, 16, 18, 19; D.III, 227; Nd2 304IIb; as āsavānaṃ khaya-ñāṇa at D.I, 83; Vin.III, 5; as sacca No. 1+paṭiccasamuppāda at A.I, 176 sq. (+soka°); in a slightly diff. version of No. 1 (leaving out appiyehi & piyehi, having soka° instead) at D.II, 305; and in the formula catunnaṃ ariyasaccānaṃ ananubodhā etc. at D.II, 90=Vin.I, 230.

II. Characterisation in Detail.—1. A further specification of the 3rd of the Noble Truths is given in the Paṭicca-samuppāda (q.v.), which analyses the links & stages of the causal chain in their interdependence as building up (anabolic=samudaya) &, after their recognition as causes, breaking down (katabolic=nirodha) the dukkha-synthesis, & thus constitutes the Metabolism of kamma; discussed e.g. at Vin 1; D.II, 32 sq. =S.II, 2 sq.; S.II, 17, 20, 65= Nd2 680I.c; S.III, 14; M.I, 266 sq.; II, 38; A.I, 177; mentioned e.g. at A.I, 147; M.I, 192 sq., 460; It.89 (=dukkhassa antakiriyā). ‹-› 2. Dukkha as one of the 3 qualifications of the saṅkhārā (q. v.), viz. anicca, d., anattā, evanescence, ill, nonsoul: S.I, 188; II, 53 (yad aniccaṃ taṃ dukkhaṃ); III, 112 (id.) III, 67, 180, 222; IV, 28, 48, 129 sq.; 131 sq.—rūpe anicc’ânupassī (etc. with dukkh’& anatt’) S.III, 41. anicca-saññā, dukkha° etc. D.III, 243; A.III, 334, cp. IV.52 sq.—sabbe saṅkhārā aniccā etc. Nd2 under saṅkhārā.—3. Specification of Dukkha. The Niddesa gives a characteristic description of all that comes under the term dukkha. It employs one stereotyped explanation (therefore old & founded on scholastic authority) (Nd2 304I.), & one explanation (304III, ) peculiar to itself & only applied to Sn.36. The latter defines & illustrates dukkha exclusively as suffering & torment incurred by a person as punishment, inflicted on him either by the king or (after death) by the guardians of purgatory (niraya-pālā; see detail under niraya, & cp. below III, 2 b).—The first explanation (304I.) is similar in kind to the definition of d. as long afterwards given in the Sāṅkhya system (see Sāṅkhya-kārikā-bhāṣya of Gauḍapāda to stanza 1) & classifies the various kinds of dukkha in the foll. groups: (a) all suffering caused by the fact of being born, & being through one’s kamma tied to the consequent states of transmigration; to this is loosely attached the 3 fold division of d. as dukkha°, saṅkhāra°, vipariṇāma° (see below III, 1 c);— (b) illnesses & all bodily states of suffering (cp. ādhyātmikaṃ dukkhaṃ of Sāṅkhya k.);— (c) pain & (bodily) discomfort through outward circumstances, as extreme climates, want of food, gnat-bites etc. (cp. ādhibhautikaṃ & ādhidaivikaṃ d. of Sk.);— (d) (Mental) distress & painful states caused by the death of one’s beloved or other misfortunes to friends or personal belongings (cp. domanassa).—This list is concluded by a scholastic characterisation of these var. states as conditioned by kamma, implicitly due to the afflicted person not having found his “refuge, ” i.e. salvation from these states in the 8 fold Path (see above B I.).

