“Sufferings can be classified into three groups. Adyatmika, adhibhautika and adi daivaka. Through correct knowledge of all aspects of nature and Spirit and developing dispassion, one reaches the ultimate goal of union (with the Lord).”
Quoted from Vishnu Purana. Sri T. Krishnamacharya in Yoga Rahasya
Svatmarama states in Hathayogapradipika that “the hatha-yoga is a sheltering monastery for those scorched by the three types of pain.” Ch.1 v.10
Who are ‘those’ that are scorched by the three types of pain? We all are, any living being is subject to these three sufferings.
The teaching of three-fold suffering also appears in the Vedas and Samkhya texts.
So what are these three kinds of pain, how can we recognise them and how can we be free from them?
Adhyatmika is the first kind of pain. It is pain arising due to one’s self. Any bodily or mental pain that arises; illness, fatigue, cold and hot, depression, confusion and anger are examples. Death will ultimately come to us also.
Adhibhautika is the second category of pain. Pain caused to us by other beings. A harsh word, physical violence, a dog or insect bites are examples.
Adhidaivika is the third category of pain. This is caused by nature and supernatural forces. A flood, landslide, snowstorm, gale or earthquake. Many cultures believe that devas (angels) demi-gods etc. can influence human and natural affairs so the effects from these quarters are included here.
First let us examine if this proposition is correct. I suggest this simple exercise; observe people’s conversation for one week and notice how much of their talk (usually complaining) is concerned with one of these three types of suffering. Then try for one week not to speak on any subject that falls into one of these categories. Observe the news and see the stories in terms of these three categories.
The founder of Samhkya philosophy, Kapila, observes at the outset of his aphorisms that all human activity is directed towards the avoidance or removal of this pain. Food, houses, clothes and medicine are necessities of life without which we would be most uncomfortable and these things protect us from various sufferings. He then points out that none of these expedients is a certain or permanent remedy, medicine does not always work, houses can be flooded. Even if the remedy works in the short term the three pains will arise again. Losing ourselves in pleasure and distraction is a way of avoiding this uncomfortable truth. As nations living in fear, we even invent nuclear bombs as a supposed remedy.
Kapila admits that to grapple with this truth is difficult. If we do engage with it the insight gained will lead one to a solution. You may be aware that, like Kapila, Lord Buddha began his teaching with the truth of suffering; “There is this suffering, Oh monks….” Buddha pointed out that these pains are an inevitable and unavoidable consequence of birth. The cure offered by the sages was the path to liberation. If we have the insight into the truth of suffering and understand the reality of our situation, then the desire for liberation will be awakened in us. Along with this, great empathy will arise for all beings, as we all suffer, more or less.
The gloomy part of this teaching is the universal nature of three-fold pain, the bright side is that the sages offer a cure. Like a doctor that diagnoses your illness correctly, the sages also developed the medicine.
In Vyasa’s commentary on the Yoga Sutra the release from the three sufferings is stated as a result of Yoga practice. “Worldliness entailing births is full of misery. Enlightened Yogins of pure character finding this cycle of births to be full of sorrow, try to bring about its cessation”. “The fruits of Yoga are the cessation of the three-fold misery”.
Liberation is the stabilisation of Purusa in its true form and the Yoga-darsana of Patanjali gives the practical methods to attain this. Those who have attained this state, praise it as the greatest good and highest aim of man.
If you asked these sages what is the meaning of life, they would say; “Life exists to set you free.” Absolute peace and freedom are the fruit’s of Yoga, three-fold sorrow is the compost.
May all beings be liberated.
Hathayogapradipika Adyar Library
The Basic Tenets of Patanjala Yoga by Srivatsa Ramaswami
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras by Pam Hoxsey
The Sankhya Aphorisms of Kapila trans. by James R. Ballantyne
Yoga Philosophy of Patanjali by Swami Hariharananda Aranya
Classical Samkhya by Gerald James Larson
The Holy Science by Swami Sri Yukteswar