Arahants have no dukkha, but apparently have daratha - negative sensory/homeostatic affect?

It seems clear that arahants are free from dukkha, having completed the Noble Eightfold Path. And yet we know that they can have old age, sickness, and death. I propose that dukkha, in the context of what is ended by the Noble Eightfold Path, is emotional suffering, that is to say, negative emotional affect.

So what is daratha? Ajahn Sujato translates it (at least some places) as stress; Jonathan S. Walters as distress; Laurence Khantipalo Mills as anxiety.

Please note that anxiety is very specifically negative emotional affect.

(In neuroscience it is said that there are 3 types of affect - homeostatic; sensory; and emotional. I have found that distinguishing between these can be very useful when reading the Buddha’s teachings.)

It seems to me that daratha may actually not be emotional at all. In MN 149, we see daratha given in a sequence, preceding dukkha. This seems to show that daratha can arise potentially without dukkha arising, since it exists prior to dukkha:

Their physical and mental stress,
Tassa kāyikāpi darathā pavaḍḍhanti, cetasikāpi darathā pavaḍḍhanti;

kāyikāpi santāpā pavaḍḍhanti, cetasikāpi santāpā pavaḍḍhanti;

and fever grow.
kāyikāpi pariḷāhā pavaḍḍhanti, cetasikāpi pariḷāhā pavaḍḍhanti.

And they experience physical and mental suffering.
So kāyadukkhampi cetodukkhampi paṭisaṃvedeti.

MN 121 tells us that arahants experience ‘a modicum of daratha’, which is specifically ‘associated with the six sense fields dependent on this body and conditioned by life.’ This suggests to me that daratha may refer specifically to negative sensory affects (and I would say also negative homeostatic affects). This is a different category of affect, as understood by neuroscience.

They understand: ‘Rebirth is ended, the spiritual journey has been completed, what had to be done has been done, there is no return to any state of existence.’
‘Khīṇā jāti, vusitaṃ brahmacariyaṃ, kataṃ karaṇīyaṃ, nāparaṃ itthattāyā’ti pajānāti.

They understand:
So evaṃ pajānāti:

‘Here there is no stress due to the defilements of sensuality, desire to be reborn, or ignorance.
‘ye assu darathā kāmāsavaṃ paṭicca tedha na santi, ye assu darathā bhavāsavaṃ paṭicca tedha na santi, ye assu darathā avijjāsavaṃ paṭicca tedha na santi, atthi cevāyaṃ darathamattā yadidaṃ—

There is only this modicum of stress, namely that associated with the six sense fields dependent on this body and conditioned by life.
imameva kāyaṃ paṭicca saḷāyatanikaṃ jīvitapaccayā’ti.

However, MN 149 seems to say arahants don’t even have daratha:

And their craving—which leads to future rebirth, mixed up with relishing and greed, looking for enjoyment in various different realms—is given up.
Taṇhā cassa ponobbhavikā nandīrāgasahagatā tatratatrābhinandinī, sā cassa pahīyati.

Their physical and mental stress,
Tassa kāyikāpi darathā pahīyanti, cetasikāpi darathā pahīyanti;

kāyikāpi santāpā pahīyanti, cetasikāpi santāpā pahīyanti;

and fever are given up.
kāyikāpi pariḷāhā pahīyanti, cetasikāpi pariḷāhā pahīyanti.

And they experience physical and mental pleasure.
So kāyasukhampi cetosukhampi paṭisaṃvedeti.

Well, perhaps we can explain the conflict (unless anyone can give insight to developments of these conflicting positions in the canon) by judging that to be an exaggeration. Just as some say they have become free from illness. Sure, I think if you’re an arahant then you’re less suceptiple to illness, I think that’s something jhāna does, which goes some way to explain that. And we have examples of sick arahants, like the Buddha for example. So that seems clear to be an exxageration. We don’t seem to have any example of any arahants having dukkha, however, so that would seem to be definitively gone.

Now, here is a case where it seems to very much support my idea of daratha being negative sensory/homeostatic affect. AN 5.194

In this sutta we have a set of analogies Piṅgiyānī uses to explain why he praises the Buddha. The examples are comparing the Buddha’s teachings to:

  • tasting the best tasting food. Weak with hunger enjoying sweet taste of honey-cake.
    Leads to: whatever it may be, whether statements, songs, discussions, or amazing stories—
    yadi suttaso, yadi geyyaso, yadi veyyākaraṇaso, yadi abbhutadhammaso—
    then you get a sense of uplift, a confidence of the heart.
    tato tato labhateva attamanataṃ, labhati cetaso pasādaṃ.

  • delicious fragrance of sandalwood.
    Leads to: whatever it may be, whether statements, songs, discussions, or amazing stories—yadi suttaso, yadi geyyaso, yadi veyyākaraṇaso, yadi abbhutadhammaso— then you become filled with joy and happiness. tato tato adhigacchati pāmojjaṃ adhigacchati somanassaṃ.

cured ‘on the spot’ from sickness by a doctor
Leads to: whatever it may be, whether statements, songs, discussions, or amazing stories—yadi suttaso, yadi geyyaso, yadi veyyākaraṇaso, yadi abbhutadhammaso— then you make an end of sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress.
tato tato sokaparidevadukkhadomanassupāyāsā abbhatthaṃ gacchanti.

So far, two of these examples are people suffering from negative homeostatic affects - hunger and illness - both of which are accompanied by negative sensory affects (weakness, pain etc.); while one example gives no mention of problems. Two then have the experience of positive sensory affects - pleasant taste and smell; and the other has the sudden release from negative sensory/homeostatic affect, by curing the illness.

Then we have the one we are most interested in:

Suppose there was a lotus pond with clear, sweet, cool water, clean, with smooth banks, delightful.
Seyyathāpi, bho, pokkharaṇī acchodakā sātodakā sītodakā setakā supatitthā ramaṇīyā.

Then along comes a person struggling in the oppressive heat, weary, thirsty, and parched.
Atha puriso āgaccheyya ghammābhitatto ghammapareto kilanto tasito pipāsito.

They’d plunge into the lotus pond to bathe and drink. And all their stress, weariness, and heat exhaustion would die down.
So taṃ pokkharaṇiṃ ogāhetvā nhātvā ca pivitvā ca sabbadarathakilamathapariḷāhaṃ paṭippassambheyya.

In the same way, when you hear the ascetic Gotama’s teaching—
Evamevaṃ kho, bho, yato yato tassa bhoto gotamassa dhammaṃ suṇāti—

whatever it may be, whether statements, songs, discussions, or amazing stories—
yadi suttaso, yadi geyyaso, yadi veyyākaraṇaso, yadi abbhutadhammaso—

then all your stress, weariness, and exhaustion die down.”
tato tato sabbadarathakilamathapariḷāhā paṭippassambhantī”ti.

Please note the same pattern - struggling in the oppressive heat, weary, thirsty, and parched - these are all examples of negative sensory affect, possibly accompanied by negative homeostatic affect. Following that is the pleasant relieve from that by the cooling waters - again, positive sensory affect.

Now, in light of the specifically sensory-homeostatic nature of the problematic situation, consider the meaning of “all your stress (daratha), weariness, and exhaustion die down”. This context seems to strongly imply that this daratha is negative sensory or both sensory and homeostatic affect.

So I wonder that we might accept that arahants can have no dukkha but can have daratha. And that daratha is specifically not including any kind of negative emotional affect. Does anyone have any reason to not assume that daratha is therefore a type of, or the whole category of, negative sensory(/+homeostatic) affect?

There are few other occurences of daratha, so far as I could find from my search. I’ve tried to make this as systematic as I could with limited time but if anyone can shed more light, please do.

[Also, I wasn’t sure if this type of post should go in Essays, Discussion, or Translations - sorry if I made the wrong choice!?]


The duty associated with the third noble truth is that the cessation of stress is to be directly experIenced:

"Sensing a feeling of pleasure, he senses it disjoined from it. Sensing a feeling of pain, he senses it disjoined from it. Sensing a feeling of neither-pleasure-nor-pain, he senses it disjoined from it. This is called a well-instructed disciple of the noble ones disjoined from birth, aging, & death; from sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs. He is disjoined, I tell you, from suffering & stress.

