Possible misconception of cessation of suffering?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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acinteyyo
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Possible misconception of cessation of suffering?

Post by acinteyyo » Fri Jun 19, 2015 1:00 pm

Hi,
in nearly all cases it seems to me that it is the general understanding that the buddhist path leads to the cessation of suffering. "Cessation" here appears to be commonly understood as "disappearance", "dissolution", "vanishing".

There often appear difficulties in talking about these things in case of an arahant, because obviously, the aggregates for example do not vanish in the moment of "enlightenment", neither disappears "the All" and so on. The Buddha stated: "My back hurts, I will rest it." So painful feelings still arise for an enlightened one, therefore it cannot be right understanding to think that suffering ceases, in the way that it isn't "there" anymore, that it disappears into "nothingness", or something like that.

Does anyone else get that impression?

Lately I've come to understand what it rather means that suffering "goes out", like in the simile of the fire in MN72. The flame "has gone out", "became cool", doesn't mean that the fire disappeared, has gone away or is annihilated, but rather that there is no further burning, no further becoming, no clinging to the fuel. The fireplace is still there, so to say, but it's cool, it doesn't burn anymore.

The noble truths remind us that suffering has to be understood, it has to be known and comprehended. There is no suffering on its own, it is constructed, and arises in dependence on craving. When craving ends, then suffering (the burning) "goes out", but the "fuel" (aggregates or the all) doesn't vanish along with it. The fuel itself arises and ceases according to its own circumstances, but besides being dukkha too, it is not the goal of the buddhist path to make everything disappear, the goal is nibbana, "extinction of the flame", not doing away the whole fireplace.

With respect to dependent origination, the cessation-sequence doesn't mean that the links disappear, but that the "burning" links "go extinct", they become cool and don't "create further flames" (further becoming and necessary conditions).

Anyway... enough of my opinion, I hope you get the point.

Thoughts, ideas?

best wishes, acinteyyo
Thag 1.20. Ajita - I do not fear death; nor do I long for life. I’ll lay down this body, aware and mindful.

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pilgrim
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Re: Possible misconception of cessation of suffering?

Post by pilgrim » Fri Jun 19, 2015 1:29 pm

When a person becomes an arahant, his citta or mind is liberated. But his body is still a source of suffering. The 12th link of Dependent Origination is Old Age and Death. Upon the death of the arahant, he is not reborn. Because there is no Birth, there is total cessation of suffering.

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SDC
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Re: Possible misconception of cessation of suffering?

Post by SDC » Fri Jun 19, 2015 1:33 pm

An unpleasant feeling does not imply suffering; it is only with a stance in opposition to that unpleasant feeling - courtesy of taṇhā - that suffering is there.
  • "In order to know dukkha it is not enough just to suffer. To know dukkha, one has to recognize, within the present experience, what is and what is not necessary. The point is that, in the experience of pain, certain aspects are inevitable, while others, are not. In different words – the ‘painfulness’ of pain is suffering and not the pain itself...

    "...The immediate reason of our suffering, as the Buddha tells us, is our craving or taṇha. It is because of taṇha that our experience of pain is painful. This applies to the other two kinds of feeling too. Thus, we can say, that it is because of craving that feelings are dukkha. In the first type, unpleasant feeling, craving for the cessation of that feeling causes one to suffer: the painful feeling is present there, directly opposed to one’s desire for it to not-be, to disappear. In this way a discrepancy is created, a discrepancy which is nothing but dukkha. In the second type, pleasant feeling, craving for more of that feeling is manifested, thus the actual pleasant feeling appears as unpleasant, when attended from the direction of that increased pleasure which is craved for. The present feeling of pleasure becomes inadequate, a lack which needs to be satisfied. Again, the discrepancy arises, which one tries to overcome by a further pursuit of various things in the world which, will intensify his pleasure further. One hopes that such attempt will ‘fill the gap’ within, but needless to say, that is impossible since the discrepancy is actually being constantly generated by the presence of taṇha, and not by the various objects in the world."


    "Thought and lust are a man’s sensuality,
    Not the various things in the world;
    Thought and lust are a man’s sensuality,
    The various things just stand there in the world;
    But the wise get rid of desire therein.
    –A.VI 63/iii, 411

    -Ven. Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli, Feelings are suffering

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daverupa
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Re: Possible misconception of cessation of suffering?

