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Dukkha In Hinduism – Teachings And Understanding Pain or Misery

Dukkha (pain or misery) is one of the fundamental presuppositions of Hindu philosophy. The understanding is that human life is very largely a matter of dukkha (pain) and that no one born in this world can escape it. As per teachings in Hinduism, the pain and miserly that one must undergo in life is said to be the result of one’s past deeds, not only in the present life but in all past lives. Thus, the concept of dukkha is intimately associated with a belief in transmigration.

Patanjali seems to have gone a step further when he says in Yoga Sutra (II.15) that, for a yogi, even apparently pleasurable situations appear to be full of pain.

It is said in the very beginning of Samkhya Karika that the origin of any philosophical inquiry lies in the wish to overcome pain and misery. If the human mind were not subjected to constant attacks of dukkha, the perhaps there would not have been any philosophy, religion, prayer, ritual or the like.

Samkhya Karika argues that the wish to overcome pain or misery leads to three types of remedies –

  1. Experimental or practical remedies (medicine for ill health, food for hunger etc)
  2. Other – worldly remedies (religious observances, ritual, prayer, worship etc)
  3. But only through self knowledge or self realization is a permanent and lasting remedy attainable

The three kinds of Dukkha are

  1. Adhibhautika dukkha – which is pain given by other beings such as humans, animals, plants, insects or microorganisms; quarrels, rivalries, wars, disputes, snakebite, poison, thorns, toxic chemicals, and so on, give rise to adhibhautik pain.
  2. Adhidaivika dukkha – the variety of pain caused by supernatural beings such as bhutas, daityas, yakshas and so on, natural calamities and disasters that cause large scale loss of life would be counted as adhidaivika dukkha.
  3. Adhyatmic dukkha – it is of two types – bodily and mental. Disease, drowning, fasting or fatigue may be the cause of bodily pain; mental pain is caused by failure, disappointment, loss, death of a near and dear one, and so on.

Only to ward off the evils caused by dukkha, every Hindu student and teachers utters Shanti (peace that passes all understanding) thrice before commencing the daily Vedic lessons and at the end of the learning session.