Accepting pain and avoiding it at the same time

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lostitude
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Accepting pain and avoiding it at the same time

Post by lostitude » Sat Jun 29, 2019 9:37 am

Hello,

I've read several times on this forum that the Buddha had back pain toward the end of his life and that he would rest his back on some support to ease the pain.
I have also read that pain and suffering are like two arrows, non-awakened people are pierced by those two arrows while the awakened ones are only pierced by the arrow of pain and not that of suffering, since suffering has been eradicated.

This leaves me a bit confused about pain itself. The Buddha resting his back due to pain seems to imply that he thus tried to avoid it. How can you have fully accepted pain without resisting it (which I understand to be a precondition to eliminate suffering), while looking for ways to avoid it at the same time? My reading of the situation may be wrong, but it sounds contradictory to me.

Any thoughts?

Thanks.

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retrofuturist
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Re: Accepting pain and avoiding it at the same time

Post by retrofuturist » Sat Jun 29, 2019 10:06 am

Greetings,

Pleasant feeling is preferable to neither-pleasant-nor-unpleasant feeling, which in turn is preferable to unpleasant feeling.

It is also advisable for people to take care of their health, and the requisites are provided to bhikkhus on this basis.

Consider the Fourfold Reflection of a Monk (Paccavekkhana)
1. Wisely reflecting do I wear the robe, only in order to protect myself from cold, heat, gadflies, mosquitoes, wind, and sun and from snakes; and also as a constant covering for my modesty.

2. Wisely reflecting I will partake of food not for pleasure of it, not for the pride (resulting from physical strength obtainable), not for adornment, not for beautifying the body, but merely to maintain this body, to still the hunger, and to enable the practice of the holy life; also to resist the pangs of hunger (due to previous want of food), and to resist the pain (resulting from excess of food). Thus will my life be maintained free from wrong doing and free from discomfort.

3. Wisely reflecting I will make use of lodgings only in order to protect myself from cold and heat, from gadflies and mosquitoes; from wind and sun, from snakes, and also as a constant protection against the rigours of climate, and in order to realize that ardent desire for seclusion (which begets mental concentration).

4. Wisely reflecting I will make use of medicine only as an aid to eliminate bodily pains that have arisen, and also to maintain that important condition, freedom from disease.
Metta,
Paul. :)
"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"It is natural that one who knows and sees things as they really are is disenchanted and dispassionate." (AN 10.2)

“Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” (Flannery O'Connor)

Dinsdale
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Re: Accepting pain and avoiding it at the same time

Post by Dinsdale » Sat Jun 29, 2019 10:55 am

lostitude wrote:
Sat Jun 29, 2019 9:37 am
Hello,

I've read several times on this forum that the Buddha had back pain toward the end of his life and that he would rest his back on some support to ease the pain.
I have also read that pain and suffering are like two arrows, non-awakened people are pierced by those two arrows while the awakened ones are only pierced by the arrow of pain and not that of suffering, since suffering has been eradicated.

This leaves me a bit confused about pain itself. The Buddha resting his back due to pain seems to imply that he thus tried to avoid it. How can you have fully accepted pain without resisting it (which I understand to be a precondition to eliminate suffering), while looking for ways to avoid it at the same time? My reading of the situation may be wrong, but it sounds contradictory to me.

Any thoughts?

Thanks.
It's a good question arising from the Arrow Sutta.

It seems to me there are two stages here. The first is accepting the inevitability of the pain, the second is taking sensible steps to manage the pain.

Managing the pain is not the same as rejecting it, or having mental anguish about it.
Last edited by Dinsdale on Sat Jun 29, 2019 2:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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lostitude
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Re: Accepting pain and avoiding it at the same time

Post by lostitude » Sat Jun 29, 2019 1:55 pm

Thanks, actually it makes perfect sense and my question was a bit silly. It would be careless not to relieve your back when you know it's already worn-out and you'd like to continue using it for a little while longer.

