suka duka: the ups and downs of life

“Suka duka,” meaning the highs and lows of life,’ is an ancient Hindu phrase which translates to “ups and downs.” Right there in the name we see the duality; the sweetness and happiness of suka, contrasted with the bitterness and grief of duka. Today all is going well; your plans are joyful and effortless. Then, there’s an unexpected turn of events that doesn’t feel so good.

What does Suka Mean?

In Hinduism, Buddhism, Sanskrit, Pali, Jainism, Marathi, Prakrit, and Hindi, Shuka has a specific meaning. Check out the explanations on this page to get the actual meaning, history, etymology, and English version of this phrase. Even on online yoga teacher training, this is taught.

Using IAST transliteration technique, the Sanskrit concepts uka and ka could be usually translated into American as Suka or Shuka.

Case in Point

These ups and downs are the essence of life itself.

One Saturday, while my daughter was out at a birthday party, I found us a new home– a beautiful villa that faces the jungle. After placing a deposit on our home and meeting with friends to celebrate, I set out on my motorbike to travel an hour south of Ubud to pick up my daughter. I was feeling empowered and confident. I made it safely and it was a very sweet journey.

However, I woke up the next morning and my computer wouldn’t turn on. Three tries and still a blank screen. My whole life is in my computer. It has my files, my codes, my passwords. My professional life and my personal life are in there; it’s a big deal.

Duka to Suka

My first reaction was to panic.

“I didn’t back it up, what if I have to buy a new computer?” “Can my files be retrieved?” “Please turn on.”

And then I gave up, realizing there wasn’t much I could do except charge the machine and get on with my day. I would address the “what ifs” should they happen. I plugged in my computer and moved on. A part of me felt grateful for not being able to turn on my computer: “Well now I will give my undivided attention to the day and to my daughter.”


Sometimes duka moments last a long time or can be triggered by more extreme situations: a cancer diagnosis, losing a loved one, not getting a job, etc.

But how do you create a bridge that allows you to participate in the fullness of life without spiraling out into the highs and tumbling into the lows?

Some tips

1. Consider suka duka less as a polarity, and more of a circle of oneness where the circle is both empty and full. Accept the wholeness of life experiences, and attempt to find a relaxed state that allows you to observe the highs and lows and all the places in between.

2. Practice compassion. Compassion is the container that holds all things. Whatever is causing suffering in your life, create a container of compassion for it. Hold it with loving attention as if you were a grandmother holding a baby. A sense of gratitude can shift the hardest of sentiments.

3. Ishvara pranidhana: Let go and let God(dess). Offer your situation to the highest good for the benefit of all. Offer up your joy, offer up your grief. Allow wisdom to be revealed to you. Bridging suka and duka is a practice of inner alchemy. You become the alchemist. You turn water into wine. Consider where can you apply this inner alchemy in your life.

By the way, my computer turned back on 12 hours later!

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