How can physical pain not be dukkha?

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How can physical pain not be dukkha?

Postby Spiny Norman » Sun Mar 03, 2013 1:06 pm

I've recently been through a period of chronic pain, and was reflecting on the experience, particularly in relation to the Arrow Sutta. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

I did have some awareness that there was less suffering when I managed to accept the pain and get on with things, rather than being caught up in aversion and not wanting the pain.
But there was still the experience of pain ( the first arrow ) and it was unpleasant. So how can physical pain not be dukkha?
Well, oi dunno...
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Re: How can physical pain not be dukkha?

Postby robertk » Sun Mar 03, 2013 2:04 pm

It is dukkha.
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Re: How can physical pain not be dukkha?

Postby Coyote » Sun Mar 03, 2013 2:40 pm

It's dukkha just as the 5 khandhas are dukkha. The 5 khandhas for an Arahant don't cease, at least not immediately, but the clinging-aggregates are gone so there is no dukkha for the Arahant. It's the same with physical pain.
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Re: How can physical pain not be dukkha?

Postby Cittasanto » Sun Mar 03, 2013 3:15 pm

porpoise wrote:I've recently been through a period of chronic pain, and was reflecting on the experience, particularly in relation to the Arrow Sutta. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

I did have some awareness that there was less suffering when I managed to accept the pain and get on with things, rather than being caught up in aversion and not wanting the pain.
But there was still the experience of pain ( the first arrow ) and it was unpleasant. So how can physical pain not be dukkha?

I assume you mean not be the second arrow :) which you seem to of answered adequately yourself.
but Thank-you for the reminder.
One thing I find lessens pain is looking at the positive side of the pain. What opportunity has the pain actually given you? More opportunity to rest, or need to learn how to do something new?
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
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Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: How can physical pain not be dukkha?

Postby befriend » Sun Mar 03, 2013 5:28 pm

at the time i was practicing shikantaza, i dislocated my shoulder, which is a very awkward painful feeling. on the way to the hospital, and in the ER room, i started meditating, doing shikantaza, which is just doing nothing until your thoughts quiet down, and your in the present moment. i started to feel alot of loving kindness, this feeling moved to my shoulder actually changing the unpleasant feeling of the dislocated shoulder into a pleasant feeling. when i stopped meditating the pain would come back. so this is how powerful love can be.
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Re: How can physical pain not be dukkha?

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue Mar 05, 2013 9:54 am

robertk wrote:It is dukkha.


Even for an Arahant?
Well, oi dunno...
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Re: How can physical pain not be dukkha?

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue Mar 05, 2013 10:01 am

Cittasanto wrote:One thing I find lessens pain is looking at the positive side of the pain. What opportunity has the pain actually given you? More opportunity to rest, or need to learn how to do something new?


The problem with chronic pain is that it kind of wears you down, and it's difficult not to feel aversion - just wanting to be rid of it. So maybe the learning point for me is about acceptance.
Well, oi dunno...
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Re: How can physical pain not be dukkha?

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue Mar 05, 2013 10:05 am

Coyote wrote:It's dukkha just as the 5 khandhas are dukkha. The 5 khandhas for an Arahant don't cease, at least not immediately, but the clinging-aggregates are gone so there is no dukkha for the Arahant. It's the same with physical pain.


Could you elaborate on how the clinging aggregates relate to physical pain - do you mean clinging to neutral or pleasant feeling, ie not wanting unpleasant feeling? In relation to the Arrow Sutta that seems to refer to the second arrow of mental pain. But isn't the Arahant still struck by the first arrow, physical pain?
Well, oi dunno...
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Re: How can physical pain not be dukkha?

Postby Spiny Norman » Tue Mar 05, 2013 10:07 am

befriend wrote:I started to feel alot of loving kindness, this feeling moved to my shoulder actually changing the unpleasant feeling of the dislocated shoulder into a pleasant feeling. when i stopped meditating the pain would come back. so this is how powerful love can be.


