ādhidaivika, ādhyātmika

The three words respectively mean: pertaining to

  • the bhūta or living beings;
  • the daiva or fate, unseen forces and gods;
  • the ātma or the body (and the mind).

Sorrow and suffering (duḥkha, tāpa) are inevitable in life. In fact, they are a part of life. A knowledge of their origin, causes and even categorisation helps one to minimise their effect if not eradicate them. The Hindu religious works usually call them ‘tāpatraya,’ ‘the three miseries.’ They are: ādhyātmika, ādhidaivika and ādhibhautika.

The ādhyātmika duḥkha 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 duḥka 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 belong to this group.

The ādhibhautika duḥkha or tāpa is that which is caused by other bhūtas 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.