1

One of my key problems studying Buddhism has been definitions. My definition often doesn't have the same span as that of the typical Buddhist - but I am usually successful in coming to similar conclusions. I try to focus on some generalities of the word in question and get an emotional feel.

Which brings me to the problem with dukkah. I am not sure what word(s) properly conveys (in english) the emotion sought to be elicited by the concept of dukkah. And the terms we HAVE come to use in its' description to date are rather, uh, dukkah.

I see it as frustration. You keep trying to satisfy a permanent hunger with an impermanent response. But I am told that is also not a complete comparison.

For example ... seething in anger borne from frustration is a different type of anger than that coming from a reaction to an insult. Or is it? Was it a generalized word they flippantly threw around? Or did it intend to evoke a specific type of emotional response?

2

There's a statement here (I'm guessing by Bhikkhu Bodhi) that it has no single best translation:

No single English word adequately captures the full depth, range, and subtlety of the crucial Pali term dukkha. Over the years, many translations of the word have been used ("stress," "unsatisfactoriness," "suffering," etc.). Each has its own merits in a given context. There is value in not letting oneself get too comfortable with any one particular translation of the word, since the entire thrust of Buddhist practice is the broadening and deepening of one's understanding of dukkha until its roots are finally exposed and eradicated once and for all. One helpful rule of thumb: as soon as you think you've found the single best translation for the word, think again: for no matter how you describe dukkha, it's always deeper, subtler, and more unsatisfactory than that.

Its saying "in a given context" implies to me that the word is applicable to multiple contexts, in which multiple different emotions are manifest.

Some of these emotions include grief (when loved ones dies), fear (of losing what you value), anger, denial, and so on.

Since you're asking about emotion, perhaps consider the so-called "afflictive emotions": a.k.a. the Kleshas. Different schools have slightly different ways to enumerate the Kleshas. I note that the "grief" and "fear" that I mentioned aren't listed but "attachment" is. I think that shows your question is difficult to answer i.e. what one person sees as grief another person sees as (or names it to be) attachment.

The quote above says that dukkha is "deeper and subtler" than any definition you can think of. For what it's worth the shallowest definition I can think of (the highest-level, most single-meaninged definition) is that it's the opposite of sukha. I think that's inaccurate though, to the extent that a lay person would see sukha as a or the worthwhile goal, whereas nirvana is the ideal for a monk.

The four noble truths associated it with tanha, so perhaps the single-emotion you're looking for is "unsatisfied desire" or even "unsatisfiable desire", or just "dissatisfaction".

So "multiple contexts", or perhaps even all contexts: it's canonically associated with all saṅkhārās.

1

The meaning of Dukkha is difficult to understand. It has a gross meaning and a more subtle meaning. Any pain and suffering is considered Dukkha in a gross level. Any six sense contact is considered Dukkha in a subtle level.

1

Dukkha as the 1st Noble Truth:

And what, avuso, is the noble truth that is suffering?

(1) Birth is suffering,

(2) decay is suffering,

[*] disease is suffering,

(3) death is suffering;

(4) to be associated with the unpleasant is suffering;

(5) to be separated from the pleasant is suffering;

(6) not getting what one wants is suffering,

(7) sorrow, lamentation, physical pain, mental pain, and despair are suffering

(8) - in short, the five aggregates of clinging are suffering.

(1) And what, avuso, is birth?

Being born, becoming, descending [into a womb], [arising,] generating, manifesting of the aggregates, obtaining the sense-bases of various beings, in various groups of beings, here and there.

—This, avuso, is called birth.

(2) And what, avuso, is decay?

Ageing, decaying, broken teeth, grey hair, wrinkled skin, the dwindling away of one’s years, the weakness of the sense-faculties, in various beings, in various groups of beings, here and there.

—This, avuso, is called decay.

(3) And what, avuso, is death?

Falling away, passing away, breaking up, disappearance, death, dying, one’s time being up [completion of one’s time], breaking up of the aggregates, discarding of the body, [uprooting of the life-faculty,]30 in various beings, in various groups of beings, here and there.

—This, avuso, is called death.

(4a) And what, avuso, is sorrow?

One’s being touched [affected] by one thing or other of a painful nature, by any kind of misfortune, sorrow, grief, distress, inner grief, inner woe, here and there.

—This, avuso, is called sorrow.

(4b) And what, avuso, is lamentation?

One’s being affected by one thing or other of a painful nature, by any kind of misfortune, crying, weeping, wailing, lamenting, bewailing, lamentation.

—This, avuso, is called lamentation.

(4c) And what, avuso, is physical pain?

Whatever painful bodily feeling, unpleasant bodily feeling, painful or unpleasant feeling arising from bodily contact.

