Monthly Archives: December 2016

Not Merging with Suffering

The Arrow
(Sallatha Sutta: Samyutta Nikāya 36.6)
Translated from the Pali by Christopher J. Ash

[The Buddha:] “Practitioners, an untrained, ordinary person experiences pleasant feelings, unpleasant feelings, and feelings neither pleasant nor unpleasant A well-trained student of the noble ones also feels pleasant feelings, unpleasant feelings, and feelings neither pleasant nor unpleasant. So, what difference is there between the well-trained student of the noble ones and the untrained ordinary person?”

[Practitioners:] “Because we depend on the Flourishing One’s teachings, it would be good if the Flourishing One were to personally explain. Hearing this, we will remember it well.”

“Then listen carefully. I’ll explain.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“When an untrained, ordinary person contacts suffering, they fret and become wearied. They lament, beat their breast, and fall into delusion. They have two pains – physical and mental pain. Just as if someone were to shoot another with an arrow, and, right afterward, they were to shoot that same person with another arrow. Hence, the victim would feel the pain of two arrows. In a similar way, when in contact with a feeling of pain, the untrained, ordinary person frets and becomes wearied. They lament, beat their breast, and fall into delusion. So, they experience two kinds of feelings: the bodily and the mental suffering.

“When they are in contact with suffring, they meet it with resistance. When they feel resistance, their (previously latent) underlying patterns of resistance become active. Touched by pain, they then yearn for sensual pleasure. Why is that? Because the untrained, ordinary person does not know of any other escape from pain beside sensual pleasure. While relishing sensual pleasure, the untrained, ordinary person, relies on (previously latent) underlying tendencies to lust for pleasure. So, they can’t understand – in their experience just as it actually is – the production and cessation of these feelings; the attraction and the disadvantages of them; nor can they know the actuality of leaving this suffering behind. When they don’t discern these processes, they [likewise] dwell in ignorance of experiences which are neither pleasant nor unpleasant.

“Experiencing a pleasant sensation, they know it while merged with it. Experiencing an unpleasant sensation, they know it merged with it. Experiencing a sensation which is neither pleasant unpleasant, they know it merged with it. This, I say, is an untrained, ordinary person: a person tied to birth, aging, and death; one tied to grief, complaining, anguish, distress, and despair – a person bound up with dukkha.

“When a trained student of the noble ones contacts suffering, they don’t fret and are not wearied; they don’t complain or beat their breast; they don’t get confused. So, they just have the one pain – the physical, and not the mental pain. Just as if someone were to shoot a person with an arrow, and didn’t shoot them a second time. So the victim would feel the pain of only the one arrow. In this way, when a trained student of the noble ones contacts a feeling of pain, they don’t fret and aren’t wearied; they don’t complain or beat their breast; they don’t get confused. So, they experience the one kind of suffering; the physical suffering, but not the mental suffering.

“When in contact with pain, they don’t resist it. Not given over to resistance, then latent underlying patterns of resistance don’t possess them. And, touched by suffering, they don’t attach to sensual pleasures. Why? Because a well-trained student of the noble ones recognises the escape from suffering [that is other than] sensual pleasure. So, not relishing sensual pleasure, the well-trained person does not rely on the underlying patterns of sensual pleasure. Hence they see – in the experience as it actually is – the arising and cessation of these feelings. They see then the allure and disadvantages of these feelings. And they can know the reality of leaving suffering behind. As they know these processes, neither will they dwell in ignorance of experiences which are neither pleasant nor unpleasant.

“Experiencing a pleasant sensation, they know it while not merged with it. Experiencing an unpleasant sensation, they know it not merged with it. Experiencing a sensation which is neither pleasant unpleasant, they know it not merged with it. This, I say, is a well-trained student of the noble ones: a person separated from birth, aging, and death; separated from grief, complaint, anguish, distress, and despair – a person separated from dukkha.”

“So, this is the difference – the distinction, the distinguishing factor – between the untrained ordinary person and the well-trained student of the noble ones.

“A wise person, being discerning,
doesn’t experience a [concocted] feeling of pleasure or pain.
The difference, then, between the wise and
the ordinary person is one of skilfullness.

“For a person who discerns constructed dhammas,
clearly seeing this world and future worlds,
pleasant things don’t confuse the mind,
and unpleasant things don’t bring resistance.

“Passiveness and opposition are dispersed –
gone to their end, do not exist.
Having known the stainless and sorrow-free,
these ones understand thoroughly, beyond becoming.”

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