That is to say, anicca and anatta obviously apply to all 5 skandhas, but 'stress/suffering' is a psychological phenomenon. Is it the 'name' within name-and-form that links it back to dukkha?

3 Answers 3


'Dukkha' as one of the three characteristics is not a psychological phenomenon (unlike 'dukkha' in the four noble truths). As one of the three characteristics, 'dukkha' means 'unsatisfactoriness', namely, the inherent inability of impermanent conditioned things to bring lasting happiness.

For example, apples, motor cars & cocaine are 'unsatisfactory' because there is no characteristic within those things that can bring lasting happiness.

The following correct translation makes the different usages of 'dukkkha' clear:

Sabbe baṅkhārā dukkhā'ti yadā paññāya passati Atha nibbindati dukkhe esa maggo visuddhiyā.

"All conditioned things are unsatisfactory" — when one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering. This is the path to purification.

Dhammapada 278 translated by Acharya Buddharakkhita

As for 'nama', for Buddhist purposes, it is defined in the suttas (SN 12.2; MN 9; etc) as the 'mentality' or 'mental faculties' of feeling, perception, intention, contact & attention and also mindfulness, zeal, energy, decision, etc (MN 111).

'Nama' for the purpose of converting & teaching Brahmans (eg. DN 15, DN 11, SN 7.6), namely, 'name', is not for Buddhist purposes & should be ignored by those wanting to comprehend Buddhism.

In other words, in the context of Buddhist suttas such as SN 12.2, MN 9, etc, 'name-form' is an incorrect translation. The correct translation here should be 'mentality-materiality'.

'Name-form' is only a correct translation for Brahman suttas, such as DN 15, DN 11, SN 7.6, etc.

Thus, in terms of the three characteristics, nama-rupa is dukkha (unsatisfactory); just as SN 22.85 states the five aggregates of a Buddha are unsatisfactory (dukkha).

However, in terms of the four noble truths, nama-rupa is not dukkha because the 1st noble truth summarises all psychological dukkha as attachment (upadana) to the five aggregates.

  • Thanks for the answer.. On a small note though, would an Arahant, having cut off suffering still experience unsatisfactory-ness? That seems like it would be a bit of a half victory! Mar 10, 2017 at 23:31
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    Of course. It is the experience of unsatisfactory-ness that results in liberation via the destruction of craving. Its like being in love with a girl who has left you & you can't get over her. But then you learn she poisoned her previous five lovers. & stole all their money. When you realise how unsatisfactory that girl was, you are completely liberated from her. Because all conditioned things are totally unsatisfactory for an arahant, the arahant has no desire towards those unsatisfactory things, as explained in SN 22.59. It is a total victory. regards Mar 11, 2017 at 1:18

In Conditioned Genesis (Paticca- samuppada), consciousness leads to mentality & materiality (Nama Rupa). Feeling, perception, intention, contact & attention are called ‘name/mentality’ or nama and the body dependant on the four great elements (Earth, fire, water & air - ‘Patavi’, ‘Apo’, ‘Thejo’, ‘Vayo’) is form/ materiality or rupa). The Buddha taught that nominal and physical things (nama rupa dhamma) which are subjected to the three characteristics of existence impermanence, suffering and soullessness, are nothing but a state of Conditioned Genesis (Paticca- samuppada) which exists without a doer or causer. Those causes and effects are subjected to cessation on the same spot and thus manifesting this state of cessation from within oneself, can attain the state of Extinction, the Nibbana. Thus all of these are Suffering (dukkham) and arising of Suffering (dukkha samudayam).


Nama is vedhana, sangna, sankhara, vingnana. Rupa is solid, liquid, gas and heat. This is pancha upadhanakkandha.

Pancha upadhakkandha is by definition dukkha, a noble truth.

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