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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 53  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 149-153

Sociophilosophical concept of Duḥkha in Dhammapada and Yoga Sutra: A comparative study

Department of Yoga and Ayurveda, Sanchi University of Buddhist-Indic Studies, Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh, India

Date of Submission27-Aug-2021
Date of Acceptance21-Oct-2021
Date of Web Publication22-Dec-2021

Correspondence Address:
Tikhe Sham Ganpat
Department of Yoga and Ayurveda, Sanchi University of Buddhist-Indic Studies, Sanchi - 464 661, Madhya Pradesh
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ym.ym_94_21

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Duḥkha (Pāli: Dukkha) is an important concept in Dhammapada and Yoga, commonly translated as “suffering,” “unhappiness,” “pain,” or “stress.” It is universal and unavoidable. Dhammapada is the essence of Lord Buddha's teachings intended to guide the students of Yoga marga. It consists of 26 chapters and 423 verses in the Pāli language. There are many verses in Dhammapada which talk about the prevention and cure of Duḥkha. Dhammapada suggests not to do unwholesome action which causes Duḥkha and instructs to follow the Yoga Mārga (Dhamma): Śṭla, Samādhi, and Pragyā. Each one is responsible for their actions and consequences. The disciple should be mindful and involve in doing wholesome action with the right thought. Then they will be able to free from Duḥkha and may attain happiness (Nibbāna). The Yoga Sutra of Patañjali is well-known text among the Yoga fraternity. Sage Patañjali codified the knowledge of Yoga in a unique way and has mentioned some Yogic practices to be from Duḥkha and attain the state of liberation (Kaivalya). Both Yoga Sutra and Dhammapada emphasize that one can overcome Duḥkha through the development of understanding. However, the two philosophies widely differ in the nature of that understanding. Dhammapada emphasizes the understanding of Anatta (Anatman, nonself, nonsoul), and Yoga Sutra emphasizes the understanding of Svarupa (self, soul), as each discusses the means to liberation from Duḥkha. This paper reviews the concept of Duḥkha and its cessation in the light of Dhammapada and Yoga Sutra of Patañjali.

Keywords: Dhammapada, Duḥkha, Duḥkha Yoga Sutra of Patañjali, Kaivalya, Nibbāna

How to cite this article:
Yadav AK, Ganpat TS. Sociophilosophical concept of Duḥkha in Dhammapada and Yoga Sutra: A comparative study. Yoga Mimamsa 2021;53:149-53

How to cite this URL:
Yadav AK, Ganpat TS. Sociophilosophical concept of Duḥkha in Dhammapada and Yoga Sutra: A comparative study. Yoga Mimamsa [serial online] 2021 [cited 2023 Mar 25];53:149-53. Available from:

  Introduction Top

Duḥkha (Pāli: Dukkha) is an important concept in Dhammapada and Yoga, commonly translated as “suffering,” “unhappiness,” “pain,” or “stress.” The key concept here is Dukkha, a Pāli word with no real adequate English translation. Pāli is one of the ancient Indian languages in which the Buddha's teachings were first recorded. Dukkha is often translated as suffering, but this translation can be quite misleading. For that reason, many people prefer not to translate Dukkha, and stick to the Pāli term, not because they are enamored of the trappings of Buddhism, but to avoid the limitations of translation. Dukkha is the central focus of the Four Noble Truths (Sanskrit: catvāri āryasatyāni; Pāli: cattāri ariyasaccāni; “The four Arya satyas”) which are “the truths of the Noble Ones,” the truths or realities for the “spiritually worthy ones.” The first two truths, which concern the nature and origins of Dukkha. The third and fourth truths which focus on the cessation of Dukkha and how, practically, we bring that about:

  1. Dukkha (suffering, incapable of satisfying, painful) is an innate characteristic of existence in the realm of samsara
  2. Samudaya (origin, arising) of this Dukkha, which arises or “comes together” with taṇhā (”craving, desire or attachment”)
  3. Nirodha (cessation, ending) of this Dukkha can be attained by the renouncement or letting go of this Taṇhā
  4. Magga (path, Noble Eightfold Path) is the path leading to renouncement of Taṇhā and cessation of Dukkha.

