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Apparent contradiction of SN 5.10 and SN 22.60 on suffering


#1

There seems a contradiction between SN 5.10 and SN 22.60 on suffering,

SN 5.10, last verse, Ven. Sujato translation
But it’s only suffering that comes to be,
lasts a while, then disappears.
Naught but suffering comes to be,
naught but suffering ceases.

First two line of the verse is similar with “if impermanent (anicca) then suffering (dukkha)” formula, however last two line of the verse seems to imply that what comes to be (and ceases) is exclusively suffering. While SN 22.60 state otherwise.

SN 22.60, Ven. Sujato translation
Mahāli, if form were exclusively painful—soaked and steeped in pain and not steeped in pleasure—sentient beings wouldn’t lust after it. But because form is pleasurable—soaked and steeped in pleasure and not steeped in pain—sentient beings do lust after it. Since they lust after it, they’re caught up in it, and so they become corrupted. This is a cause and condition for the corruption of sentient beings. This is how sentient beings are corrupted with cause and reason.

What do you think?


#2

It would be great to know how ajahns @brahmali and @sujato harmonize both texts. Hence I am tagging them here. :wink:


#3

According to Buddhist teaching there are three types of Dukkha.
Dukkha dukha, Viparinama Dukkha and Samsara Dukkha
Pleasusrable feelings comes under Samsara Dukkha I suppose.
According to Buddhist teaching any feeling is Dukkha associated with it.
Two Sutta reference to OP are:


#4

I think I’m not seeing a contradiction given that delight is the root of suffering (mn1/en/bodhi).

We are conditioned to grab the delightful end of the stick that always wacks us. Delight is suffering. As soon as something is perceived as delight, it is suffering and impermanent. Before something is perceived as delight it just is itself.


#5

My conclusion is that, yes, the passages are straightforwardly contradictory.


#6

There’s emotional suffering and the insight of suffering (dukkha sacca). Emotional suffering isn’t pervasive. It happens due to attachment. The insight of suffering (dukkha would be a better term) is seen when phenomena (aggregates etc) are seen to be anicca in the present moment. All phenomena is anicca, therefore unsatisfactory. The first quote is about phenomena. The second quote is about transient emotions.


#7

Perhaps it is not so bad, by SN 35.136

Those who see,
contradict the whole world.

But isn’t the point of “if anicca then dukkha” is to connect transient phenomena with suffering (as emotion)? if it were so, then “dukkha” would still means “suffering (emotion)” in both quote.

Reading “The ātman and its negation” by Alexander Wynne, i find slightly different translation of the last verse of Vajira Sutta.

Only suffering (dukkham eva) comes into existence,
and only suffering endures.
Nothing apart from suffering comes into existence,
and nothing apart from suffering ceases to exist

In this translation, last two line of the verse imply what comes to be (and ceases) is connected to suffering (contrast exclusively suffering). This reading present no contradiction with Mahali Sutta, and roughly agree with


#8

All phenomena are impermanent, happiness included. At an emotional level the ending of sadness should be satisfactory, yet the teachings say all phenomena that is anicca is suffering (this was used recently to give an alternative meaning to the word anicca erroneously, incidentally).

When talking about suffering the texts often talk about the aggregates or the senses bases, in terms of anicca. These are phenomena that are experienced after the development of one’s abilities of mindfulness and samadhi.

“Mendicants, I say that the ending of defilements is for one who knows and sees, not for one who does not know or see. For one who knows and sees what? ‘Such is form, such is the origin of form, such is the ending of form. Such is feeling … Such is perception … Such are choices … Such is consciousness, such is the origin of consciousness, such is the ending of consciousness.’ The ending of the defilements is for one who knows and sees this.

I say that this knowledge of ending has a vital condition, it doesn’t lack a vital condition. And what is it? You should say: ‘Freedom.’ I say that freedom has a vital condition, it doesn’t lack a vital condition. And what is it? You should say: ‘Dispassion.’ I say that dispassion has a vital condition. And what is it? You should say: ‘Disillusionment.’ I say that disillusionment has a vital condition. And what is it? You should say: ‘Truly knowing and seeing.’ I say that truly knowing and seeing has a vital condition. And what is it? You should say: ‘Immersion.’ I say that immersion has a vital condition.

And what is it? You should say: ‘Bliss.’ I say that bliss has a vital condition. And what is it? You should say: ‘Tranquility.’ I say that tranquility has a vital condition. And what is it? You should say: ‘Rapture.’ I say that rapture has a vital condition. And what is it? You should say: ‘Joy.’ I say that joy has a vital condition. And what is it? You should say: ‘Faith.’ I say that faith has a vital condition.