—This, avuso, is called physical pain.

(4d) And what, avuso, is mental pain [displeasure]?

Whatever painful mental feeling, unpleasant mental feeling, painful or unpleasant feeling arising from mental contact.35

—This, avuso, is called mental pain [displeasure].

(4e) And what, avuso, is despair?

One’s being affected by one thing or other of a painful nature, stress, distress, despair, desperation.

—This, avuso, is called despair.

(5) And what, avuso, is association with the unpleasant?

Here, whoever has undesired, disliked, unpleasant sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touch or mindobjects, or encountering, meeting, associating with, mixing with those who wish one ill, harm, discomfort, insecurity.

—This, avuso, is called association with the unpleasant.

(6) And what, avuso, is separation from the pleasant?

Here, whoever has desirable, likeable, pleasant sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touch or mindobjects, or encountering, meeting, associating with, mixing with those who wish one well, good, comfort, security: mother or father or brother or sister or friends or colleagues or blood-relations, and is then deprived of such concourse, intercourse, connection, union.

—This, avuso, is called separation from the pleasant.

(7) And what, avuso, is not getting what one wants?

(i) In beings subject to birth, avuso, this wish arises: ‘O that we were not subject to birth, that we might not come to be born!’ But this cannot be won by wishing—that is not getting what one wants.

(ii) In beings subject to decay [ageing], avuso, this wish arises: ‘O that we were not subject to decay, that we might not come to decay!’ But this cannot be won by wishing—that is not getting what one wants.

(iii) In beings subject to disease, avuso, this wish arises: ‘O that we were not subject to disease, that we might not come to fall sick!’ But this cannot be won by wishing—that is not getting what one wants.

(iv) In beings subject to death, avuso, this wish arises: ‘O that we were not subject to death, that we might not come to die!’ But this cannot be won by wishing—that is not getting what one wants.

(v) In beings subject to sorrow, lamentation, pain, anguish and despair, this wish arises: ‘O that we were not subject to sorrow, despair, lamentation, pain, anguish, despair!’ But this cannot be won by wishing—that is not getting what one wants.

(8) And what, avuso, are, the five aggregates of clinging in brief? They are as follows:

the aggregate of clinging that is form,

the aggregate of clinging that is feeling,

the aggregate of clinging that is perception,

the aggregate of clinging that is formations,

the aggregate of clinging that is consciousness.

These are, in short, the five aggregates of clinging that are suffering.

This, avuso, is called the noble truth that is suffering.

Sacca Vibhanga Sutta

Also the whole sphere of what is cognised, know or felt is suffering since when present changes it is suffering, painful is suffering on its own and neutral feeling is suffering also as ignorance is present and one is in a continual state of existence with opens up to possibility of unpleasant experiences.

What does one know [cognize] with that consciousness?

One knows, "It is pleasant."

One knows. "It is painful."

One knows, "It is neutral."

On account of any experiance from the 6 sense door it results in metal element of pleasure, pain or neutral feeling or emotion.

On seeing a ____ with the ****,

one investigates the _____ that is the basis for mental joy,

one investigates the _____ that is the basis of mental pain,

one investigates the _____ that is the basis of equanimity.

Dhātu Vibhaṅga Sutta

“Now, ayya,

regarding pleasant feeling, what is pleasant, what is painful,?

regarding painful feeling, what is painful, what is pleasant?

regarding neutral feeling, what is pleasant, what is painful,?

―Avuso Visākha,

pleasant feeling is pleasant when it persists, painful when it changes;

painful feeling is painful when it persists, pleasant when it changes;

neutral feeling is pleasant when there is knowledge of it, painful when there is no knowledge of it.

NB: Highlighted emotional or mental elements.

  • Mongol General: What is good in life? Conan: To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women! – Kauva Aatma Jul 3 '17 at 4:02
  • I would think all mental experience is an emotion some which you cannot even name. – Suminda Sirinath S. Dharmasena Jul 3 '17 at 4:16
0

'Dukkha' means 'difficult to bear'; 'hard to endure'.

It is any emotion that is 'difficult to bear', such as sorrow, grief, pain, fear, frustration, confusion, terror, jealously, anger, lust, unhappiness, worry, etc.

  • so not specific to futility? because I see it used much more generally but it seems like futility to me. – Kauva Aatma Jul 2 '17 at 21:44
  • The word 'dukkha' in the noble truths and in the three characteristics has a different meaning. In the four noble truths its means 'suffering'. In the three characteristics it means the inability of an impermanent thing to bring lasting happiness, therefore 'unsatisfactoriness' or 'futility'. Regards – Dhammadhatu Jul 3 '17 at 0:53

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