Duḥkha is opposed to the word Sukha, meaning “happiness,” “comfort,” or “ease.” The Pāli word Duḥkha and Saṁskṛta word Duḥkha in ordinary uses mean “suffering,” “pain,” “sorrow,” or “misery as opposed to the Sukha (happiness),” “comfort” or “ease” (Rahula, 1972). However, the term Duḥkha as per the viewpoint of Buddha and Patañjali, both have a deeper and different philosophical meaning and understanding.

Dhammapada is the essence of Lord Buddha's teachings intended to guide the students of Yoga Marga. It consists of 26 chapters and 423 verses in the Pāli language. There are many verses in Dhammapada which talk about the prevention and cure of Duḥkha. For example, “All created things are pain” (Muller, 2014). Everything which is created will change and end one day. Nothing is permanent in this world and this is Duḥkha. Dhammapada instructed to restrain from unethical action so that one can ameliorate Duḥkha. For example, the man, who covets his neighbor's wife, has to face four types of Duḥkha; demerits, uncomfortable sleep, blame, and hell (Dhammapada, 309).

Patañjali Yoga Sutra (P.Y.S.) consists of 196 Sutra or verses (Saraswati, 2013) and is divided into four chapters. It is regarded as the most precise and scientific text ever written on Yoga (Saraswati, 2013, pp. 3-4). Maharāi Patañjali presented unprecedented knowledge of Yoga in such a scientific and rational way that every theory, hypothesis, and principle put forth by Patañjali can be tested through the most rigorous modern scientific methodology (Karambelkar, 2020). The P.Y.S. discusses all four dimensions of human life which produces Duḥkha: Pariṇāma, Tāpa, Saṁskāra, and Guṇavṛttivirodha. Change is the law of nature, neither happiness nor sorrow is permanent. Change and conflict are pervasive and this is the Duḥkha (P.Y.S.: II.15).

Dhammapada and Yoga Sutra have their separate methodology to eradicate the Duḥkha. Dhammapada states that cessation of Duḥkha is possible if the disciple follows the middle path; Śṭla, Samādhi, Pragyā and take refuge in Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha. For cessation of Duḥkha, P.Y.S. suggests many methods such as “Abhyāsa and Vairāgya,” “Surrender to Īśvara,” “Kriyā Yoga,” and “Aāṭāṁga Yoga.”

This paper reviews the concept of Duḥkha and its cessation in Dhammapada and Yoga Sutra.

  Concept Of DuḥKha in Dhammapada Top

The Dhammapada is a collection of sayings of the Buddha in verse form and one of the most widely read and best-known Buddhist scriptures. The original version of the Dhammapada is in the Khuddaka Nikaya, a division of the Pali Canon of Theravada Buddhism.

Dhammapada is a rule book for the Sramanas (the practitioner of Dhamma). It begins with a warning statement in the very first verse of text that “Mind is the chief and forerunner. If one speaks or does an action with wicked mind, Duḥkha shall follow him as the wheel follows the hooves of the bull. Because all phenomenon as is mind-made” (Negi, 2013). Dhammapada is intended to disclose the mechanism of Duḥkha and alleviate it. In addition to this, a strong statement is being quoted here of Buddha, “I teach the end of suffering (Duḥkha)” this is one of the most profound statements in all of Buddhist literature. The Buddha's analysis of human suffering, apart from all his other teachings, makes him an extraordinary spiritual genius and superb physician of the mind (Easwaran, 2014).

The main purpose of Dhammapada is to understand what is Duḥkha, the causes of Duḥkha, the cessation of Duḥkha, and the path which leads to the cessation of Duḥkha. It is stated in verse 191, “The Duḥkha, the origin of Duḥkha, the destruction of Duḥkha, and the eight-fold holy path that leads to the quieting of Duḥkha (Muller, 2012).”