III. General Application, & various views regarding dukkha.—1. As simple sensation (: pain) & related to other terms: (a) principally a vedanā, sensation, in particular belonging to the body (kāyika), or physical pain (opp. cetasika dukkha mental ill: see domanassa). Thus defined as kāyikaṃ d. at D.II, 306 (cp. the distinction between śarīraṃ & mānasaṃ dukkhaṃ in Sāṅkhya philosophy) M.I, 302; S.V, 209 (in def. of dukkhindriya); A.II, 143 (sarīrikā vedanā dukkhā); Nett 12 (duvidhaṃ d.: kāyikaṃ=dukkhaṃ; cetasikaṃ= domanassaṃ); Vism.165 (twofold), 496 (dukkhā aññaṃ na bādhakaṃ), 499 (seven divisions), 503 (kāyika); SnA 119 (sukhaṃ vā dukkhaṃ vā Sn.67=kāyikaṃ sātāsātaṃ). Bdhgh. usually paraphrases d. with vaṭṭadukkha, e.g. at SnA 44, 212, 377, 505.—(b) Thus to be understood as physical pain in combination dukkha+ domanassa “pain & grief, ” where d. can also be taken as the Gen. term & dom° as specification, e.g. in cetasikaṃ dukkhaṃ domanassaṃ paṭisaṃvedeti A.I, 157, 216; IV, 406; S.II, 69; rāgajan d °ṃ dom °ṃ paṭisaṃvedeti A.II, 149; kāmûpasaṃhitaṃ d °ṃ dom °ṃ A.III, 207; d °ṃ dom °ṃ paṭisaṃvediyati S.IV, 343. Also as cpd. dukkhadomanassānaṃ atthaṅgamāya A.III, 326, & frequent in formula soka-parideva-d°-domanass-upāyāsā (grief & sorrow, afflictions of pain & misery, i.e. all kinds of misery) D.I, 36 (arising fr. kāmā); M.II, 64; A.V, 216 sq.; It.89 etc. (see above B I. 4). Cp. also the combination dukkhī dummano “miserable and dejected” S.II, 282.—(c) dukkha as “feeling of pain” forms one of the three dukkhatā or painful states, viz. d.-dukkhatā (painful sensation caused by bodily pain), saṅkhāra° id. having its origin in the saṅkhārā, vipariṇāma°, being caused by change S.IV, 259; V, 56; D.III, 216; Nett 12. (d) Closely related in meaning is ahita “that which is not good or profitable, ” usually opposed to sukha & hita. It is frequent in the ster. expression “hoti dīgharattaṃ ahitāya dukkhāya” for a long time it is a source of discomfort & pain A.I, 194 sq.; M.I, 332 D.III, 157; Pug.33. Also in phrases anatthāya ahitāya dukkhāya D.III, 246 & akusalaṃ ... ahitāya dukkhāya saṃvattati A.I, 58.—(e) Under vedanā as sensation are grouped the 3: sukhaṃ (or sukhā ved.) pleasure (pleasant sensation), dukkhaṃ pain (painful sens.), adukkham-asukhaṃ indifference (indifferent sens.), the last of which is the ideal state of the emotional habitus to be gained by the Arahant (cp. upekhā & nibbidā). Their role is clearly indicated in the 4th jhāna: sukhassa pahānā dukkhassa pahānā pubbe va somanassadomanassānaṃ atthaṅgamā adukkham-asukhaṃ upekhā parisuddhiṃ catutthaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharati (see jhāna).—As contents of vedanā: sukhaṃ vediyati dukkhaṃ v. adukkham-asukhaṃ v. tasmā vedanā ti S.III, 86, 87; cp. S.II, 82 (vedayati). tisso vedanā: sukha, d°, adukkham-asukhā° D.III, 275; S.II, 53; IV, 114 sq., 207, 223 sq., cp. M.I, 396; A.I, 173; IV, 442; It.46, 47. yaṃ kiñc’āyaṃ purisa-puggalo paṭisaṃvedeti sukhaṃ vā d °ṃ vā a °ṃ vā sabban taṃ pubbe katahetū ti=one’s whole life-experience is caused by one’s former kamma A.I, 173=M.II, 217.—The combination (as complementary pair) of sukha+dukkha is very frequent for expressing the varying fortunes of life & personal experience as pleasure & pain, e.g. n’âlam aññamaññassa sukhāya vā dukkhāya vā sukhadukkhāya vā D.I, 56=S.III, 211. Thus under the 8 “fortunes of the world” (loka dhammā) with lābha (& a°), yasa (a°), pasaṃsā (nindā), sukha (dukkha) at D.III, 260; Nd2 55. Regarded as a thing to be avoided in life: puriso jīvitukāmo ... sukhakāmo dukkha-paṭikkūlo S.IV, 172, 188.—In similar contexts: D.I, 81≈; III, 51, 109, 187; S.II, 22, 39; IV, 123 sq.; A.II, 158 etc. (cp. sukha).