Post by daverupa » Fri Jun 19, 2015 2:10 pm

SDC wrote:An unpleasant feeling does not imply suffering; it is only with a stance in opposition to that unpleasant feeling - courtesy of taṇhā - that suffering is there.
Exactly.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

chownah
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Re: Possible misconception of cessation of suffering?

Post by chownah » Fri Jun 19, 2015 2:48 pm

Guess I'll put this here too:
I'm a farmer who does alot of hand digging etc. and many times my back aches and I rest it and the sensation of my back aching often is not a sensation of pain....it is just a sensation that my back is in a condition where if I don't rest it it might sustain damage which would render it inoperable so it is better to rest it and let it recouperate rather than to risk disability....
chownah

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Re: Possible misconception of cessation of suffering?

Post by acinteyyo » Fri Jun 19, 2015 3:20 pm

daverupa wrote:
SDC wrote:An unpleasant feeling does not imply suffering; it is only with a stance in opposition to that unpleasant feeling - courtesy of taṇhā - that suffering is there.
Exactly.
I agree partly, however ultimately sabbe sankhārā dukkhā. The mental suffering of an unpleasant feeling arises due to a stance in opposition, which ceases with comprehending it, but that unpleasant feeling is inherently dukkhā as a result of being aniccā and anattā.

When the Buddha said, that he taught only the arising of dukkhā and the cessation of dukkhā, it begs the question what dukkhā really means and what the cessation of the whole mass of suffering means.

To take the position that only mental dukkhā ceases for example, which seems to me, is what you are trying to say, stressing on the fact of literal "disappearance" or at least implying it and disregarding for example unpleasant feeling as being dukkhā too, goes, as I see it, not far enough in acknowledging what dukkhā is, i.e. "the all", the aggregates, the "world", in fact it may actually hinder ones deeper understanding of dukkhā if one excludes certain phenomena as dukkhā.

It seems to me now such a view may possibly be more a matter of convenience in order to make dukkhā comprehensible, because otherwise one would have to regard the Buddhas backpain as a form of suffering, which would be a contradiction to the teachings which say that an enlightened one is free from suffering. The easy way appears to be to change the definition of dukkhā by excluding for example painful feelings (or other sankhārā) in order to avoid contradicting the teachings.

However it doesn't solve the problem of understanding dukkhā by excluding certain sankhārā from being dukkhā to avoid contradictions, it is by fully understanding dukkhā, which leads, as I claim it, to a different interpretation of what "cessation" means. This is what I would like to discuss.

Let's consider the premiss first and then let's see where this discussion will lead us to.

The main questions circle around the four noble truths.

Can we agree that in short, the five clinging-aggregates are dukkhā (SN56.11) and the six sense bases are dukkhā (SN56.14), which means that
form, feeling, perception, consciousness and sankhārā are dukkhā?

And can we agree that "cessation of dukkhā" seems to be understood as "disappearance" or "dissolution" or "non-existence" (I really don't like to use the last expression, but it serves as cue)?

If not or others have different understandings, it would be very much appreciated to explain your opinion as to avoid talking at cross-purposes.

Thank you, best wishes
acinteyyo
Thag 1.20. Ajita - I do not fear death; nor do I long for life. I’ll lay down this body, aware and mindful.

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Re: Possible misconception of cessation of suffering?

Post by acinteyyo » Fri Jun 19, 2015 3:36 pm

chownah wrote:Guess I'll put this here too:
I'm a farmer who does alot of hand digging etc. and many times my back aches and I rest it and the sensation of my back aching often is not a sensation of pain....it is just a sensation that my back is in a condition where if I don't rest it it might sustain damage which would render it inoperable so it is better to rest it and let it recouperate rather than to risk disability....
chownah
Thank you chownah for your post. It neatly shows what I'm trying to point out.

By disregarding the unpleasantness of the back aches one hinders oneself to come to a thorough understanding of dukkha. Whether on calls it pain, or sensation that the back is in a condition where it might be damaged, or anything else doesn't change the nature of that very phenomena or the unpleasant feeling which arises in conjunction.