Dhammapada does not deny happiness in life. When the cause of suffering is removed, happiness appears. As happiness exists in multilayer, so Duḥkha also exists in three stages. These are as follows:

Duḥkha-Duḥkha (the suffering of suffering)

This includes the physical and mental Duḥkha of birth, aging, illness, dying; distress from what is not desirable.

Vipariṇāma-Duḥkha (the suffering of change)

This is the Duḥkha of pleasant or happy experiences changing to unpleasant when the causes and conditions that produced the pleasant experiences cease.

Saṁ…khāra-Duḥkha (all-pervasive suffering)

The Duḥkha of conditioned experience. This includes “a basic unsatisfactoriness pervading all existence, all forms of life, because all forms of life are changing, impermanent and without any inner core or substance.” On this level, the term indicates a lack of satisfaction, a sense that things never measure up to our expectations or standards.

Causes of Duḥkha

There is nothing in this world that is produced without cause. The law of cause and effect is inviolable. There is no one cause of Duḥkha. It is a collection of causes. Dhammapada states that craving and ignorance are the main cause of Duḥkha (Dhammapada, 203, 216, 343, and 370).

Taṇhāya jāyatṭ soko taṇhāya jāyatṭ bhayaṃ,

Taṇhāya vippamuttassa n'; atthi soko kuto bhayaṃ.

- ‖ Dhammapada, 216 ‖

Craving breeds grief, craving breeds fear. He, who gives up craving, has neither grief nor fear. Association with a fool is always cause of Duḥkha (dukkho bālehi saṃvāso amitteneva sabbadā. ‖ Dhammapada, 207 ‖). Because fools always talk about worldly matters, blame others, and praise themselves. Accumulation of sinful action is painful and that leads to Duḥkha (dukkho pāpassa uccayo. ‖ Dhammapada, 117 ‖).

Cessation of Duḥkha

When the cause of unhappiness comes to an end, then Duḥkha also ends. The state of consciousness in which Duḥkha ends is called Nirvāṇa (Pāli: Nibbāna) and it is the highest bliss.

Jighacchā paramā rogā, saṃkhārā paramā dukhā,

etaṃ ñatvā nibbānaṃ paramaṃ sukhaṃ.

- ‖ Dhammapada, 203 ‖

Hunger is the worst disease, karmic formation is the greatest Duḥkha, one who knows truly that Nirvāṇa is the highest bliss.

The path of the cessation of Duḥkha

The fourth noble truth is the path that leads to the cessation of Duḥkha. This path is also known as the middle path. It is divided into eight steps, known as a noble eightfold path. These are (1) right understanding, (2) right thought, (3) right speech, (4) right action, (5) right livelihood, (6) right effort, (7) right mindfulness, and (8) right concentration. These eight steps are categorized into three parts; (1) Śṭla (moral conduct), (2) Samādhi (concentration), and (3) Pragyā (wisdom).

Śṭla (moral conduct)

Right speech, right action, and right livelihood are included in the practice of Śṭla. These three steps are the base of Yoga Mārga and prerequisite for the next step.

Samādhi (concentration)

Right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration are included in this. Right effort refers to remove negative thoughts from the mind and receive positive thoughts. Right mindfulness refers to remain vigilant about four noble truths and right concentration is the final practice to achieve wisdom. Ana-pan and Vipaśyanā are well-known practices. Ana-Pana means to concentrate on breathing and Vipaśyanā refers to concentrate on the sensation of body and mind.

Pragyā (wisdom)

By practicing Śṭla and Samādhi earnestly, Yogi attains wisdom. Right understanding is the understanding of things as they are, and it is the four noble truths that explain things as they are. Right thought means the thought of selflessness, love, and nonviolence which are extended to all beings. Those who follow the path of Yoga they eradicate all kind of Duḥkha and attain a high state of consciousness, that is Nibbāna.