Dinsdale
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Re: Accepting pain and avoiding it at the same time

Post by Dinsdale » Sat Jun 29, 2019 2:42 pm

lostitude wrote:
Sat Jun 29, 2019 1:55 pm
Thanks, actually it makes perfect sense and my question was a bit silly. It would be careless not to relieve your back when you know it's already worn-out and you'd like to continue using it for a little while longer.
I don't think it was a silly question at all, and I think it has wider implications in terms of how we come to terms with the aging process. For example if your hearing or eyesight deteriorates as you get older, it makes sense to use a hearing aid, or wear glasses. Using what's available to manage the effects of old age doesn't mean you're in denial about it, and the same thing applies to managing pain.
Buddha save me from new-agers!

perkele
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Re: Accepting pain and avoiding it at the same time

Post by perkele » Sat Jun 29, 2019 3:18 pm

Some OT here:
retrofuturist wrote:
Sat Jun 29, 2019 10:06 am
Pleasant feeling is preferable to neither-pleasant-nor-unpleasant feeling, which in turn is preferable to unpleasant feeling.
IIRC there is a teaching somewhere in the suttas where the Buddha says something like: neutral feeling, if rightly understood, is preferable to pleasent feeling. Or something like that. Probably it's a more qualified statement.
I think the reasoning is that with proper attention the neutral feeling is just perceived as peaceful while the pleasent feeling can give rise to displeasure when it fades. Or something like that.
If somebody knows the reference I'd be interested in knowing where it is.

That being said, I can walk carefully trying to not to stub my toe, but still remain calm when I do stub my toe, giving it proper attention so that the physical sensation does not give rise to mental displeasure.

binocular
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Re: Accepting pain and avoiding it at the same time

Post by binocular » Sat Jun 29, 2019 4:19 pm

lostitude wrote:
Sat Jun 29, 2019 9:37 am
This leaves me a bit confused about pain itself. The Buddha resting his back due to pain seems to imply that he thus tried to avoid it. How can you have fully accepted pain without resisting it (which I understand to be a precondition to eliminate suffering), while looking for ways to avoid it at the same time?
In a similar way as you avoid stepping on dog poo if it happens to be on your path. There's no need to unnecessarily get filth on your feet.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

binocular
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Re: Accepting pain and avoiding it at the same time

Post by binocular » Sat Jun 29, 2019 4:28 pm

Dinsdale wrote:
Sat Jun 29, 2019 2:42 pm
lostitude wrote:
Sat Jun 29, 2019 1:55 pm
Thanks, actually it makes perfect sense and my question was a bit silly. It would be careless not to relieve your back when you know it's already worn-out and you'd like to continue using it for a little while longer.
I don't think it was a silly question at all, and I think it has wider implications in terms of how we come to terms with the aging process. For example if your hearing or eyesight deteriorates as you get older, it makes sense to use a hearing aid, or wear glasses. Using what's available to manage the effects of old age doesn't mean you're in denial about it, and the same thing applies to managing pain.
One just needs to make sure one doesn't conclude that such management of pain equals cessation of suffering, or that the relief from suffering is to be found in the management of pain.

While official Western medicine tends to expect one to come to believe that management of pain = management of suffering. To the extent that less pain can sometimes mean less suffering, this is true (in the sense that less pain means fewer triggers for suffering from pain). But since pain in inavoidable, by this kind of medical reasoning, suffering is inavoidable as well.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Re: Accepting pain and avoiding it at the same time

Post by Dinsdale » Sat Jun 29, 2019 4:54 pm

perkele wrote:
Sat Jun 29, 2019 3:18 pm
Some OT here:
retrofuturist wrote:
Sat Jun 29, 2019 10:06 am
Pleasant feeling is preferable to neither-pleasant-nor-unpleasant feeling, which in turn is preferable to unpleasant feeling.
IIRC there is a teaching somewhere in the suttas where the Buddha says something like: neutral feeling, if rightly understood, is preferable to pleasent feeling. Or something like that. Probably it's a more qualified statement.
I think the reasoning is that with proper attention the neutral feeling is just perceived as peaceful while the pleasent feeling can give rise to displeasure when it fades. Or something like that.
If somebody knows the reference I'd be interested in knowing where it is.

That being said, I can walk carefully trying to not to stub my toe, but still remain calm when I do stub my toe, giving it proper attention so that the physical sensation does not give rise to mental displeasure.
But we're not talking about stubbed toes, we're talking about serious and chronic pain.
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Dinsdale
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Re: Accepting pain and avoiding it at the same time

Post by Dinsdale » Sat Jun 29, 2019 4:56 pm

binocular wrote:
Sat Jun 29, 2019 4:28 pm
Dinsdale wrote:
Sat Jun 29, 2019 2:42 pm
lostitude wrote:
Sat Jun 29, 2019 1:55 pm
Thanks, actually it makes perfect sense and my question was a bit silly. It would be careless not to relieve your back when you know it's already worn-out and you'd like to continue using it for a little while longer.
I don't think it was a silly question at all, and I think it has wider implications in terms of how we come to terms with the aging process. For example if your hearing or eyesight deteriorates as you get older, it makes sense to use a hearing aid, or wear glasses. Using what's available to manage the effects of old age doesn't mean you're in denial about it, and the same thing applies to managing pain.
One just needs to make sure one doesn't conclude that such management of pain equals cessation of suffering, or that the relief from suffering is to be found in the management of pain.

