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Jarā (T. rga ba རྒ་བ་; C. lao; J. rō; K. no 老) is translated as "aging," "growing old," "decay," "senescence," etc

Jarā is the process of change and decay that begins immediately after jāti (birth) — this applies to all componded things, including sentient beings and inanimate objects alike.[lower-alpha 1]

Jarā is identified in the following contexts:

Within the Four Noble Truths

Within the teachings on the Four Noble Truths, jarā is identified as an aspect of dukkha (suffering). For example, The Discourse That Sets Turning the Wheel of Truth states:

  1. "Now this, monks, is the noble truth of dukkha: birth (jati) is dukkha, aging (jarā) is dukkha, death (maraṇa) is dukkha; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, & despair are dukkha; association with the unbeloved is dukkha; separation from the loved is dukkha; not getting what is wanted is dukkha. In short, the five clinging-aggregates are dukkha.[lower-alpha 2]

Ajahn Sucitto states:

Jarā, the Pāli word for the aging process, means maturing—not only just getting old. Growing up is unsatisfactory because you start to get affected by all the stuff of a confused world. There’s a lot said nowadays about having been emotionally (let alone physically) damaged as a child. Is there anybody who hasn’t been damaged—by their parents, their uncle, their school, or their dog? Then what about falling under the influence of social prejudice, competitive behavior patterning, sexism, racism . . . whatever happened to our childhood innocence? It’s scarred and stained by something sooner or later, isn’t it? Psychologically we start to develop instincts and habits, and even good habits that provide comfort and security blunt the joyful wonder of childhood consciousness.[2]

As a nonconcurrent formation

As a formation not concurrent with mind, jarā refers to the decaying of conditioned phenomena. It is identified as:


  1. In the Sanskrit Abhidharrma tradition, there is a moment of abiding (sthiti) before jarā begins.
  2. In this translation by John T. Bullit, Bullit leaves the term "dukkha" untranslated. The main article that presents this translation is The Four Noble Truths.[1] Links to each line in the translation are as follows: line 1: First Noble Truth; line 2: Second Noble Truth; line 3: Third Noble Truth; line 4: Fourth Noble Truth.


  1. Four Noble Truths
  2. Ajahn Sucitto 2010, s.v. "Birth, aging and death".


External links