Yogā ve jāyati bhūrṭ, ayogā bhūrisaṃkhayo;

etaṃ dvedhāpathaṃ ñatvā bhavāya vibhavāya ca,

tath'; attānaṃ niveseyya yathā bhūrṭ pavaḍḍhati.

- ‖ Dhammapada, 282 ‖

Wisdom arises from yoga, without yoga wisdom is lost. Having known these two paths of gain and loss, one should conduct himself that his wisdom may arise.

  The Concept Of DuḥKha in Yoga Sutra Top

Patañjali defines the Yoga as Cittavṛttinirodha (P.Y.S.: I.2). However, the main purpose of the text is to guide the people who are interested to attain liberation (Kaivalya). There are five stages of Citta: Kāipta, Mūḍha, Vikāipta, Ekāgra, and Niruddha. Ekāgra and Niruddha (one-pointedness and controlled) are states of Yogi's mind and the rest three are of a layman.

To attain the Nirūddha state of mind, a disciple has to understand the pain, misery, challenges, and hindrances of Yoga Mārga that shall be studied and ceased.

As the medical science follow the four stages of the therapeutic process (disease, cause of disease, health, and medicine) similarly Yoga Shāshtra also describes remedy of Duḥkha in four stages; (1) Heya (Duḥkha) (2) Heyahetu, (3) Hāna, and (4) Hānopaya, in other words; Saṁsāra, Saṁsāra hetu, Mokāa and Mokāopāya (Aranya, 2000).

Heya (Duḥkha)

Yoga Sutra states four kinds of Duḥkhas; Pariṇāma Duḥkha, Tāpa Duḥkha, Saṁskāra Duḥkha, and Gunvritivirodha Duḥkha.

Pariṇāma tāpa saṁskāra duḥkaiḥ guṇavṛtti virodhāt ca duḥkham eva sarvaṁ vivekinaḥ |

- P.Y.S.: II.15

Patañjali says that there is nothing but only Duḥkha in this world for a wise man. Every action is always accompanied by three things; change, misery, and impression (Saraswati, 2013, P. 163). In this Sutra, Patañjali explains the mechanism which produces Duḥkha in human life. Yoga Sutra (II.15) gives a pessimistic view of life but it is one dimension of life, not the final statement. In the next Sutra, Patañjali states that the Duḥkha which is yet to come can be avoided (Heyaṁ duḥkham anāgatam| P.Y.S.: II.16). The Duḥkha which has already come has to be undergone and finished with. Because of the law of karma, the present Duḥkha which has become ripe cannot be set aside, but future Duḥkha can be avoided (Saraswati, 2013).

Pariṇāma Duḥkha

For example, milk becomes curd, life changes into death, and so on. Everything that is created and manifested has to come to an end by the inevitable law of nature. Thus, change is the fundamental characteristic of everything. Therefore, Pariṇāma is an intrinsic aetiological factor in the production of Pariṇāma.

Tāpa Duḥkha

Anguish is another etiological factor in the production of suffering. It is only a different aspect of Pariṇāma Duḥkha itself. Anguish or acute anxiety is a result (consequence) of the fear of the loss of a dear thing, person. Attachment is produced with the things which give pleasure and happiness and when the obstacles come which has to face for fulfilling the desire, aversion, hatred affliction is produced. These afflictions also exist during the enjoyment, almost arises spontaneously. This, no doubt, is a distressing and pain-causing happening in life. Therefore, anguish (Tāpa) is also a cause in the production of Duḥkha.

Saṁskāra Duḥkha

Every action or experience makes Saṁskāra (impression) on Citta leads to a kind of habit- formation. Good action left a good impression and evil action left a bad impression and mix action left mixed expression on Citta. It is stored in karmāśaya which transfers from one life to another and it creates a vicissitudes circle that is birth and death. Hence, it also produces Duḥkha.

