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Translations of
English old age and death
Pali Jarāmaraṇa
Sanskrit Jarāmaraṇa
Burmese ဇာတိ
Chinese 老死
Japanese rōshi
Khmer ជរាមរណៈ
(Chorea Moronak)
Sinhalese ජරාමරණ
Tibetan rga.shi
Vietnamese lão tử

Jara-marana (Sanskrit, Pāli) is translated as "old age" (jarā)[1] and "death" (maraṇa).[2] In Buddhism, jara-marana is associated with the inevitable decay and death-related suffering of all beings prior to their rebirth within saṃsāra (cyclic existence).

Jarā and maraṇa are identified as the twelfth link within the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination.[3]


The word jarā is related to the older Vedic Sanskrit word jarā, jaras, jarati, gerā, which means "to become brittle, to decay, to be consumed". The Vedic root is related to the Latin granum, Goth. kaurn, Greek geras, geros (later geriatric) all of which in one context mean "hardening, old age".[1]

The word maraṇa is based on the Vedic Sanskrit root mṛ, mriyate which means death. The Vedic root is related to later Sanskrit marta, as well as to German mord, Lith. mirti, Latin morior and mors all of which mean "to die, death".[2]

Within the Four Noble Truths

Within the teachings on the Four Noble Truths, jarā and maraṇa are identified as aspects of dukkha (suffering, anxiety, unsatisfactoriness). For example, The Discourse That Sets Turning the Wheel of Truth states:

""Now this, bhikkhus, for the spiritually ennobled ones, is the true reality which is pain: birth is painful, aging is painful, illness is painful, death is painful; sorrow, lamentation, physical pain, unhappiness and distress are painful; union with what is disliked is painful; separation from what is liked is painful; not to get what one wants is painful; in brief, the five bundles of grasping-fuel are painful." – Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, Samyutta Nikaya, Translated by Peter Harvey[4]

Elsewhere in the canon the Buddha further elaborates on Jarāmaraṇa (aging and death):[lower-alpha 1]

"And what is aging? Whatever aging, decrepitude, brokenness, graying, wrinkling, decline of life-force, weakening of the faculties of the various beings in this or that group of beings, that is called aging.
"And what is death? Whatever deceasing, passing away, breaking up, disappearance, dying, death, completion of time, break up of the aggregates, casting off of the body, interruption in the life faculty of the various beings in this or that group of beings, that is called death."[5]

Within the twelve links of dependent origination

is one of the

12 Links wide icon 124px.png

Jarāmaraa is the last of the Twelve Nidānas, directly conditioned by birth (jāti), meaning that all who are born are destined to age and die.


In the Buddhist Pali Canon's "Subjects for Contemplation Discourse" (Upajjhatthana Sutta, AN 5.57), the Buddha enjoins followers to reflect often on the following:

I am subject to aging, have not gone beyond aging....
I am subject to illness, have not gone beyond illness....
I am subject to death, have not gone beyond death....[6]

In the Pali Canon, aging and death affect all beings, including gods, humans, animals and those born in a hell realm.[7] Only beings who achieve enlightenment (bodhi) in this lifetime escape rebirth in this cycle of birth-and-death (sasāra).[8]

Late in his life, the Buddha expresses disgust with aging and death in the Jarā Sutta:

I spit on you, old age —
old age that makes for ugliness.
The bodily image, so charming,
is trampled by old age.
Even those who live to a hundred
are headed — all — to an end in death,
which spares no one,
which tramples all.[9]

See also


  1. 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.[web 1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Thomas William Rhys Davids; William Stede (1921). Pali-English Dictionary. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 279. ISBN 978-81-208-1144-7. ; Quote: "old age, decay (in a disparaging sense), decrepitude, wretched, miserable"
  2. 2.0 2.1 Thomas William Rhys Davids; William Stede (1921). Pali-English Dictionary. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 524. ISBN 978-81-208-1144-7. ; Quote: "death, as ending this (visible) existence, physical death".
  3. Julius Evola; H. E. Musson (1996). The Doctrine of Awakening: The Attainment of Self-Mastery According to the Earliest Buddhist Texts. Inner Traditions. p. 68. ISBN 978-0-89281-553-1. 
  4. (Harvey, 2007), as well as in his famed Mahasatipatthana Sutta Alternate translation: Piyadassi (1999)
  5. See, for instance, SN 12.2 (Thanissaro, 1997a) and DN 22 (Thanissaro, 2000).
  6. AN 5.57 (trans. Thanissaro, 1997b). Elided from this text is the recurring phrase: "... one should reflect on often, whether one is a woman or a man, lay or ordained"
  7. In other words, one of the significant distinctions between the cosmologies of Buddhist or Indian religions and Abrahamic religions is that, in Indian religions, even gods and hell-born beings age and die in their respective realms and are destined to be reborn, possibly in another realm (whether hell, earth, heaven, etc.).
  8. In the Upanisā Sutta (SN 12.23; e.g., trans., Walshe, 1985), the Buddha describes a set of conditions that leads one from birth to enlightenment. In this "transcendental" sequence that leads out of sasāra, birth leads to suffering (dukkha) – instead of aging-and-death – which in turn leads to faith (saddha), which Bhikkhu Bodhi describes as "essentially an attitude of trust and commitment directed to ultimate emancipation" (Bodhi, 1980).
  9. SN 48.41 (trans., Thanissaro, 1998a).

Web references

  1. Four Noble Truths 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.


  • Ajahn Sumedho (2002), The Four Noble Truths, Amaravati Publications 
  • Ajahn Sucitto (2010), Turning the Wheel of Truth: Commentary on the Buddha's First Teaching, Shambhala 
  • Bhikkhu, Thanissaro (1997), Tittha Sutta: Sectarians, AN 3.61, retrieved 12 November 2007 
  • Bodhi, Bhikkhu (2000), The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Samyutta Nikaya, Boston: Wisdom Publications, ISBN 0-86171-331-1 
  • Brahm, Ajahn (2006), Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond: A Meditator's Handbook, Wisdom Publications, ISBN 0-86171-275-7 
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