The Pali word for remorse or regret in the definition of the five hindrances (in MN 10) is "kukucca". Sometimes, this word is also translated as worry or anxiety. This word usually appears together with "uddhacca".

However, the Pali word translated as remorse in Itivuttaka 30 is "tapanīya" (according to this Pali version).

In AN 11.1, AN 11.2, AN 5.41, Thanissaro Bhikkhu's translation has the word "remorse", while Sujato Bhikkhu's translation has the word "regret". The Pali term for this is "vippaṭisāra". This can also be found in Udana 8.5.

What is the difference between these terms?

1 Answer 1


Etymologically, tapa-niya comes from the word for strong glowing and burning heat, like that of a big fire or sun. It also means the practice of self-torture done by the yogis. So I suppose metaphorically it refers to blaming oneself, torturing oneself, "giving oneself a heat", "beating-up oneself".

While vi-ppati-sara I think means something like "acknowledge result of one's wrongdoing", "realize one's mistake", "admit responsibility", "take blame", "plead guilty", "repent" etc.

So both tapaniya and vippatisara can be used to indicate regret and remorse - but one emphasizes the self-blaming aspect while the other emphasizes going back in time to look at one's past action.

Udhacca-kukkucca, as I explained in another answer, indicates something completely different -- obsessive wavering about right/wrong action, a scruples. While the previous two words pertain to someone experiencing results of one's past unskillful action, this one pertains to someone's state of worry and anxious wavering while choosing a course of action (including the no-action), even if it's actually the right choice.

Note, that Udhacca-kukkucca is completely different from 'vicikiccha' which is generic scepticism about something external, not anxious wavering about one's action.

  • Doubt would be something different: vicikiccha. Kukkucca is remorse, uddhacca is restlessness. And, although kukkucca always comes together with uddhacca, the reverse is not the case. Uddhacca can exist without kukkucca.
    – user13579
    Jun 24, 2018 at 20:16
  • Thank you @Medhiṇī - 'vicikiccha' is "doubt" in a very different sense, it is scepticism (e.g. towards a teacher) - not questioning one's own choices in terms of right/wrong. As for Udhacca-kukkucca, I am familiar with the traditional explanation of these two words according to post-Pali-Canon commentaries and while I think it is correct as far as dictionary meaning of each word, it is incorrect as far as the overall meaning that Buddha has put in it. If you disagree, can you show an example of Pali Sutta where udhacca and/or kukucca are used with reference to the past?
    – Andriy Volkov
    Jun 24, 2018 at 20:24
  • I can point to my experience. ;) My primary point of reference is my experience, then I check with theory, in this case the Abhidhamma. Up till now, both fit. Also, you can't feel remorse before doing something. That always comes after. If you have ever had an experience where you felt remorse before, then I really want to hear it.
    – user13579
    Jun 24, 2018 at 20:35
  • Same here: experience, instructions of live teacher, then Pali Canon, then commentaries. Remorse is a different Pali word altogether: tapaniya and vipattisara, which has nothing to do with Udhacca-kukkucca. Alright, let's agree to disagree - since arguing about word definitions is the silliest mistake one can make.
    – Andriy Volkov
    Jun 24, 2018 at 20:41
  • There is no problem, just a different level/kind/type of understanding, @AndreiVolkov. :)
    – user13579
    Jun 26, 2018 at 13:31

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .