Pain and Proliferation

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Buddha’s gradual path to awakening begins with generosity and ethical behavior. These calm and gladden the mind, taking it away from states of possessiveness or regret. However when it comes to gaining the wisdom essential to right view, the Buddha tells us in the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta that there is something which “is to be fully understood” if we are to reach nibbāna. This is dukkha, which is ordinarily translated “suffering”, even if it is more accurate to translate it as something more like “unsatisfactoriness”.

What is this state? Its standard description runs as follows:

[B]irth is dukkha, aging is dukkha, illness is dukkha, death is dukkha; union with what is displeasing is dukkha; separation from what is pleasing is dukkha; not to get what one wants is dukkha; in brief, the five aggregates subject to clinging are dukkha. (Saṃyutta Nikāya 56.11; adapted).

This does not define the state, instead it identifies it with a number of bad experiences and then (oddly) with the five aggregates themselves, which are form, feeling, perception, volitions, and consciousness. This is odd because the formula claims that the five aggregates basically sum up the other bad experiences listed (“in brief”), however this does not seem obviously so. After all, not all perceptions, feelings, or conscious states are bad. We have pleasant perceptions, pleasant feelings, pleasant conscious states.

The problem is that these aggregates are “subject to clinging”, or to use Richard Gombrich’s more metaphorical translation of upādānakkhanda, they are “blazing masses of fuel” for dukkha. (p. 114). They are its substratum, what keeps it going.

In the Chachakka Sutta (MN 148), the Buddha elaborates what “should be understood” as the “six sets of six”, that is the six sense organs, the six kinds of things sensed, the six kinds of conscious reactions to them, the six kinds of contact that exist between them, the six kinds of feeling that arise based upon them, and the six kinds of craving that arise based on feeling. Or to put it more prosaically, we are to understand how experiencing things in the world, and having thoughts about those things, leads to the arising of pleasant and unpleasant feelings that cause us to become attached to and identified with things.

The formula the Buddha uses is closely akin to a section of the classic formula of dependent arising (paṭiccasamuppāda), but with more detail on the act of perception itself. Understanding this process is crucial to the process of liberation, since it is at the juncture between feeling and craving that the chain can be broken. We cannot change the fact that certain experiences are pleasant and unpleasant, however we can change how we react to that pleasantness and unpleasantness.

This is important: we cannot eliminate unpleasant experiences. We may hope for a form of practice that will do so, but is a vain hope, in reality itself a kind of craving for the pleasant and rejection of the unpleasant. Sometimes it is said that forms of meditation can reduce or eliminate physical pain. If they do so, they will only do so temporarily.

The Buddha’s Physical Pain

In the Mahāparinibbāna Sutta (Dīgha Nikāya 16), the account of the Buddha’s last days makes clear that he bore significant physical discomfort: “[W]hen the Blessed One had entered upon the rainy season, there arose in him a severe illness, and sharp and deadly pains came upon him. And the Blessed One endured them mindfully, clearly comprehending and unperturbed.”

As he said,

Now I am frail, Ananda, old, aged, far gone in years. This is my eightieth year, and my life is spent. Even as an old cart, Ananda, is held together with much difficulty, so the body of the Tathagata is kept going only with supports. It is, Ananda, only when the Tathagata, disregarding external objects, with the cessation of certain feelings, attains to and abides in the signless concentration of mind, that his body is more comfortable. (16.2.32/II.100 Also: SN 47.9/V.153-4).

The Buddha’s description is telling. Although he may not be “perturbed”, he at least admits to being in continuous discomfort while not in meditation. This raises the question as to what counts as “perturbation” in this context. It also raises the question of what kind of meditation he is doing to relieve the pain and make his body “more comfortable”. It is called “signless concentration of mind” or “animitta cetosamadhi”. Referring to the Aṅguttara Nikāya commentary Walshe says it is a form of “concentration attained during intensive insight meditation.” (p. 569n394). Vajira and Story on the other hand say that the commentary

explains this term here as referring to the fruition-attainment of arahatship (phalasampatti), in which the Buddha becomes absorbed in the direct experience of Nibbana and no longer attends to external objects or feels mundane feelings. In another context it can mean the concentration developed by intensive insight.

