Re: The common saying ... "Pain is inevitable but suffering is a choice".

Wherein by "dukkha" is meant everything from mild discomfort to intense suffering ...

It occurs to me that the "pain" we experience when the "first arrow" penetrates the heart is a separate phenomenon from the dukkha we experience when we react unskillfully to this first arrow.

Logically, therefore, if one's aim were to create a path of practice leading to the end of dukkha, one might expect a different word to be used to clearly discern between the concepts of (1) pain and (2) dukkha and for that word to be used repeatedly throughout the suttas.

I mostly listen to Dharma talks rather than read the suttas. But, strangely, I have never heard a Dharma teacher use a separate word for pain.

Does such a word exist?

Is it used commonly in the suttas?

3 Answers 3


The Buddha taught 3 types of dukkha:

  1. Dukkha-dukkhata, the actual feeling of physical or mental unpleasantness.
  2. Sankhara-dukkhata, the inherent unpleasantness of the formations.
  3. Viparinama-dukkhata, the inherent unpleasantness of change.


Dukkha is principally defined as the aggregates:

Natthi khandhasamā dukkhā no pain like the aggregates https://nanda.online-dhamma.net/tipitaka/sutta/khuddaka/dhammapada/dhp-contrast-reading/dhp-contrast-reading-en-chap15/

They are also called aggregates of clinging [upadana] because they are what is being clung to [upadana] as one focuses on the allure of the aggregates which are the 5 classes of past, present & future phenomena (form, feeling, perception, formation & consciousness).

Craving is a requisite for Upadana which is in turn a requisite condition for becoming. https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn12/sn12.052.than.html

An Arahant does not cling but is not to be said to be without the aggregates. Even tho his mind is made straight, his five sense faculties remain unimpaired, by which he still experiences what is agreeable and disagreeable and feels pleasure and pain.

To differentiate between physical and mental pain one can use 'kayika dukkha vedana' and 'cetasika dukkha vedana' or more specifically ie domanassa which is sadness or grief and thus a type of cetasika [mental] dukkha.

The Sutta mentioned in the op uses kayika and cetasika to differentiate between mental and physical pain.

They experience two feelings: So dve vedanā vedayati— physical and mental. kāyikañca, cetasikañca https://suttacentral.net/sn36.6/en/sujato

  • My initial understanding is that, of the 3, only “sankhara-dukkhata” seems like it might describe a discomfort that can only come after the first arrow. The other 2 seem like they might describe either the discomfort of the first arrow or the discomfort which arises due to the unskillful response to the first arrow. None of these seem to represent only the first arrow like “agha” does. If I am misunderstanding your explanation, please correct me.
    – Alex Ryan
    Commented Mar 4, 2021 at 5:32
  • Buddha taught 3 feelings: pleasant, unpleasant and neither-pleasant-nor-unpleasant. He also said that whatever is felt is dukkha, that he said simply in regards to the nature of feelings to change. Therefore feelings are Sankhara [formations] and are subject to Viparinama [change]. Parting with what is dear is unpleasant and even pleasant feelings are stressful when they end. The mental and the physical pain of the arrows can be explained to be any one of the 3 types of dukkha or all 3 of them.
    – user8527
    Commented Mar 4, 2021 at 8:31
  • In general the concept of change being inherently bad, viparinama-dukkha, is not obvious to people and it is therefore needed to grasp viparinama as dukkha in order to arrive at sankhara being dukkha because sankhara is conjoined with feeling (what is felt is formed or has come into existence) and feelings can be pleasant but even if pleasant they are regarded as dukkha on account of being subjected to viparinama.
    – user8527
    Commented Mar 4, 2021 at 8:40
  • When one can infer that sankhara is dukkha then one can apply the same line of reasoning to the other aggregates and categorically classify them as something bad. The only thing needed to do this is properly conceiving of sankhara and the other classes of phenomena [aggregates].
    – user8527
    Commented Mar 4, 2021 at 8:53
  • In general one can say that pleasant feelings fall short of being classed as pleasure on account of them being impermanent. Extinguishment of feelings is said to be pleasant and a pleasure that is there where nothing is felt. It's not the case, that the Tathagatha describes only pleasant feeling as included under pleasure. Wherever pleasure is found, in whatever terms, the Tathagatha describes it as pleasure.
    – user8527
    Commented Mar 4, 2021 at 14:54

"Agha" is pretty close to what you're looking for.

  • Thank you. Are you aware of any suttas where the importance of not allowing "Agha" to become “upadana dukkha” is discussed?
    – Alex Ryan
    Commented Mar 3, 2021 at 23:06

"Dukkha" is used for both "pain" and "suffering".

The feeling of pain is called "dukkha vedana".

The experience of suffering is called "dukkha of attachment" ("upadana dukkha").

  • Thank you. Are you aware of any suttas where the importance of not allowing "dukkha vedana" to become “upadana dukkha” is discussed?
    – Alex Ryan
    Commented Mar 3, 2021 at 23:06

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