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By Gaurav Manandhar at


Dukkha means uneasy, uncomfortable, unpleasant, difficult, and sadness. This term is commonly found in ancient Indian literature and doesn't have one word English translation and also carries diverse aspects of unpleasant human experiences.

In Buddhism, Dukkha is a concept that commonly understand as suffering, pain, or stress. It also refers to the fundamental painfulness that is experienced by each and every mundane. It is the truth that every person born in this world is in some way experience Dukkha in any periods of life. Hence, it is listed as the first of the Four Noble Truths.

In Hinduism, the Sanskrit word dukkha appears in the sense of the suffering, sorrow, distress and is in the context of a spiritual pursuit and liberation through the knowledge of Atman.

Origin, Etymology and meaning of the word Dukkha

The word dukkha is believed to be derived from Aryan terminology for an axle hole. As Winthrop Sargeant explains, the Sanskrit language was brought to India by the ancient Aryans. They were nomadic, horse- and cattle- breeding people who travelled in horse or ox driven vehicles, cart. In those period, Su and dus were prefixes that indicates good and bad. Hence they were joined with kha, originally meaning hole, particularly an axle hole of one of the Aryan's vehicles. Therefore, they used Sukha for the journey for good ride and dukkha for bad ride.

Dukkha in Buddhism

In the early periods, western translators of Buddhist texts typically translated Dukkha as suffering. But the contemporary translators of Buddhist texts use a variety of English words to convey the aspects of dukkha. Later Buddhist scholars put forward their view that the word suffering is too limited translation for the term dukkha. Therefore, they states that either the term should be untranslated or it should clarify through the various translated terms like, anxiety, distress, frustration, unease, unsatisfactoriness, etc.

It is learned that in Buddhist sutras, dukkha is divided in three categories: Dukkha-dukkha, Viparinama-dukkha, Sankhara-dukkha.

Dukkha-dukkha: this category of dukkha is the dukkha of painful experiences. It includes the physical and mental sufferings of birth, aging, illness, dying; distress from what is not desirable.

Viparinama-dukkha: this category of dukkha is the dukkha of the changing nature of all things. It includes the frustration of not getting what you want.

Sankhara-dukkha: this category of dukkha is the dukkha of conditioned experience. It includes basic unsatisfactoriness pervading all existence, and all forms of life. It is because it is believed that all forms of life are impermanent and changes accordingly.

In Buddhism, the teaching of Four Noble Truths emphasized the people to focused on the importance of developing insight into the nature of dukkha, the conditions that cause it, and how it can be overcome. This way they may be able go on the path of the peace.


It is the fact that the earliest Upanisads- Brhadaranyaka and Chandogya- predates the arrival of Buddhism. In these mentioned scriptures, the word dukkha has the meaning similar to suffering, sorrow, and distress. The word Dukkha appears in many other Hindu scriptures along with the Bhagavada Gita in the context of moksha. Dukkha also appears in the foundational Sutras of the six schools of Hindu philosophy.

Comparison of Buddhism and Hinduism

Both the religion, Hinduism and Buddhism emphasize that dukkha is suffering and one will be able to overcome dukkha through development of awareness. But the approach that they follows to understand the nature of it differs a lot. In case of Hinduism, Hindu emphasizes the understanding and acceptance of Atman (self, soul) and Brahman, while Buddhism emphasizes the understanding and acceptance of Anatta (Anatman, non-self, non-soul) as each discusses the means to liberation from Dukkha.

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