Upāyāsa; Āyāsa


upāyāsa: vexation

upāyāsabahula: easily vexed

āyāsa: vexation

āyāsa: annoyance


The problem of upāyāsa: the dictionaries

The problem of upāyāsa is nicely illustrated in the disagreement between dictionaries and translators. To find it called ‘despair’ in a dictionary, one must return to 1875 when Childer called it ‘desperation, despair.’ Later dictionaries call it:

• PED: trouble, turbulence, misery, unrest, disturbance, unsettled condition

• DOP: trouble, unrest, annoyance, irritation.

Upāyāsa and Āyāsa

Both Pāli dictionaries treat āyāsa as practically equivalent to upāyāsa.

• PED: trouble, sorrow

• DOP: exertion, trouble, weariness, distress

This is appropriate, because upāyāsa is defined in terms of āyāsa:

• What is vexation? It is the annoyance, the vexation, the state of annoyance in one who has some sort of misfortune or other, who is affected by some sort of unpleasant event or another. This is called vexation.
Katamo cāvuso upāyāso: yo kho āvuso aññataraññatarena vyasanena samannāgatassa aññataraññatarena dukkhadhammena phuṭṭhassa āyāso upāyāso āyāsitattaṃ upāyāsitattaṃ ayaṃ vuccatāvuso upāyāso M.3.250.

Sanskrit equivalent

The Sanskrit-English Dictionary (Monier-Williams) supports the Pāli dictionaries in rejecting ‘despair’:

Āyasta: pained, distressed, vexed, angry

Āyāsa: fatigue, weariness.

The problem of upāyāsa: the translators

But strikingly, almost all translators persist in calling it despair. Only since 2012 has Bodhi rejected the word.

• Ñāṇamoli: despair

• Horner: despair

• Bodhi (CDB, 2000): despair

• Bodhi (NDB, 2012): anguish

• Norman: trouble (Sn.v.542).


For those calling upāyāsa ‘despair,’ its combination with kodha (anger) is awkward because it then obviously approximates anger, and translators are then cornered. Bodhi in 2012 even rejects ‘anguish’ in favour of ‘displeased.’

• Horner: wrathful rage (M.1.360).

• Bodhi: anger and irritation (M.1.360).

• Bodhi: despair due to anger (S.3.109).

• Bodhi: angry and displeased (A.1.124).

• DOP: angry and annoyed

Vexation: happy solution

Upāyāsa can in all contexts be rendered ‘vexation’.


Illustration: upāyāsehi, vexation

They are not freed from birth, old age, and death; they are not freed from grief, lamentation, physical pain, psychological pain, and vexation; they are not freed from suffering, I declare.
Te na parimuccanti jātiyā jarāmaraṇena sokehi paridevehi dukkhehi domanassehi upāyāsehi na parimuccanti dukkhasmā ti vadāmi (S.2.108-9).

Illustration: upāyāsā, states of vexation

All your states of vexation are destroyed and ended. You are freed from inward distress, inwardly tamed, resolute, one whose endeavour is for the sake of truth.
Upāyāsā ca te sabbe viddhastā vinaḷīkatā
Sītibhūto damappatto dhitimā saccanikkamo

Illustration: upāyāsabahulo, easily vexed

In this regard, young man, some woman or man is ill-tempered and easily vexed. On being spoken to even about a trifle, he takes offence, becomes angry, upset, and resentful. He evinces anger, hatred, and irritation.
Idha pana māṇava ekacco itthi vā puriso vā kodhano hoti upāyāsabahulo appampi vutto samāno abhisajjati kuppati vyāpajjati patitthīyati kopañca dosañca appaccayañca pātukaroti (M.3.204).

Illustration: saupāyāsaṃ, vexation

Possessed of six factors a bhikkhu abides unhappily in this very lifetime, with distress, vexation, and anguish, and at death a bad bourne can be expected. What six?
Chahi bhikkhave dhammehi samannāgato bhikkhu diṭṭheva dhamme dukkhaṃ viharati savighātaṃ saupāyāsaṃ sapariḷāhaṃ kāyassa bhedā parammaraṇā duggati pāṭikaṅkhā. Katamehi chahi:

Thoughts of sensuous pleasure, ill will, and maliciousness; sensuous mental imagery, unbenevolent mental imagery, and malicious mental imagery.
Kāmavitakkena, vyāpādavitakkena, vihiṃsāvitakkena, kāmasaññāya, vyāpādasaññāya, vihiṃsāsaññāya (A.3.429).

Illustration: saupāyāso, vexation

Bhikkhus, sensuous pleasure, a vile pleasure, the pleasure of the common man, an ignoble pleasure, this is a state associated with pain, distress, vexation, and anguish. It is a wrong practice. Therefore it is defiled.
Tatra bhikkhave yamidaṃ kāmasukhaṃ mīḷhasukhaṃ pothujjanasukhaṃ anariyasukhaṃ sadukkho eso dhammo saupaghāto saupāyāso sapariḷāho micchāpaṭipadā. Tasmā eso dhammo saraṇo (M.3.236).

Illustration: bahūpāyāsā, vexation

Sensuous pleasures have been compared by the Blessed One to a skeleton (of meatless bones smeared with blood which leaves a hungry dog unsatisfied, fatigued, and full of vexation). They are full of suffering and vexation, while the danger in them is great.
aṭṭhikaṅkalūpamā kāmā vuttā bhagavatā bahudukkhā bahūpāyāsā ādīnavo ettha bhiyyo ti (M.1.364).

Illustration: anāyāso, free of vexation

Inwardly at peace, free of vexation, with a serene and undefiled (mind)
Upasanto anāyāso vippasanno anāvilo (Th.v.1008).

Illustration: anāyāso, free of vexation

Free of anger, free of vexation
Vītakodhā anāyāsā (A.4.98).

Illustration: āyāsaṃ, vexation

(Indulgence in sensuous pleasures is) being greedy. It is exuberance. It is bewilderment. It (supports) the growth of defilement. It is full of danger. It is full of vexation. Here there is neither endurance nor stability.
Lobhanaṃ madanaṃ cetaṃ mohanaṃ rajavaḍḍhanaṃ
Sāsaṅkaṃ bahu āyāsaṃ natthi cettha dhuvaṃ ṭhiti

Illustration: kodhūpāyāsa, anger and vexation

The steep precipice: this is a metaphor for anger and vexation.
Sobebhā papāto ti kho tissa kodhūpāyāsassetaṃ adhivacanaṃ (S.3.109).