Duḥkha / Sukha

By Andre Haralyi M.A., C-IAYT


The word duḥkha literally means “bad space,” and is commonly associated with the feeling of suffering, uneasiness, uncomfortableness, unpleasantness, difficulty, pain, sorrow, and trouble. The concept of duḥkha refers to the idea of having a “bad axle hole.” When the axle hole of a wheel is not perfectly round the axle does not fit well and the “car” rolls along rather unevenly. In the same way when we lose our internal balance (sattva), nothing seems to really flow. Duḥkha is the result of any kind of internal or external stimulus that causes physical, physiological or psychological distress / imbalance in the body-mind.

According to the Sāṃkhya philosophy (Kāpila-Sūtram V.7), duḥkha is described as being threefold, carefully divided by its origins: 

1. Ādhyātmika: distress/suffering relative to the Self, produced from within, from the person him/her self. This type of duḥkha is considered to be internal in origin.

2. Ādhibhautika: distress/suffering relative to the natural environment or occasioned by others (persons or animals). This type of duḥkha is considered to be external in origin.

3. Ādhidaivika: distress/suffering relative to supernatural forces, occasioned by spiritual, cosmic agencies or gods. This type of duḥkha is considered to be celestial in origin.

The absolute cessation of internal, external, and celestial distress/suffering (duḥkha) is considered to be the core element of not just the Yoga tradition, but also Buddhism and Sāṃkhya philosophy.


The word sukha literally means “good space,” but it is commonly associated with the ideas of easiness, comfort, prosperity, pleasure, happiness, pleasantness, agreeableness, gentleness, mildness, prosperity, virtuousness, piousness, joyfulness, delight, flow and bliss. The concept of sukha refers to the idea of having a “good axle hole”. Therefore, when all aspects of our lives are in balance (sattva) we experience the state called sukha. It is important to highlight that this auspicious state is not permanent and can be disrupted by internal or external stimuli. 

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