In his note to the passage in the Saṃyutta Nikāya, Bhikkhu Bodhi agrees with Vajira and Story, saying “This would then make it identical with the animitta cetovimutti of [SN 41.7/IV.297)]” (p. 1921n142). “Animitta cetovimutti” he translates as “signless liberation of mind” (SN 41.7) following the commentary “because it removes the ‘signs’ of permanence, happiness, and self [etc.]” (p. 1445n312).

At any rate it would appear that “signless concentration of mind” is somewhat obscure. What is clear from the Buddha’s description is that whatever the meditation is, it is capable of making his body comfortable (phāsutaro tathāgatassa kāyo hoti). We know that the jhānas, states of deeply absorbed samādhi meditation, are described as “dwelling happily in this very life”. (Aṅguttara Nikāya 4.41/II.44). So while it may be the case that the Buddha is undertaking some special “direct experience of nibbāna” in order to become more comfortable, it’s not clear that that would be necessary.

What is clear is that even an enlightened person will be aware of comfort and seek it out.

The above formula says that “illness is dukkha” and so on. Taken in combination with the Third Noble Truth of cessation this appears to imply that one free from dukkha will therefore be free from illness. But this is of course not the case, nor could it be. While someone skilled in jhānic meditation may be able to remain comfortable under circumstances of intense physical pain, it will be so only temporarily. Permanent escape from pain of this sort, and indeed from aging, illness, and death, are not possible.

We will find a correct understanding of dukkha along these lines in the sutta of the Dart (SN 36.6/IV.207-210):

[T]he uninstructed worldling feels a pleasant feeling, a painful feeling, and a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling. The instructed noble disciple too feels a pleasant feeling, a painful feeling, and a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling. Therein, bhikkhus, what is the distinction, the disparity, the difference between the instructed noble disciple and the uninstructed worldling? …

[W]hen the uninstructed worldling is being contacted by a painful feeling, he sorrows, grieves, and laments; he weeps beating his breast and becomes distraught. He feels two feelings — a bodily one and a mental one.

These are the two darts that stick those of us who are uninstructed.

[W]hen the instructed noble disciple is contacted by a painful feeling, he does not sorrow, grieve, or lament; he does not weep beating his breast and become distraught. He feels one feeling — a bodily one, not a mental one.

Dukkha then is the second dart, this “mental feeling”, which the instructed noble disciple has extinguished. It is the sorrow, grief, lamenting, and the distraught frame of mind that is dukkha, not the physical pain itself.

The Buddha’s Mental Pain

It is good to keep in mind, however, that not all pain is physical: on the Buddha’s picture there are mental as well as physical perceptions and feelings. On the passing of his two greatest disciples, the Buddha displayed what might be termed mental pain:

Bhikkhus, this assembly appears to me empty now that Sāriputta and Moggallāna have attained final Nibbāna. This assembly was not empty for me [earlier], and I had no concern for whatever quarter Sāriputta and Moggallāna were dwelling in. …

It is just as if the largest branches would break off a great tree standing possessed of heartwood: so too, bhikkhus, in the great Bhikkhu Saṅgha standing possessed of heartwood, Sāriputta and Moggallāna have attained final Nibbāna. (SN 47.14/V.164).

If physical and mental pain are consistent with the elimination of dukkha, then what is dukkha? It is the unnecessary “second dart”; the mental pain we add to physical and mental pain. It is sorrow, grief, lamenting. Now it seems that this passage from the Buddha displays sorrow, grief, and lamenting. However the passage occurs in the context of deep awareness that all things are “conditioned and subject to disintegration”, and the Buddha himself claims to be without “sorrow or lamentation”.

So again, if mental and physical pain are consistent with the elimination of dukkha, then what is dukkha? It is obsession or endless rumination. In a word, it is papañca: mental proliferation.

Mental proliferation is a subject we’ve dealt with on two occasions, in “Aiming at Nonproliferation” we saw the role of proliferation in online discussions. In “Bāhiya’s Training on Mental Obsession” we looked at the central role that proliferation plays in the Buddha’s teaching to Bāhiya of the bark-cloth. Indeed, in that sutta and its near-twin in the Saṃyutta Nikāya (35.95/IV.72-76) the Buddha makes clear that this process of eliminating papañca leads to “the end of” dukkha.

Conclusion

In the context of daily life, moment to moment existence, dukkha and papañca, or suffering and mental proliferation, are precisely the same. There is no distinction between them. When the Buddha says the aim of practice is to end dukkha, of course he does not promise to end such things as aging, illness, and death. In his own lifetime he aged, got ill, felt strong physical and mental pain, and eventually died. Seen in that context, what he aims to end is the obsessive thinking that surrounds getting what we do not want, or failing to get what we want. This rumination is brought about by our clinging to and identifying with things in the world, which gets us into the Second Noble Truth.

The complete ending of this obsession, of stress and worry over past, present, and future, is what constitutes nibbāna. For it is that which also constitutes the ending of greed and hatred, and which constitutes an understanding of the Noble Truths themselves.

Or at least that is the picture. There is, I think we can see, a little daylight between the ending of mental rumination and the ending of greed and hatred. It seems one can be (as it were) a carefree egoist or bully, not to mention a kind of psychopath. The Buddha constructed the gradual training to derail this option, by setting ethical conduct as a gateway to practice. However he also seems to have believed that unethical conduct would necessarily produce papañca in its wake, making deep meditative achievements impossible. I expect this is an overly optimistic assumption, and if so one will have to make a distinction between (as it were) a subjective experience of nibbāna as the extinguishing of papañca and an objective qualification of nibbāna as validated by right action.

I say that dukkha is papañca “in the context of moment to moment existence” because of course there is an additional way that nibbāna extinguishes dukkha‘s “birth, aging, illness, death”. Namely, on the traditional picture nibbāna is fully completed only at parinibbāna. And that is said to guarantee no future birth, aging, illness, or death; so in that sense on the traditional picture nibbāna literally does end all aspects of dukkha by ending the cycle of rebirth. On a secular picture of course that is not something we concern ourselves with. If we are engaged in ending suffering or the unsatisfactoriness of life by ending pointless rumination, that is enough to contend with.

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Blog posts on the Noble Truths:

The Second Noble Truth

The Third Noble Truth

The Fourth Noble Truth

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Bhikkhu Bodhi, Various Nikāyas (Wisdom).

Richard Gombrich, What the Buddha Thought (Equinox, 2009).

Bhikkhuni Vajira and Francis Story (trans.), ”Maha-parinibbana Sutta: Last Days of the Buddha” (DN 16). Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 30 November 2013, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.16.1-6.vaji.html .

Maurice Walshe, The Long Discourses of the Buddha (Wisdom, 1995).

No Comments

  1. Herbie on April 14, 2015 at 11:52 pm

    I don’t think that conceptual proliferation necessarily has to be an issue but that the mental attitude towards thoughts/ideas may be an issue. I mean as long as the body is living, there is arising of consciousness and therefore conceptual proliferation. It is an expression of life energy. Not investing thoughts and ideas with illusory ‘truth’ ideas lose their attractivity and conceptual proliferation decreases.
    If I look at buddhism. Isn’t buddhism manifestation of conceptual proliferation? If I compare the message to be conveyed with the number of nikayas, buddhist books, comments, teaching sessions, diversity of traditions … incredible on one hand but ordinary manifestation of life on the other hand. Manifestation of life free from meaning coinciding with awareness of necessary decay entails distraction from ‘as-it-is’ by means of fabrication of ideas. Since ideas are not really helpful and intuitively felt to be deceiving desire to stop them may arise. But why again waste energy fighting against ‘as-it-is’? So I let arise whatever there may arise but I don’t care. Life is life and will necessarily end. I enjoy the moments of ease. They come naturally, so I relax.

  2. Mark Knickelbine on April 16, 2015 at 7:35 am

    First of all, if dukkha and papañca are exactly the same, there would be no need for both terms. And, as you point out in your final paragraph, the traditional doctrine reflected in the Pali texts contains the answer to how nibbana extinguishes sickness, aging and death — by ending rebirth. Your attempt to make dukkha equal the “second dart” of the parable, while typical enough these days, radically diminishes Gotama’s message. Dukkha is not some spiritual fault that we can do away with — indeed, the desire to do so is a primary cause for our suffering. Freedom comes not from escaping dukkha but in the depth of our confrontation with it. Only by entering deeply into the suffering that is the necessary condition of human life (as Gotama said it was) can we learn to free ourselves from what Gotama tells us in the First Sermon that we can free ourselves from — namely, craving for life to be otherwise. The key to adapting the ideas of early Buddhism to the secular realm does not lie in unconsciously importing the concept of an ultimate perfectibility which we could achieve if only we’d practice hard enough. It lies in understanding that Gotama’s project was to teach us that our only freedom arises from awareness and acceptance of life as it is.