Furthermore the suttas mostly show suffering as a result of existence as below:

I say that faith has a vital condition. And what is it? You should say: ‘Suffering.’ I say that suffering has a vital condition. And what is it? You should say: ‘Rebirth.’ I say that rebirth has a vital condition. And what is it? You should say: ‘Continued existence.’ I say that continued existence has a vital condition. And what is it? You should say: ‘Grasping.’ I say that grasping has a vital condition. And what is it? You should say: ‘Craving.’ I say that craving has a vital condition. And what is it? You should say: ‘Feeling.’ SuttaCentral


#9

In this example, sadness (as emotion) is the phenomena.
Arising of sadness, enduring of sadness is fit to be regarded as suffering.
by Mahali Sutta, 5 aggregate contain happiness and suffering, though deny the 5 aggregate is
exclusively happiness/suffering.

I thought the suttas mostly regard suffering as result of craving?

Craving is the source of suffering. SuttaCentral


#10

After reading Mahali Sutta again, it actually say that to regard 5 aggregate as exclusively suffering result in disillusioned, desire fades away, and purified. While to regard 5 aggregate as exclusively happiness result in corruption.
Perhaps there is no contradiction after all.


#11

We should really expect such apparent contradictions. An important point of the Dhamma is to distinguish between the experience of the ordinary person and someone who is awakened. The passage at SN 22.60 refers to the experience of the ordinary person, whereas the one at SN 5.10 refers to the experience of noble people. These two will have to be radically different, almost by definition. Here is an expression of that difference:

Yaṃ pare sukhato āhu,
Tadariyā āhu dukkhato;
Yaṃ pare dukkhato āhu,
Tadariyā sukhato vidū.

What others see as happiness,
The noble ones see as suffering;
What others see as suffering,
The noble ones see as happiness. (Snp. 767)

One way of understanding this is to apply the distinction mentioned by @SarathW1, where the ordinary person only sees the first of three kinds of suffering, dukkha-dukkha (the suffering of pain), but not (or only partially) the viparināma-dukkha (the suffering due to change) and certainly not saṅkhāra-dukkha (the suffering of conditioned phenomena). In other words, although an experience may be felt as pleasant, it is still suffering from a higher point of view. The pleasure is compromised by our attachment to it and the consequent fear of losing it, etc.

Another way of understanding the difference between the two is found in MN 75, where sensual happiness is described as a delusion. You think it is pleasant, when in fact it is not. To find real happiness you need to go beyond sensuality.


#12

Thank you bhante. :anjal:


#13

The different levels of dukkha are certainly key here, and employing the same term masks the strong inherent differences between the concepts. Obviously it was for pedagogic reasons that so different phenomena were put under the one header ‘dukkha’.

Arguably, Early Buddhism would look very differently if there was not the sramanic view of endless past rebirths and potentially endless future rebirths behind it. If there was a system of a) creation of subjectivity b) rebirth-existence for a limited time c) end of subjectivity, the dukkha framework would loose its punch line.

Here’s an example: Becoming a rock-star, signing a label, going on tour, selling millions of albums, doing the whole sex-drugs-creativity lifestyle feels while it happens to the individual a dream come true, soaked in pleasure. But for an old music producer who has seen dozens of bands come and go, each one feeling pretty much the same, thinking they found the formula of success, they just see the invariable crash and the delusion of it, how stupid it is to feel special, the repetitiveness and formulaic nature of it. Seeing it from the outside and with the experienced view that sees the coming and going they’re disillusioned about it.

Seeing the up and down in this repetitive way is something like the Buddhist ‘divine eye’, the specific knowledge that comes with enlightenment where one sees the endless chain of rebirths, each restarting and not learning from past mistakes…

This kind of dukkha transcends mere “not-getting-what-one-wants” dukkha, it’s a cosmic dukkha which can only be cured by completely stepping out of it, because literally anything else would be part of the delusional ignorance.

But take away this cosmic element of endless rebirth and you get a different story altogether, which is why secular Buddhism has, in my opinion, a lot of reinvention to do in order to deliver a similar punch.


#14

If we look at our past repeated acts, or cross- sectionally, repetitive acts of those around us, we could have a glimpse of the futility of it.


#15

Walking meditation repeatedly on the same path listening to same sutta does seem quite the exercise in futility. However, the neighbors, the police and I all do now seem more content with it.


#16

It might seem that regarding the five aggregates as either satisfactory or unsatisfactory to reach a specified goal (enlightenment) is a perceptive technique. I guess there comes a point in suffering where we decide to continue the suffering or change. This requires a intellectual appreciation of the Four Noble truths, and a need to deepen this wisdom.


#17

Contentment with what is, leads to an equanimous feeling. Equanimous feelings, hide delusion. Of course keeping people around one calm has many beneficial effects on one’s own mental states and is a skill worthwhile acquiring. My actions, content and tone of voice, attitude, defilements, world and view all play a role.


#18

So if “naught but suffering comes to be” (SN5.10), then how is cession of dukkha possible? Why doesn’t this statement apply to the Arahant?


#19

Don’t forget the next line:

Naught but suffering comes to be,
naught but suffering ceases.
SuttaCentral


#20

I know, but it doesn’t change the question I posed.
If there is nothing but dukkha, then how is the cessation of dukkha possible?