By acknowledging that its in the body's nature that unpleasant feelings arise when one exerts oneself, one may avoid unnecessary unpleasant thoughts about the body's unpleasantness, which might have arisen otherwise, but the unpleasantness of the body stays unaltered, one only accepts it.

Now the thing is that accepting it, is not enough, one needs to understand it to free oneself, otherwise the understanding is superficial and by being content with acceptance one actually hinders oneself to make the effort to penetrate the unpleasantness thoroughly.

Such radical accaptance leads to supression or indifference, but unfortunately not to understanding.
And in the end one ignores what has to be understood by pretending that it is not what it is!

best wishes, acinteyyo
Thag 1.20. Ajita - I do not fear death; nor do I long for life. I’ll lay down this body, aware and mindful.

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Re: Possible misconception of cessation of suffering?

Post by acinteyyo » Fri Jun 19, 2015 3:46 pm

pilgrim wrote:When a person becomes an arahant, his citta or mind is liberated. But his body is still a source of suffering. The 12th link of Dependent Origination is Old Age and Death. Upon the death of the arahant, he is not reborn. Because there is no Birth, there is total cessation of suffering.
Thanks pilgrim.
I know that. We can read this in many suttas.

What I'm tying to point out in this thread is that there might be a great misconception of what "cessation of suffering" means, which hinders a deeper understanding of suffering. It is by coming to a different understanding of what it means, that I gained a different point of view on suffering and to prevent misconceptions of myself and to give others an opportunity to benefit from what is said here, I would like to discuss it in the open Dhamma Forum.

best wishes, acinteyyo
Thag 1.20. Ajita - I do not fear death; nor do I long for life. I’ll lay down this body, aware and mindful.

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Re: Possible misconception of cessation of suffering?

Post by daverupa » Fri Jun 19, 2015 3:58 pm

acinteyyo wrote:To take the position that only mental dukkhā ceases for example, which seems to me, is what you are trying to say, stressing on the fact of literal "disappearance" or at least implying it and disregarding for example unpleasant feeling as being dukkhā too, goes, as I see it, not far enough in acknowledging what dukkhā is, i.e. "the all", the aggregates, the "world", in fact it may actually hinder ones deeper understanding of dukkhā if one excludes certain phenomena as dukkhā.
I am not excluding pain as dukkha; I am not excluding certain sankhara as non-dukkha. I am saying pain gives rise to dukkha when clung to or otherwise taken up, just as pleasure gives rise to dukkha when clung to or otherwise taken up. Even neutral feeling can be taken up.

An arahant is not taking anything up, so unpleasant feeling is not dukkha. A non-arahant might yet take it up (probably not a non-returner, though) and so unpleasant feeling is dukkha in that case.

The clinging-aggregates are indeed a source of dukkha; the aggregates simpliciter are not the same in that some dukkha no longer has the scope to arise, and the rest has a shelf-life.

It's true that those aggregates are impermanent and will change, but this is not clung-to and so is no longer dukkha either - the arahant awaits the final breakup like a workman their wage.

And finally, the arahant (via SN 12.51) does not generate sankhara, and so all three:

a) dukkha-dukkha: ordinary suffering;
b) viparinama-dukkha: suffering due to change;
c) sankhara-dukkha: suffering due to formations

are addressed.

---
Can we agree that in short, the five clinging-aggregates are dukkhā (SN56.11) and the six sense bases are dukkhā (SN56.14), which means that form, feeling, perception, consciousness and sankhārā are dukkhā?
Well, upadana-form is dukkha, not form simpliciter, and so too the rest.
And can we agree that "cessation of dukkhā" seems to be understood as "disappearance" or "dissolution" or
...non-arising, sure.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

chownah
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Re: Possible misconception of cessation of suffering?

Post by chownah » Fri Jun 19, 2015 3:59 pm

acinteyyo wrote:
chownah wrote:Guess I'll put this here too:
I'm a farmer who does alot of hand digging etc. and many times my back aches and I rest it and the sensation of my back aching often is not a sensation of pain....it is just a sensation that my back is in a condition where if I don't rest it it might sustain damage which would render it inoperable so it is better to rest it and let it recouperate rather than to risk disability....
chownah
Thank you chownah for your post. It neatly shows what I'm trying to point out.