2. As complex state (suffering) & its valuation in the light of the Doctrine: (a) any worldly sensation, pleasure & experience may be a source of discomfort (see above, I.; cp. esp. kāma & bhava) Ps.I, 11 sq. (specified as jāti etc.); dukkhaṃ=mahabbhayaṃ S.I, 37; bhārādānaṃ dukkhaṃ loke bhāra-nikkhepanaṃ sukhaṃ (pain is the great weight) S.III, 26; kāmānaṃ adhivacanaṃ A.III, 310; IV, 289; cp. A.III, 410 sq. (with kāmā, vedanā, saññā, āsavā, kamma, dukkhaṃ).—(b) ekanta° (extreme pain) refers to the suffering of sinful beings in Niraya, & it is open to conjecture whether this is not the first & orig. meaning of dukkha; e.g. M.I, 74; A.II, 231 (vedanaṃ vediyati ekanta-d°ṃ seyyathā pi sattā nerayikā); see ekanta. In the same sense: ... upenti Roruvaṃ ghoraṃ cirarattaṃ dukkhaṃ anubhavanti S.I, 30; niraya-dukkha Sn.531; pecca d°ṃ nigacchati Sn.278, 742; anubhonti d°ṃ kaṭuka-pphalāni Pv.I, 1110 (=āpāyikaṃ d°ṃ PvA.60); PvA.67; mahādukkhaṃ anubhavati PvA.43, 68, 107 etc. atidukkhaṃ PvA.65; dukkhato pete mocetvā PvA.8.—(c) to suffer pain, to experience unpleasantness etc. is expressed in foll. terms: dukkhaṃ anubhavati (only w. ref. to Niraya, see b); anveti Dh.1 (=kāyikaṃ cetasikaṃ vipāka-dukkhaṃ anugacchati DhA.I, 24), upeti Sn.728; carati S.I, 210; nigacchati M.I, 337; Sn.278, 742; paṭisaṃvedeti M.I, 313 (see above); passati S.I, 132 (jāto dukkhāni passati: whoever is born experiences woe); vaḍḍheti S.II, 109; viharati A.I, 202; II, 95; III, 3; S.IV, 78 (passaddhiyā asati d°ṃ v. dukkhino cittaṃ na samādhiyati); vedayati, vediyati, vedeti etc. see above III, 1 e; sayati A.I, 137.—(d) More specific reference to the cause of suffering & its removal by means of enlightenment: (a) Origin (see also above I. & II. 1): dukkhe loko patiṭṭhito S.I, 40; yaṃ kiñci dukkhaṃ sambhoti sabbaṃ saṅkhāra-paccayā Sn.731; ye dukkhaṃ vaḍḍhenti te na parimuccanti jātiyā etc. S.II, 109; d°ṃ ettha bhiyyo Sn.61, 584; yo paṭhavī-dhātuṃ abhinandati dukkhaṃ so abhin° Si I.174; taṇhā d °ssa samudayo etc. Nett 23 sq.; as result of sakkāyadiṭṭhi S.IV, 147, of chanda S.I, 22 of upadhi S.II, 109, cp. upadhīnidānā pabhavanti dukkhā Sn.728; d°ṃ eva hi sambhoti d°ṃ tiṭṭhati veti ca S.I, 135.—(b) Salvation from Suffering (see above I.): kathaṃ dukkhā pamuccati Sn.170; dukkhā pamuccati S.I, 14; III, 41, 150; IV, 205; V, 451; na hi putto pati vā pi piyo d °ā pamocaye yathā saddhamma-savanaṃ dukkhā moceti pāṇinaṃ S.I, 210; na appatvā lokantaṃ dukkhā atthi pamocanaṃ A.II, 49. Kammakkhayā ... sabbaṃ d°ṃ nijjiṇṇaṃ bhavissati M.II, 217, cp. I.93. kāme pahāya ... d°ṃ na sevetha anatthasaṃhitaṃ S.I, 12=31; rūpaṃ (etc.) abhijānaṃ bhabbo d —°kkhayāya S.III, 27; IV, 89; d°ṃ pariññāya sakhettavatthuṃ Tathāgato arahati pūraḷāsaṃ Sn.473. pajahati d°ṃ Sn.789, 1056. dukkhassa samudayo ca atthaṅgamo ca S.II, 72; III, 228 sq.; IV, 86, 327. – dukkhass’antakaro hoti M.I, 48; A.III, 400 sq.; It.18; antakarā bhavāmase Sn.32; antaṃ karissanti Satthu sāsana-kārino A.II, 26; d °parikkhīṇaṃ S.II, 133; akiñcanaṃ nânupatanti dukkhā S.I, 23; saṅkhārānaṃ nirodhena n’atthi d°assa sambhavo Sn.731.—muniṃ d°assa pārayuṃ S.I, 195=Nd2 136v; antagū ‘si pāragū d°assa Sn.539. – saṅg’ātiko maccujaho nirūpadhi pahāya d°ṃ apunabbhavāya S.IV, 158; ucchinnaṃ mūlaṃ d°assa, n’atthi dāni punabbhavo Vin.I, 231= D.II, 91.

Pali book cover
context information

Pali is the language of the Tipiṭaka, which is the sacred canon of Theravāda Buddhism and contains much of the Buddha’s speech. Closeley related to Sanskrit, both languages are used interchangeably between religions.

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Prakrit-English dictionary

Source: DDSA: Paia-sadda-mahannavo; a comprehensive Prakrit Hindi dictionary

1) Dukkha (दुक्ख) in the Prakrit language is related to the Sanskrit word: Duḥkha.

2) Dukkha (दुक्ख) also relates to the Sanskrit word: Duḥkhā.

context information

Prakrit is an ancient language closely associated with both Pali and Sanskrit. Jain literature is often composed in this language or sub-dialects, such as the Agamas and their commentaries which are written in Ardhamagadhi and Maharashtri Prakrit. The earliest extant texts can be dated to as early as the 4th century BCE although core portions might be older.

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