Guṇavṛttivirodha Duḥkha

Nature has three fundamental qualities that are illumination, action, and inertia; these are what Sanskrit called Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas. These three Gunas have different functional properties, respectively, that are happiness, pain, and ignorance, dullness. These three are resultant and there is constant conflict among them. If Sattva Guṇa is predominant at the same time, Rajas and Tamas Guṇas also arise and create conflict. It is a very internal and inherent process that exists everywhere every time. Same when rajas guna is predominant then Sattva and Tamas Guṇas also arises at the same time and it is a continuous process. Therefore, the conflict among the Guṇas is also a pain-causing factor.

There are some more types of Duḥkha are discussed in the Yoga Sutra. Yoga Sutra states fourteen types of hindrances which are indeed, either Duḥkha or the cause of Duḥkha.

Vyādhi styāna saṁśaya pramāda ālasya avirati bhrāntidarśana alabdhabhūmikatva anavasthitatvāni cittavikāepaḥ te antarāyāḥ ‖

- P.Y.S.: I.30

Disease, dullness, doubt, procrastination, laziness, craving, erroneous perception, inability to achieve finer stages, and instability are the hindrances (Duḥkha)

Duḥkha daurmanasya aṁ…gamejayatva śvāsapraśvāsāḥ vikāepa sahabhuvaḥ ‖

- P.Y.S.: I.31

The physical, natural, and mental pain (Duḥkha), depression, shaking of the body, and no control on inhalation and exhalation, are themselves Duḥkha.

Yoga Sutra (2.3) states five kinds of klesās; Avidya (ignorance), ego, attachment, and hatred. Ignorance serves the field for the growth of the latter four klesās which exist in four stages; Dormant, Thin, Scattered, and Expanded (Karambelkar, 2020). Yoga Sutra states that person or thing which gives pain and misery are disliked and develop hatred (Duḥkha anuśayi dveāaḥ| P.Y.S.: II.8).

Heya-hetu (Cause of Duḥkha)

Drastr-drisyayah samyogaheya-hetuh| P.Y.S.: II.17. Pātanjala Yoga Sutra clearly states that the cause of Duḥkha is the union of seer and seen, and this union take place because of Avidyā (Tasya hetur-avidyā| P.Y.S.: II.24)

Hāna (Absence of Avidyā)

It is a state of consciousness that is free from all Duḥkha. In Yoga Sutra, this state of consciousness is called Kaivalya.

Hānopāya (the path of cessation of Duḥkha)

The remedy for this Hāna (abolition of Duḥkha) is uninterrupted discriminating knowledge (Vivekhyāti). The ability of discrimination between seen and seer is called Vivekhyāti. This Vivekhyāti is attained through the regular practice of Aāṭāṁga Yoga. Eight limbed Yoga of Yoga sutra are as followed:


These are social ethics, and they are five, nonviolence, truth, nonstealing, celibacy, and nonpossession. These are helpful to alleviate Duḥkha.


These are personal ethics, culture. They are also five types; cleansing, contentment, austerities, self-study, and surrender to God. It is the way for self-purification and makes one discipline oneself.


The steady and comfortable position of sitting practice for a long time makes them perfect for further practice. It ends the ill effects of conflict (Tataḥ dvandvāḥ anabhighātaḥ | P.Y.S.:II.48). Ancient commentators explain it as heat versus cold, pleasure versus pain, humidity versus aridity, and attraction versus hatred. Indeed, these all are a kind of Duḥkha.


It is the way of controlling the breath and mind. It also purifies and stabilizes the mind. The practice of Prāṇāyāma removes the covering of light and makes fit the mind for concentration.


It is withdrawing the senses from their respective external objects and keeping them under the control of the mind (Chatterjee & Datta, 2021).


It is confining the mind to one point or one object or one area. Patañjali mentioned that sādhaka should restrict the mind on physical and mental spots (Deśa bandhaḥ cittasya dhāraṇā | | P.Y.S.: III.1).