By disregarding the unpleasantness of the back aches one hinders oneself to come to a thorough understanding of dukkha. Whether on calls it pain, or sensation that the back is in a condition where it might be damaged, or anything else doesn't change the nature of that very phenomena or the unpleasant feeling which arises in conjunction.

By acknowledging that its in the body's nature that unpleasant feelings arise when one exerts oneself, one may avoid unnecessary unpleasant thoughts about the body's unpleasantness, which might have arisen otherwise, but the unpleasantness of the body stays unaltered, one only accepts it.

Now the thing is that accepting it, is not enough, one needs to understand it to free oneself, otherwise the understanding is superficial and by being content with acceptance one actually hinders oneself to make the effort to penetrate the unpleasantness thoroughly.

Such radical accaptance leads to supression or indifference, but unfortunately not to understanding.
And in the end one ignores what has to be understood by pretending that it is not what it is!

best wishes, acinteyyo
I did not mean to imply that the aching was an unpleasantness. Sometimes is it but usually it is not really so unpleasant and sometimes when I remind myself that there is no self but the feeling is just the way the feeling is the unpleasantness disappears and the sensation can actually become pleasant but not the kind of pleasantness where you say "yeah, that feels great". But maybe I am just ignoring what has to be understood by pretending that it is not what it is as you say......things can get really tricky..... At any rate it seems to help me to keep going on my farming which helps to keep me off the streets and out of trouble...... :jumping:
chownah

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Re: Possible misconception of cessation of suffering?

Post by acinteyyo » Fri Jun 19, 2015 5:43 pm

Well, let me ask you a question. You say:
daverupa wrote:I am not excluding certain sankhara as non-dukkha.
then you say:
daverupa wrote:An arahant is not taking anything up, so unpleasant feeling is not dukkha.
How is this not excluding certain sankhara as non-dukkha, or is unpleasant feeling not sankhata?
Unpleasant feeling (and any other feeling and so on) is dukkha like anything else which is conditioned. It's not that in case of an arahant unpleasant feeling stops somehow being dukkha but it becomes dukkha-nirodha. What disappears is any passion, delight, desire and craving for it, then it stops "burning", it does not condition anything anymore and right there it stops, it "goes out", becomes "cool".

Maybe you mean exactly the same as I do and its only a matter of different terms and expressions. Pleas keep in mind that my arguments come from the view I formerly believed in, that dukkha somehow disappears with enlightenment.

That difference I'm trying to point out is that "cessation" doesn't equal that dukkha disappears, it rather "goes out", the fire is unbound. The old indians didn't believe that the fire disappears into nothingness or something like that, the fire is released when extinguished, it's no longer bound to the fuel. It is not suddenly "not-existing" it "exists" but lacks necessary conditions for it to arise. (Please don't take my use of "exist" and "not-existing" too serious.)
daverupa wrote:The clinging-aggregates are indeed a source of dukkha; the aggregates simpliciter are not the same in that some dukkha no longer has the scope to arise, and the rest has a shelf-life.
I agree with the addition that the aggregates are also dukkha, dukkha-nirodha. Dukkha-nirodha is not the same like non-dukkha or "adukkha" if there is such a pali term.
daverupa wrote:It's true that those aggregates are impermanent and will change, but this is not clung-to and so is no longer dukkha either - the arahant awaits the final breakup like a workman their wage.
What exactly do you mean when you say "it is no longer dukkha"? That is the important question.
daverupa wrote:And finally, the arahant (via SN 12.51) does not generate sankhara, and so all three:

a) dukkha-dukkha: ordinary suffering;
b) viparinama-dukkha: suffering due to change;
c) sankhara-dukkha: suffering due to formations

are addressed.
What does it mean, "the arahant does not generate sankhara"? It doesn't mean that every sankhara has disappeard, therefore even when some dukkha no longer has the scope to arise, I agree on this, the "rest" still is dukkha-nirodha.
daverupa wrote:
acinteyyo wrote:Can we agree that in short, the five clinging-aggregates are dukkhā (SN56.11) and the six sense bases are dukkhā (SN56.14), which means that form, feeling, perception, consciousness and sankhārā are dukkhā?
Well, upadana-form is dukkha, not form simpliciter, and so too the rest.
Yes, but does upadana-form cease for the arahant? Does it disappear or does it become form, which is still dukkha only dukkha-nirodha, lacking upadana.
daverupa wrote:
acinteyyo wrote:And can we agree that "cessation of dukkhā" seems to be understood as "disappearance" or "dissolution" or
...non-arising, sure.
What I object to is the view that dukkha disappears as if dukkha-nirodha is the same as no-dukkha.
Thag 1.20. Ajita - I do not fear death; nor do I long for life. I’ll lay down this body, aware and mindful.