While official Western medicine tends to expect one to come to believe that management of pain = management of suffering. To the extent that less pain can sometimes mean less suffering, this is true (in the sense that less pain means fewer triggers for suffering from pain). But since pain in inavoidable, by this kind of medical reasoning, suffering is inavoidable as well.
We're not talking about "western medicine", we're talking about the Arrow Sutta.
Buddha save me from new-agers!

binocular
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Re: Accepting pain and avoiding it at the same time

Post by binocular » Sat Jun 29, 2019 5:19 pm

Dinsdale wrote:
Sat Jun 29, 2019 4:56 pm
We're not talking about "western medicine", we're talking about the Arrow Sutta.
I point to official Western medicine because for most of us here, this is the background from which we think about pain and suffering, the background that informs many of our default assumptions about pain and suffering. These are assumptions that we might not even be aware of. So they need to be brought to the forefront in order to see where they are problematic and where they conflict with a Buddhist understanding of pain and suffering, so that we may then better understand the Buddhist understanding of pain and suffering.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

santa100
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Re: Accepting pain and avoiding it at the same time

Post by santa100 » Sat Jun 29, 2019 5:49 pm

lostitude wrote:This leaves me a bit confused about pain itself. The Buddha resting his back due to pain seems to imply that he thus tried to avoid it. How can you have fully accepted pain without resisting it (which I understand to be a precondition to eliminate suffering), while looking for ways to avoid it at the same time? My reading of the situation may be wrong, but it sounds contradictory to me.
I don't think the aim of attaining enlightenment is to become a dumb wood block that just sits there being aware of all incoming pains and doing absolutely nothing. For if that was the case, one in a coma or vegetative state could do a much better job without any effort. Beside, if all egoistic notions have been abandoned by an enlightened one, it should automatically include any stoic contest to try to put up with all physical pains to prove one's level of attainment! An enlightened one is an excellent problem solver because his mind is no longer clouded or hindered by all the emotional baggage. So, fixing a back pain doesn't imply pain avoidance. It's common-sense problem solving maneuver to maximize peace/harmony for the individual and for those around him. It's a matter of course and it's actually a sign of wisdom, not a sign of ignorance.

perkele
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Re: Accepting pain and avoiding it at the same time

Post by perkele » Sat Jun 29, 2019 6:57 pm

Dinsdale wrote:
Sat Jun 29, 2019 4:54 pm
perkele wrote:
Sat Jun 29, 2019 3:18 pm
That being said, I can walk carefully trying to not to stub my toe, but still remain calm when I do stub my toe, giving it proper attention so that the physical sensation does not give rise to mental displeasure.
But we're not talking about stubbed toes, we're talking about serious and chronic pain.
OP was talking about avoiding and accepting pain, quite generally, and a perceived contradiction between these.
I was talking about stubbed toes.
What you are talking about is up to you.

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mikenz66
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Re: Accepting pain and avoiding it at the same time

Post by mikenz66 » Sat Jun 29, 2019 7:20 pm

This is a helpful discussion, which highlights the difference between accepting how things have come to be, and not taking reasonable steps to alleviate the problem.

The same distinction applies to one's external conditions, in my view: viewtopic.php?f=13&t=34624&p=518607#p518607 in my view.

The Path is clearly not "just letting go". It's a Path of development, and if pain or other conditions are hindering that development, and there are good remedies, then implementing those remedies will improve progress...

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Re: Accepting pain and avoiding it at the same time

Post by Mkoll » Sun Jun 30, 2019 10:45 pm

This reminds me of one of Ajahn Chah's disciples.
Once I had a disciple who stayed in a grass-roofed hut. It rained often that rainy season and one day a strong wind blew off half the roof. He did not bother to fix it, just let it rain in. Several days passed and I asked him about his hut. He said he was practising not-clinging. This is not-clinging without wisdom. It is about the same as the equanimity of a water buffalo.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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