It is one of the most important technical words of Yoga Sutra which is used for a different meaning. First of all, it is used for fixing the mind at a certain point to remove the hindrances (Tatpratiāedhārtham ekatattva abhyāsaḥ | P.Y.S.: I.32). Second, it is used for cleaning the mind (bhāvanātaḥ cittaprasādanam| P.Y.S.:I.33). There are four kinds of attitudes that purify the mind; friendliness for happiness, compassion for misery, gladness for virtue, and indifference for vice, and third, it is used for steadying the mind with the help of breath retention, contemplating on sense object, griefless illuminating state of mind, contemplating on enlightened one, recollecting the experience of dream and sleep, and contemplating on the desired object (Yathābhimata dhyānāt vā | P.Y.S.: I.34-38). Dhyāna is the steadfast contemplation of the object without any break. It reveals the reality of the contemplated object to the Yogi's mind.


It is the final step when the meditation practitioner is lost and the only object remains is called concentration. It is of two types; Saṁprajñāta and Asaṁprajñāta. In Saṁprajñāta Samādhi, thought and object exists while in Asaṁprajñāta Samādhi, only the real form of object and pure consciousness exists. Rest is disappeared. This state is considered as Kaivalya, free from all Duḥkha.

  Conclusion Top

Dhammapada and Yoga Sutra present a complete picture of Duḥkha and provide the solution to the Duḥkha. Dhammapada taught how a man can reduce Duḥkha and enhance happiness and dwells in society peacefully. The number of essential moral teachings is instructed to disciples. Knowledge of four noble truths, refuge of Buddha, and a noble eightfold path leads to Nibbāna. Whereas, Yoga Sutra gives the teaching of a systematic way to reduce the physical and mental pain and enable a man to achieve the highest state of consciousness (Kaivalya) by following the eight-limbed Yoga removing all hindrances and afflictions. Nibbāna of Dhammapada and Kaivalya of Yoga Sutra are the states of ultimate happiness and complete cessations of Duḥkha.

Both Dhammapada and Yoga Sutra emphasize that one overcomes Duḥkha through the development of understanding. However, the two philosophies widely differ in the nature of that understanding. Dhammapada emphasizes the understanding and acceptance of Anatta (Anatman, nonself, nonsoul), whereas Yoga Sutra emphasizes the understanding and acceptance of Svarupa (self, soul) and each discusses the means to liberation from Duḥkha.


Authors acknowledge Dr. Upendra Babu Khatri, HOD, Sanchi University of Buddhist-Indic Studies, for his useful guidance.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


  References Top

Aranya, S. H. (2000). Yoga Philosophy of Patanjali with Bhasvati. University of Calcutta.  Back to cited text no. 1
Chatterjee, S. C., & Datta, D. M. (2021). An Introduction to Indian Philosophy. Publications India: Rupa.  Back to cited text no. 2
Easwaran, E. (2014). The Essence of Dhammapada. Delhi: Jaico Publishing House.  Back to cited text no. 3
Karambelkar, P. V. (2020). Pātañjala Yoga Sutra. Pune: Lonavla Kaivalyadhama Publication.  Back to cited text no. 4
Muller, F. M. (2014). The Dhammapada and Sutta-Nipata. London: Routledge.  Back to cited text no. 5
Tararam. (2020).Dhammpada: Gatha Aur Katha. Third Edition. Samyak Prakashan, New Delhi.  Back to cited text no. 6
Negi, W. D. (2013). Dhammapada. Varanasi Publication: Central University of Tibetan Studies Sarnath.  Back to cited text no. 7
Radhakrishnan, S. (2007). The Dhammapada. Varanasi, India: Pilgrims Publishing.  Back to cited text no. 8
Rahula, W. (1972). What the Buddha Taught. Taiwan: The Corporate Body of the Buddha Educational Foundation.  Back to cited text no. 9
Saraswati, S. S. (2013). Four Chapters on Freedom. Munger, Bihar, India: Yoga Publication Trust.  Back to cited text no. 10
Sinha, H. P. (2002). Bhartiya Darsan ki Ruprekha (pp. 270). New Delhi: Motilal Banarasidas Prakasan.  Back to cited text no. 11


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