Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu


On at least two occasions, the Buddha said that all he taught was dukkha and the ending of dukkha (MN 22 (Alagaddūpama Sutta, The Water-Snake Simile); SN 22:86 (Anurādha Sutta, To Anurādha)).

This means that if you want to understand his teachings, dukkha is a good word to know.

Its primary meaning is simple enough—pain—but it covers all levels of pain, from acute physical suffering and mental anguish to subtle levels of stress in very refined, even blissful, states of mind.

Unfortunately, there’s no single English word that can encompass all these levels of intensity.

Fortunately, though, the fact that we have separate words for pain, suffering, and stress helps to clear up some of the difficulties that the Buddha faced, given that his language had only one word to cover all these things…

The main point to remember, though, is that dukkha is the primary focus of everything the Buddha taught. If you’re interested in solving the problem of suffering, then his Dhamma, or teaching, is where to look.

If you’re interested in other issues, you can look somewhere else.

This reflection by Ajaan Geoff is from the book, Four Noble Truths, “Introduction.”