That's really impressive - I obviously have a long way to go.
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Re: How can physical pain not be dukkha?

Postby Coyote » Tue Mar 05, 2013 10:33 am

porpoise wrote:
Coyote wrote:It's dukkha just as the 5 khandhas are dukkha. The 5 khandhas for an Arahant don't cease, at least not immediately, but the clinging-aggregates are gone so there is no dukkha for the Arahant. It's the same with physical pain.


Could you elaborate on how the clinging aggregates relate to physical pain - do you mean clinging to neutral or pleasant feeling, ie not wanting unpleasant feeling? In relation to the Arrow Sutta that seems to refer to the second arrow of mental pain. But isn't the Arahant still struck by the first arrow, physical pain?


Well, as I understand it, the Arahant still experiences physical pain - just as they experience the five khandhas. They no longer experience the clinging-aggregates because they no longer cling to anything. It's the difference between nibbana and parinibbana.
Pain is vedana. But vedana, whether or not it is painful is still dukkha. It's a burden that the Arahant gives up upon reaching parinibbana. On reaching arahantship neither physical pain nor pleasant feeling are dukkha for the arahant, even though they are objectively dukkha - because the clinging has been given up. Just as the experience of an Arahant in terms of the khandhas is inconstant and anatta, it is also dukkha.
Say the Arahant was on fire - the fact that he/she is an arahant doesn't change this fact, doesn't make it any less bad. But because he/she is an Arahant it does not disturb them.
But it is all dukkha anyway, whether or not there is painful feeling. Sabbe sankhara dukkha.
At least, this is how I have heard it taught, and seems to make sense to me.

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Re: How can physical pain not be dukkha?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Tue Mar 05, 2013 10:36 am

The aggregate of feeling (vedanākkhandha), is a mental aggregate. When we say "physical pain," it is still mentality, but it conditioned by materiality (rūpa), such as hardness, burning, or pressure. When we say "mental pain," we are referring to grief, sorrow, and despair which derive from mental contact.

The Arahant cannot be free from the aggregate of feeling unless he or she is absorbed in the cessation of perception and feeling (nibbāna). If an Arahant is hit with a stick, or afflicted by a disease, he or she will definitely feel painful feelings. However, since an Arahant is always mindful of impermanence, he or she is not afflicted by mental pain — and does not wish, “If only this pain would go away,” which would mean aversion. An Arahant fully understands that it is conditioned, and will only cease when the conditions cease.

The case of the ardent meditator who has attained to Knowledge of Equanimity About Formations (saṅkhārūpekhañāṇa) is the same, except that if he or she stops meditating painful physical or mental feelings might again cause mental suffering.

An ordinary lay person or monk, or a Stream-winner like Anāthapindika could overcome painful feelings through diligent contemplation.
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Re: How can physical pain not be dukkha?

Postby Modus.Ponens » Tue Mar 05, 2013 3:36 pm

Thank you Bhante for your clarification. Can you please point out if your clarification is suported by the abhidhamma? From my understanding of the suttas, and from that view point alone, your clarification is an excelent and clear way to express what I thought about this subject in a sort of confused way. I'm just curious to see what the abhidhamma has to say on this.

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Re: How can physical pain not be dukkha?

Postby Awakening » Wed Mar 06, 2013 4:45 am

Dukkha is not something that happens to one, it is something that one participates in. Physical pain is actually just another phenomena, your perception of it and resistance to it is what makes it dukkha. Arahants are free from dukkha, but not necessarily the bare phenomena of what is called "physical pain".
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Re: How can physical pain not be dukkha?

Postby kirk5a » Wed Mar 06, 2013 2:38 pm

These three feelings have been spoken of by me: a feeling of pleasure, a feeling of pain, & a feeling of neither pleasure nor pain. These are the three feelings spoken of by me. But I have also said: 'Whatever is felt comes under stress.' That I have stated simply in connection with the inconstancy of fabrications. That I have stated simply in connection with the nature of fabrications to end... in connection with the nature of fabrications to fall away... to fade away... to cease... in connection with the nature of fabrications to change.

