Suffering (Dukkha) | Definition

Duḥkha (Suffering)

Suffering is a basic characteristic of all life in this world, and is the first of the four noble truths taught by the Buddha and recorded in the various Buddhist canons.

Suffering is one of 3 fundamental characteristics of life in this world along with:

1) Impermanence (Anitya)
2) Suffering (Duḥkha) and
3) No-self (Anātman).

Duḥkha (Pāli: dukkha) is most often translated as “suffering,” although the word encompasses a wide range of things that cause pain: in a wider sense – any imperfection and dependency on conditions is what creates a suffering and hence – are suffering themselves.

It is commonly defined in Buddhist texts as:

- birth, old age, disease, and death;
- sorrow and grief, mental and physical distress, and unrest;
- association with things not liked and separation from desired things; and
- not getting what one wants

Buddhist texts summarize what suffering is by referring to a group called the “5 aggregates of grasping:”

The 5 aggregates of grasping refer to the 5 things that people cling to in order to think of themselves as independent and enduring beings:

1) physical body,
2) feelings,
3) perceptions,
4) impulses, and
5) consciousness.

Holding on to each of these 5 things produces suffering because there is no permanent existence in the world.

If a person clings to things whose nature is impermanence, with the hope that those things will remain stable and unchanging, then that person will continually suffer when faced with the inevitability of change.

According to Buddhist teachings, suffering is an inescapable characteristic of all life and cannot be alleviated except through Enlightenment.

Suffering is caused by 3 main causes or 3 Poisons of the Mind:

1. Attachment (craving)
2. Hate (repulsion)
3. Ignorance

Suffering is a characteristic of an ordinary – imperfect existence and it continues until Liberation from the 3 Poisons of the Mind is reached, until the perfect Buddhahood is attained.