What are the three types of suffering in the Vedas and their Sanskrit words? Are there any descriptions of Dukkha that you know of in the Vedic canon?

1 Answer 1


I think you are talking about the 3 types of miseries/pains/sufferings collectively known as - the tApatrayas.

It is said that we suffer from 3 types of miseries (or Dukkha in your language) in this life.

  • 1. Adibhautika

These are the miseries that are caused by Bhutas or other living beings.

  • 2. Adidaivika

This is the pain that we get from unseen sources like gods, fate (daiva) and nature.

  • 3. AdhyAtmika

These are the sufferings that are caused by our body and mind.

Quoting from a Hindupedia article that is discussing the tApatrayas:

Adhibhautika literally means pertaining to the bhuta or living beings. Adhidaivika literally means pertaining to the daiva or fate, unseen forces and gods. Ādhyātmika literally means pertaining to the ātma or the body (and the mind).

Sorrow and suffering (duhkha, tāpa) are inevitable part of life. Knowledge regarding their origin, causes and even categorization helps one to minimize their effect, if not eradicate them. The scriptures usually call them ‘tāpatraya,’ (‘the three miseries.’) and categorize them into ādhyātmika, ādhidaivika and adhibhautika.

The ādhyātmika duhkha or tāpa is that which is caused by bodily suffering and mental anguish. Hereditary diseases like leprosy, disabilities like blindness or lameness and diseases caused by the violation of the rules of health and sanitation are classed under this. The mental agony caused by worries and anxieties, attachment and aversion, also comes under this group.

The ādhidaivika duhka or tāpa is that which is caused by daiva. The word daiva includes the power of time, nature and the unseen hand or fate. Diseases caused by the changing seasons, misery caused by the elemental forces like floods and fire, suffering caused by black magic or disembodied spirits or gods who are displeased, natural tribulations due to hunger, thirst and old-age belongs to this group.

The ādhibhautika duhkha or tāpa is that which is caused by other bhutas or living beings, like wild animals, snakes, or enemies.

Some of these, like hereditary diseases or physical disabilities cannot be got rid of. Hence they must be endured. Some like the diseases caused by change of seasons or the machinations of enemies can be countered by taking appropriate precautions. However, raising the mind to the level of the spirit, thus transcending the limitations imposed by the body-mind complex, is the best solution to offset the effects of tāpatraya.

From a dictionary we can check that the meaning of the word "tApa" is "physical and mental pain" (the word has other meanings but this is the one relevant in the current case) and that of the word "traya" to be "three". Hence tApatraya=three kinds of sufferings.

The word tApatraya is found in various Hindu scriptures. I personally have found it being mentioned in Tantras and in PurAnas.

Given below is such a reference from NArada PurAna where the word is found in an Argya Mantra which is used during a worship ritual.

Arghya: Tapatraya haram Divyam Paramaananda lakshanam, Tapatraya vinirmukthyai tawaarghya kalpayamyaham ||

Paramananda Swarupa Deva! May I offer ‘Arghya’/ water to you as a part of my service to you and eradicate my ‘Tapatrayas’or Adhyatmika, Aadhi -bhoutika and Aadhi Daivika ‘taapas’or three-fold miseries arising out of body, mind and providence.

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