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Index of Noble Truth: Dukkha | Samudaya | Nirodha | Magga


Dukkha is spelled "Duhkha" if taken from the sanskrit.

Dukkha is the Pali word for the first of The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism.

Dukkha is.

Much of the time dukkha is translated as suffering, however this fails to capture the true essence of the word, and, more tragically, can paint Buddhism as a pessimistic religion when few things could be further from the truth. Although dukkha does mean suffering, it also includes ideas such as imperfection, impermanence, emptiness, and insubstantiality.

It is also important to understand that dukkha can be found in all things, including joy. Even the joy caused by entering spiritual states such as dhyana (trance) are not free from dukkha. Interestingly enough, joy is considered ot be one of the seven Bojjhamgas, the "Factors of Enlightenment," that must be cultivated to achieve Nirvana.

Dukkha has three aspects:

  1. Dukkha-dukkha, ordinary suffering, such as grief or physical pain.
  2. Viparinama-dukkha, suffering caused by change, such as the end of a happy state.
  3. Smakhara-dukkha, the suffering of individuality.

Unfortunately, the third aspect of dukkha requires some understanding of Buddhist philosophy's view of the self. To be brief, the self is an illusion caused by a combination of ever-changing physical and mental energies. These energies, in turn, are defined by The Five Aggregates, which combined form dukkha.

The Five Aggregates are:

  1. The Aggregate of Matter
    1. The Four Great Elements
      • Solidity
      • Fluidity
      • Heat
      • Motion
    2. Derivatives of the Four Great Elements
      • The eye and visible forms
      • The ear and sounds
      • The nose and smells
      • The tongue and tastes
      • The body and textures
      • The mind and mental objects
  2. The Aggregate of Sensation
  3. The Aggregate of Perception
  4. The Aggregate of Mental Formation
  5. The Aggregate of Consciousness

According to the Buddha, where the Five Aggregates gather together we have "being." Consciousness, the final Aggregate is entirely dependent upon the previous four Aggregates. Note that this is exactly the inverse of Rene Descartes' line cogito ergo sum, "I think, therefore I am."

Index of Noble Truth: Dukkha | Samudaya | Nirodha | Magga


Rahula, Walpola. What the Buddha Taught. New York: Grove Press. 1959.

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