I would like to remind my readers (especially if they happen to be my students) that these blog writings of mine are not meant to be academic writings and thus they should not be treated as such, although I do welcome academics to read and comment on them.
I contend that the uniqueness of a religion is defined by the uniqueness of its soteriology, and Buddhism is no exception. And Buddhist soteriology is inextricably linked with what I propose to call “Buddhist algology or Buddhist algonomy.” I wish to define “Buddhist algology or algonomy” simply as the Buddhist philosophy of pain or suffering in a concrete sense (e.g. toothache) as well as a deep-seated, subtle, and inexplicable sense of discontentment even as one experiences moments of sheer joy or pleasure.
Or, we may term ssuch as “Buddhist lypeology” or “Buddhist odyneology.” I have borrowed Greek words lypē and odynē (having the meaning of “(primarily) physical or (secondarily) mental pain”). By “Buddhist lypeology/odyneology,” I wish to express the Buddhist theory or philosophy of pain, suffering, and discontentment (duḥkha: sdug bsngal). Buddhist lypeology/odyneology can be considered an important aspect of Buddhist philosophy and Buddhist soteriology. I shall mention here only a few points that seem relevant for Buddhist lypeology/odyneology. What is duḥkha? What is the nature of duḥkha? What are the causes and conditions of duḥkha? What are the antidotes of duḥkha? Can one and how can one end duḥkha? What is the value (if there is one at all) of duḥkha? With regard to the nature of duḥkha, one can also consider the typology of duḥkha. One may consider two types of duḥkha: physical (or bodily) duḥkha and psychical (or mental) duḥkha. On may also consider three types of duḥkha. This is well known. The third of the three types of duḥkha is said to be typically Buddhist (LS). Then usually Buddhist sources speak of the eight kinds of duḥkha (already in canonical sources). I just see that rDo-grub bsTan-pa’i-nyi-ma (gSung ’bum, vol. 7, p. 236) also speaks of two kinds of duḥkha, “gross duḥkha” (rags pa’i sdug bsngal) and “subtle duḥkha” (phra ba’i sdug bsngal) The first one is identified as duḥkha experienced by beings in lower destinies (durgati: ngan song) whereas the latter with saṃskāraduḥkhatā. Two Buddhist positions are noteworthy here. First we have the one position according to which there is no sukha at all in saṃsāra and that all feelings/sensations are duḥkha. The impression of sukha that we get is mistaken just like the feeling of ease that we get while shifting the load from one shoulder to another. Second, we do also have some strands that believed that we do have feeling of happiness and pleasure (although often dominated by the feeling of duḥkha). The primary cause of duḥkha is according to one position tṛṣṇā and according to another avidyā (and we may find the two positions reconciled). It is assumed that pāpa causes duḥkha. What about the value of duḥkha? My impression is that in Buddhism, duḥkha in a measured degree can be beneficial for a person (and thus can have a positive instrumental value). Too much of duḥkha or sukha is, however, detrimental or impedimental for a person. In Buddhism, duḥkha is not owned by an owner. It takes place in any psycho-physical complex at any given point in time and place. In addition, it is assumed that duḥkha (e.g. toothache) is a reality that one has to face once it is present. If one does not want future duḥkha, just avoid its causes and conditions. Intellectual-psychological receptivity (kṣānti: bzod pa) is necessary to face one’s duḥkha. Usually one who is capable of equalizing sukha and duḥkha is considered wise. Some Buddhist strands recommend one to view duḥkha not as a problem but as a solution. So it is said that one should see duḥkhasatya as nirodhasatya (i.e. saṃsāra and nirvāṇa.
Some random points would be mentioned here as possible venues for exploring Buddhist algology/algonomy. (1) The idea that the worldly existence is inherently characterized by pain and suffering is not unique to Buddhist philosophy, and is common to both pre-Buddhist and non-Buddhist philosophies and religions. (2) What is certainly unique to Buddhism is the scheme of the Four Noble Truths or Truths Accessible to the Noble Ones only.