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Re: Possible misconception of cessation of suffering?

Post by acinteyyo » Fri Jun 19, 2015 5:48 pm

chownah wrote:I did not mean to imply that the aching was an unpleasantness. Sometimes is it but usually it is not really so unpleasant and sometimes when I remind myself that there is no self but the feeling is just the way the feeling is the unpleasantness disappears and the sensation can actually become pleasant but not the kind of pleasantness where you say "yeah, that feels great". But maybe I am just ignoring what has to be understood by pretending that it is not what it is as you say......things can get really tricky..... At any rate it seems to help me to keep going on my farming which helps to keep me off the streets and out of trouble...... :jumping:
chownah
I just used your post to convey a message chownah, no harm meant ;)
Thag 1.20. Ajita - I do not fear death; nor do I long for life. I’ll lay down this body, aware and mindful.

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Re: Possible misconception of cessation of suffering?

Post by pulga » Fri Jun 19, 2015 6:26 pm

What is meant by the Buddha's "dukkha" in the Nāga Sutta is intriguing.
Evaṃ me sutaṃ—​ ekaṃ samayaṃ bhagavā kosambiyaṃ viharati ghositārāme. Tena kho pana samayena bhagavā ākiṇṇo viharati bhikkhūhi bhikkhunīhi upāsakehi upāsikāhi rājūhi rāja­mahā­mattehi titthiyehi ­titthi­ya­sā­vakehi. Ākiṇṇo dukkhaṃ na phāsu viharati. Atha kho bhagavato etadahosi: “ahaṃ kho etarahi ākiṇṇo viharāmi bhikkhūhi bhikkhunīhi upāsakehi upāsikāhi rājūhi rāja­mahā­mattehi titthiyehi ­titthi­ya­sā­vakehi. Ākiṇṇo dukkhaṃ na phāsu viharāmi. Yannūnāhaṃ eko gaṇasmā vūpakaṭṭho vihareyyan”ti.

Thus have I heard. At one time the Lord was staying near Kosambi at the Ghosita monastery. At that time the Lord was living hemmed in by bhikkhus and bhikkhunis, by male and female lay followers, by kings and royal ministers, by sectarian teachers and their disciples, and he lived in discomfort and not at ease. Then the Lord thought: "At present I am living hemmed in by bhikkhus and bhikkhunis... by sectarian teachers and their disciples, and I live in discomfort and not at ease. Suppose I were to live alone, secluded from the crowd?" Ud 4.5





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acinteyyo
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Re: Possible misconception of cessation of suffering?

Post by acinteyyo » Fri Jun 19, 2015 6:40 pm

Indeed it is!
Thag 1.20. Ajita - I do not fear death; nor do I long for life. I’ll lay down this body, aware and mindful.

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Re: Possible misconception of cessation of suffering?

Post by paul » Fri Jun 19, 2015 6:55 pm

----Buddhist Dictionary, "dukkha":
'Suffering', 'ill'. As the first of the Four Noble Truths (s. sacca) and the second of the three characteristics of existence (s. ti-lakkhana), the term dukkha is not limited to painful experience as under (1), but refers to the unsatisfactory nature and the general insecurity of all conditioned phenomena which, on account of their impermanence, are all liable to suffering, and this includes also pleasurable experience. Hence 'unsatisfactoriness' or 'liability to suffering' would be more adequate renderings, if not for stylistic reasons. Hence the first truth does not deny the existence of pleasurable experience, as is sometimes wrongly assumed."

The factor active in creating detachment, discernment, is to be scientifically discussed in Sept.:
http://www.cmc-ia.org/events/meditation ... andalucia/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Last edited by paul on Sat Jun 20, 2015 12:44 am, edited 1 time in total.

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