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Re: How can physical pain not be dukkha?

Postby Spiny Norman » Wed Mar 06, 2013 4:10 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:The Arahant cannot be free from the aggregate of feeling unless he or she is absorbed in the cessation of perception and feeling (nibbāna). If an Arahant is hit with a stick, or afflicted by a disease, he or she will definitely feel painful feelings. However, since an Arahant is always mindful of impermanence, he or she is not afflicted by mental pain — and does not wish, “If only this pain would go away,” which would mean aversion. An Arahant fully understands that it is conditioned, and will only cease when the conditions cease.


Thanks Bhante. What I'm still not clear about is whether the physical pain experienced by an Arahant is categorised as dukkha? The sutta descriptions of dukkha usually include physical pain, but is that just applicable to an ordinary person?
Well, oi dunno...
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Re: How can physical pain not be dukkha?

Postby Spiny Norman » Wed Mar 06, 2013 4:13 pm

Awakening wrote: Physical pain is actually just another phenomena, your perception of it and resistance to it is what makes it dukkha. Arahants are free from dukkha, but not necessarily the bare phenomena of what is called "physical pain".


But physical pain ( the first arrow ) is still an unpleasant experience isn't it?
Well, oi dunno...
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Re: How can physical pain not be dukkha?

Postby Cittasanto » Wed Mar 06, 2013 5:27 pm

porpoise wrote:
Cittasanto wrote:One thing I find lessens pain is looking at the positive side of the pain. What opportunity has the pain actually given you? More opportunity to rest, or need to learn how to do something new?


The problem with chronic pain is that it kind of wears you down, and it's difficult not to feel aversion - just wanting to be rid of it. So maybe the learning point for me is about acceptance.

and patience (Khanti), it is a foundation for equanimity
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
Upāsaka Cittasanto
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: How can physical pain not be dukkha?

Postby Awakening » Wed Mar 06, 2013 11:13 pm

porpoise wrote:
Awakening wrote: Physical pain is actually just another phenomena, your perception of it and resistance to it is what makes it dukkha. Arahants are free from dukkha, but not necessarily the bare phenomena of what is called "physical pain".


But physical pain ( the first arrow ) is still an unpleasant experience isn't it?


It's really just bare phenomena. Whether or not it is perceived as unpleasant is a matter of perception. Try observing the so-called pain with pure mindfulness, and you'll find that it's just spatial phenomena.
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Re: How can physical pain not be dukkha?

Postby Nori » Thu Mar 07, 2013 9:16 am

Like somebody mentioned here.. it is 'mental', though it certainly seems inevitable and has a natural tendency toward, grief/suffering/aversion.

I recall a time I was playing tennis or something like that and I was so focused on the game that I did not realize that I was slashing and stabbing my body with a safety pin that opened up (which was holding up my pants). Only when I realized that the sensations I was feeling (like a pulling on the skin) was a safety pin gouging into my skin, and seeing the blood and what was occurring, that I started to feel the pain. I remember this clearly; before that, it was just vague sensations, not even pain yet, and certainly not suffering.

Another example is that I have allergies to pollen, yet I have no symptoms while I am asleep. (This may be the same with pain.) It is only when I wake up that I start having allergy symptoms, or feel pain.

This is evidence that it is mental. In fact, even sensation itself, like touch is mental. It does not occur on the body. It occurs in the mind.
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Re: How can physical pain not be dukkha?

Postby Spiny Norman » Thu Mar 07, 2013 10:51 am

Nori wrote:This is evidence that it is mental. In fact, even sensation itself, like touch is mental. It does not occur on the body. It occurs in the mind.


And yet a distinction is made in the suttas between physical and mental pain, an obvious example being the Arrow Sutta. I'm not sure that saying everything is experienced in the mind really gets to the point of this distinction.
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