I have an intuitive agreement with the idea that impermanence does mean that everything either is or ends in suffering.

But I am not sure it makes rational sense.

Can anyone explain the arguments for and against this characterization of dukkha?

E.g. perhaps something has innate value, is its own end, but only relative to some time and place, such that we are not separated from the value of it when it passes. Surely, one might cliam, that would mean it is not dukkha.


There is a convolution of meanings for dukkha which depends on context. One translation for dukkha is "unsatisfactoriness".

Of course, it is not stated there is no feeling of satisfaction or pleasure born of impermanent things, as that would be absurd. I just ate a big sandwich and I can tell you I don't feel hungry, I feel satisfied with respect to hunger. I also would be lying if I said it was a painful experience.

In the introduction of the Majjhima Nikāya translation, Bhikkhu Bodhi writes:

The unsatisfactoriness of the conditioned is due to impermanence, its vulnerability to pain and its inability to provide complete and lasting satisfaction.

So, one may find satisfaction on conditioned things. But that satisfaction is doomed to be be partial and/or temporary. Therefore, it is not satisfactory in its greatest sense; it's, thus, dukkha.

  • hello thiago, i found that this didn't answer my question, cos i wasn't talking thins being innately unsatisfactory, but either being or ending in that, as in when we no longer have the nice big sandwich :)
    – user2512
    Jan 6 '15 at 20:28
  • Im afraid i dont understand then. Can you elaborate on your question? Ill try to revise the answer once its clear to me
    – user382
    Jan 6 '15 at 21:34
  • i have to find quotes? i thought it was standard reading of the pali canon to say that even what brings us pleasure will be painful "separation from the pleasant is dukkha"
    – user2512
    Jan 6 '15 at 21:36
  • I'm sorry, feel free to correct me if you notice I still don't understand. The example you gave in your question is dukkha in the "bigger sense" (first noble truth sense) described above by Bodhi. The sandwich example is dukkha also in that sense. It is not dukkha experience, however, in the ordinary sense of painful experience (which the word "dukkha" is also used) -- it passed, it was pleasant, but it it is not an "existential, permanent satisfaction", grossly speaking. I believe variant terms for different kinds of dukkha are used in some texts, but I'm not quite familiar with this.
    – user382
    Jan 6 '15 at 22:49
  • The "even what brings us pleasure will be painful" refers to something else (though related): its known as the danger of sense pleasures, and our tendency to develop craving/clinging to such things, thus further developing ignorance, etc. In this way, the Buddha recommends "sense pleasures should be regarded as dukkha".
    – user382
    Jan 6 '15 at 22:56

After you eat the sandwich you will be hungry again.

After years of enjoying a loved ones company they or you will die.

After paying your electric bill you will have to do it again next month.

After having good physical health for several years you will get heart disease or cancer.

After buying your new car it will eventually need a new transmission and you will have to buy anothet car.

After a major promotion at work you will eventually become to old to work and you will retire.

After enjoying a sunset, it will become dark outside.

It is all impermanent.

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