    • David S on April 16, 2015 at 8:27 am

      Mark, I’m not following what you are saying. “Your attempt to make dukkha equal the “second dart” of the parable, while typical enough these days, radically diminishes Gotama’s message.” What is diminished and why?

      “Dukkha is not some spiritual fault…” Where did you draw the notion of ‘spiritual fault’ from talk of mental pain?

      “Freedom comes not from escaping dukkha but in the depth of our confrontation with it.” How would you ‘confront’ dukkha to ease suffering? Wouldn’t however this is done also be the working with the second dart? One’s reactivity?

      I agree that the terms dukkha and papañca are not the same. They can be related to each other.

      • Mark Knickelbine on April 17, 2015 at 8:35 am

        David, if dukkha is not the painful and disappointing nature of embodied human experience, and is instead reduced to our reaction to that experience — papañca, for instance — then we can end dukkha by ending our reaction to pain and disappointment. This sounds great, and certainly resonates with the kind of final perfection the Nikayas often allude to. But if we think about it, is such a thing even conceivable, and would we want it if it were? I hope that I should never not suffer from the death of a loved one, for instance. I have chronic tendonitis in my left Achilles tendon, and even when I’m deep into my tai chi practice, it still hurts, which is good, because it reminds me to take care of it. Not only will suffering not go away, but it is a necessary thing. Just as feeling our own physical pain helps us care for ourselves, feeling — really feeling — our own and each others emotional pain provides us the compassion we need to care for one another. It is in the depths of our recognition of our common human experience — the experience of dukkha — that we find connection and joy. The dharma is not some form of mental sanitization. It is a deep engagement with life as it really is.

        • David S on April 17, 2015 at 9:48 am

          Mark, depending on what point of view I focus on, whether it is my personal view, or that of what the texts say and how I interpret them, I can speak about this sort of discussion in different ways. So in reading your comment I am left wondering how you would think ‘Gotama’s message’ isn’t diminished by your model, because now you seem to be disregarding the 4NTs aim of ending dukkha. How are you figuring 4NTs fit into your model?

          • Mark Knickelbine on April 20, 2015 at 8:54 am

            David, the quickest way to answer your question is to refer you to an article I wrote on the topic:
            https://secularbuddhism.org/?p=7871



          • David S on April 23, 2015 at 10:48 am

            Mark, I read your thoughts and can see how you are disputing many suttas descriptions of dukkha and what ceases. Disregarding the issue of defining dukkha itself, it seems to me that there is agreement as to how one can affect change through one’s mental relationship to experience, i.e. the second dart.

            I agree with your general understanding of dukkha as being an aspect of lived experience. For me, the example of the peacefulness experienced in the jhanas can be thought of as supporting such a view as well, as I’ve mentioned in my post above. And I think attachment is vastly more descriptive than just referencing volitional mental actions. It seems to me that in Buddhism there was an intellectual attempt to explain experience as a whole, but using a form of reasoning that ends up appearing as if the attachment of craving is all volitional, so that it could be said to be interceded upon and to achieve, even in this very life, its cessation.

            Now back to the issue of defining dukkha. I want to note that in your quoted text it also defines dukkha as the wanting, which is psychological. Add to this the experiential milestones of birth, sickness, aging, and death and the picture of dukkha becomes a psychophysical experience, according to your quoted text. Is one of these aspects more central than the other -the psychological or the physical? Or, is it just that one can be changed, while the other not? Then comes the question of if one changes one part of this combination does the overall experience of dukkha cease too? Or is it a bifurcated cessation with one form ceasing while another form continues on?

            Here with this question, the notion of cessation comes to the fore. With your idea that only craving ceases this too inevitably relates to one’s experience of dukkha, right? Because dukkha was also described as being the ‘wanting’, so it follows that dukkha would cease. Would it cease for once and for all? Theoretically debatable and theoretically doubtable.

            Parsing such definitions of dukkha seems to pit one’s interpretation against another’s, especially when in defense of one’s position, one bases this upon thinking one understands ‘Gotoma’s message’ more assuredly than another. I do not think your view is wrong, as you can see we have some overlapping ideas. I am just sensitive to claims of knowing what the correct interpretation is. And I do not see the reason for making a claim that one interpretation ends up being superior and another diminishing, when both work with the psychological dart.

            I haven’t been able to find the text you referenced in your article. Do you have a link that is for this text? The link in the article was not specific nor helpful in this regard.



        • Doug Smith on April 17, 2015 at 10:01 am

          Hi Mark,

          Just a quick reply. You say that physical and mental pain are essential parts of human life. That’s what I was trying to say as well by showing that even the Buddha experienced physical and mental pain in the Nikāyas.

  3. David S on April 16, 2015 at 9:14 am

    I look at how that at the time of the Buddha there was a climate of ‘cutting edge’ meditative practices that informed people’s world view, and of course there was much talk of the Brahmins beliefs with atman, permanence, etc…. Even though the meditative practices of the jhanas were said to not lead to release it appears to me that these states had a profound impact on the descriptions and concepts that formed Buddhism.

    With reports of the jhanas in the sutras, they clearly brought about experiences of states of detachment, with resultant qualities of previously unknown peace as aspects of normal consciousness went into abeyance. I suspect that these states informed how dukkha was described. With such jhannic experiences of peace average conscious experience could come to be seen as filled with agitated qualities of clinging and grasping, and that could be said to result in subtle or gross distress, dukkha. The mass of suffering….

    Such experiences of detachment could also be brought to bear in one’s relation to one’s daily experience through restraint of one’s mental reactivity, a sort of detachment, and through one’s experience and understanding to develop yet another frame of reference towards experience. How far such a development could go would depend upon, I suppose, how one developed such a frame of relationship in one’s experience.

    When I see the variety of descriptions as to the scope of the Buddha’s project towards dukkha I see descriptions poised upon meditative ideals, with dukkha being described as all pervasive, as well as, much more stratified descriptions delineating differences between daily experience of suffering and one’s reactivity. For me, the messages are intertwined in the texts and they can be interpreted as one sees most helpful.

  4. Jayarava on April 17, 2015 at 4:11 am

    A clearer explanation of the relation between dukkha and the khandhas can be found in Sue Hamilton’s book Early Buddhism: A New Approach. Sue was one of Prof Gombrich’s students and a gifted thinker.

    She shows that dukkha, khandha and loka are all synonyms for unawakened experience. It’s not that dukkha is contingent on having an experience, but that experience itself is dukkha. The khandhas are the factors of experience, and loka is the world of experience. khandhas are dukkha in microcosm and loka is dukkha in macrocosm. See esp p.73 ff.

    • Doug Smith on April 17, 2015 at 5:18 am

      Hello Jayarava,

      Yes, I am familiar with Sue Hamilton’s book. I think in general terms we are in agreement, although I do find her approach abstruse and textually removed, which is why I prefer to put things as I do.

  5. Mark Knickelbine on April 22, 2015 at 7:52 am

    Jaya’s post led me to discover that there is now a rentable Kindle edition of Sue Hamilton’s book, which I had been meaning to read but resisted paying $60 for. Her reading is that the khandas = dukkha, because dukkha is endemic to the functioning of our pre-enlightenment experiential apparatus. In keeping with the classical doctrine, she sees Gotama’s teachings about the khandas and dukkha as being intended to end the cycle of rebirth; dukkha is ended because the ending of the factors that lead to continuing experience lead to the cessation of rebirth. If we accept her reading, then, one cannot dispense with the doctrine of rebirth without dispensing with the idea that dukkha can cease. Hamilton holds that Gotama’s teaching was that we should meditate so as to thoroughly understand how the khandas operate and so relieve the suffering that occurs when we expect to find something permanent there, and I think Secular Buddhists can stop there fruitfully. But she makes very clear that “dissatisfactoriness” is a psychological reaction to dukkha — not dukkha itself.

    • Doug Smith on April 22, 2015 at 3:28 pm

      Mark, I do not read Hamilton as saying that unsatistactoriness is simply “a psychological reaction to dukkha – not dukkha itself”. It is instead the description of dukkha: “[T]he different dimensions of dukkha include a clear contrast between description (experience is unsatisfactory) and explanation (the cognitive system).”

      After spelling out her views on dukkha she then does go on to translate dukkha as “unsatisfactory”. (Both p. 89).

      She says,

      “[Dukkha] refers, first, to the psychological dimension of the unsatisfactoriness of all our pre-Enlightenment experience. We accept neither the qualitative neutrality of the impermanence of all things, nor even the fact of that impermanence; and so we continue to have desires and cravings for things we want to last and experience unsatisfactoriness because they do not last.” (pp. 88-89).

      It is this sort of thing we begin to see through in progress along the path, and so we get from a stage where our “experiencing apparatus” is dukkha to one where it is not. (Although I do not believe she gets into detail about the “not”). This may indeed go hand in hand with an ending of rebirth in the traditional picture, but it need not on a secular one.

      • Mark Knickelbine on April 23, 2015 at 10:17 am

        At Location 1697 in the Kindle edition:

        “As volitional activities operate at some level until the very last stage of the path, one can see why the totality of one’s cyclical experience can be understood in the psychological sense of unsatisfactoriness. But the associating of the khandas as a whole with dukkha, as stated above, indicates the fact of experience itself, and not just that psychological aspect of it. What the khanda analysis shows is that experience is a combination of a straightforward cognitive process together with the psychological orientation that colors it in terms of unsatisfactoriness: entwined with the value neutral cognitive process is the affective dimension of volitional activities.”

        • Doug Smith on April 23, 2015 at 10:43 am

          Hi Mark,

          Your section is on page 80 in her discussion of the role of the khandas. My citation is in the beginning of the next chapter where she summarizes her previous conclusions. Indeed, the citation on pp. 88-89 explains what she means by “the psychological sense of unsatisfactoriness”. She calls it “dukkha”, which she also terms “multidimensional”.

          Basically she’s saying that the cognitive process is “value neutral” but psychologically it is unsatisfactory (= dukkha). The reason that the khandas as a whole are called dukkha is that they explain the straightforward cognitive process by which we do not accept the way things are.

          As I say, her take is abstruse and perhaps a little fanciful which is why I prefer not to rely on Hamilton, though she does have some interesting insights.

          • Mark Knickelbine on April 24, 2015 at 9:20 am

            Precisely. The cognitive apparatus (khandas) are dukkha, which we find unsatisfactory because they cause us to posit a stable, fixed subject as well as a world of other stable and fixed objects, which then fail to live up to the implicit illusion behind namarupa. That is why it is the khandas themselves, and not our dissatisfied reaction to them, that are dukkha. She’s quite clear on this point.



          • Doug Smith on April 24, 2015 at 10:23 am

            Um no, Mark. To repeat, dukkha is the unsatisfactoriness as well as the khandas. As I quoted, for her dukkha is “multidimensional”.



          • David S on April 24, 2015 at 6:56 pm

            I do not wish to intercede between the interesting discussion here in which you are both referencing Sue Hamilton’s thoughts, which I am unfamiliar. I only wish to add a bit of my own experience here which may add a tangential and unique mix between both of your understandings.

            An aside: I really do not wish that what I want to say to be taken as dismissive of your thoughts. I am aware that what I have to say previously people on this forum have found to be objectionable and divisive. I am sorry that this has been the received as such.

            So, please be patient with me, for those who do not like my comments, I truly only wish to add to the discussion. Sorry, but I do feel apologetic today, for what ever reason, and that I that I feel today a bit hesitant to add to this topic for fear of what Mark, Doug, and others may think of my comments.

            I’d like to add commentary regarding what I consider the jhanas. In what I’ve experienced, I have found that all that we experience, all that comes to be perceived in consciousness is infused with dukkha. Consciousness seems to me to be infused with qualities of agitation. With contact, the senses experience movement, and with this the quality of agitation. Agitation itself is unsettling and therefore experienced as non-peaceful i.e. dukkha. With this, I tend to agree with Mark, at least that all that we experience with the cognitive apparatus (khandas) are perceived as having the quality of dukkha.

            Mark references dukkha as occurring because we come to posit a stable, fixed subject to experience. This makes sense to me within the conceptual framework of Buddhist thinking. Yet, for me, given my very limited experience, I come to this same understanding through the experience of having been removed from normal bodily consciousness (having the abeyance of major aspects of normal consciousness). From such an experience and its related sense of ease and equanimity, this inversely reveals how everyday consciousness is infused with what Buddhism calls dukkha.

            Take it or leave it.



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