“This is the difference, this the distinction, this the distinguishing factor between the well-instructed disciple of the noble ones and the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person.”—SN 36.6, “The Arrow”, Thanissaro


By stress, you are referring to daratha? (Perhaps you can provide the Pāli?)

From the English, this is not saying there is no stress, just as it is not saying there is no ‘feeling of pain’. It’s just saying that it is ‘sensed disjointed from it’. Perhaps even some kind of dissociation - perhaps the Pāli reveals some specifics, I don’t know, but anyway there seems to be no mentoin of cessation here at all.

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In MN149 both daratha and dukkha have ceased for the Arahant. For the Arahant unpleasant vedana does not lead to dukkha because there is no aversion or resistance to those feelings ( see Arrow Sutta). “Disjoined” from suffering and stress means separate from it, or no longer subject to its effects.

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Yes, as I said in the OP:

But also don’t forget that elsewhere we have arahants who specifically do have daratha. Though to my knowledge, no example of arahants having dukkha.

Which is to say, they experience unpleasant vedana.

It apparently means that the are experiencing it. Even with your English here, the stress still exists.

And yes the sutta about the arrow, I also thought about this. And it might be, for example, that daratha is a first arrow, dukkha a second arrow, the emotional suffering that is extra, arising after - in response to - daratha.


If you check the Pali for the Arrow Sutta you will see that both arrows include dukkha ( physical for the first arrow and mental for the second). Possibly not being struck by the second arrow is an intermediate stage for the “noble disciple” ie the cessation of mental dukkha. Then for the Arahant physical dukkha also ceases. Note that there is still unpleasant physical and mental vedana for the Arahant. Dukkha seems to be something added, due to our aversion and resistance to the unpleasant. That feeling of pushing away the unpleasant, not wanting it, wanting it be over. Its difficult because to some extent this pushing away is an instinctive response, almost a biological one.

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Enthusiastically agree without argument.

Also propose that there is no conflict even with MN149 since all arahants can cause physical and mental processes to cease and can thereby escape from daratha anytime they choose via Right Immersion. All three processes cease with deep immersion (MN44).

But ma’am, which cease first for a mendicant who is entering the cessation of perception and feeling: physical, verbal, or mental processes?

Verbal processes cease first, then physical, then mental.


On another thread I have proposed that there may be two different uses of the term dukkha, one being the technical meaning referring to negative emotional affect; the other more general term referring to things including negative sensory affect (which would be accompanied by negative emotional affect, the second arrow, by ordinary people). See here for my extensive comment on that, but perhaps we can keep discussion going here on our topic. Here’s how my discussion starts:

This may explain why dukkha is in some places actually defined as physically painful things:
MN 141 tells us:

And what is pain?
Katamañcāvuso, dukkhaṃ?

Physical pain, physical displeasure, the painful, unpleasant feeling that’s born from physical contact.
Yaṃ kho, āvuso, kāyikaṃ dukkhaṃ kāyikaṃ asātaṃ kāyasamphassajaṃ dukkhaṃ asātaṃ vedayitaṃ,

This is called pain.
idaṃ vuccatāvuso: ‘dukkhaṃ’.

If there is only one usage of the term dukkha, this totally contradicts the Four Noble Truths and the whole idea that arahantship is the end of dukkha, which doesn’t make sense. So this idea of two meanings solves that, also explains the two arrows teaching, and explains why arahants are never said to have dukkha, even though they do have physical pain and therefore have what I am proposing is the common, non-technical usage of the term for those who are unaware of the two arrows being separate (though connected) processes.


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I just come back to the second Noble Truth. Nibbana means cessation of tanha, and cessation of tanha means cessation of dukkha. Therefore Nibbana means cessation of dukkha.

Yes, for me it is also clear like you said. That’s why I am so interested in examining the difference between sensory and emotional affects. Dukkha is in places talked about as if it is the same as negative sensory affect, like in what I quoted above in MN 141. Daratha seems to be specifically negative sensory/homeostatic affect, and arahants have daratha according to some texts. And the Buddha had physical pain - negative sonsory affect. So this leads me to defining the dukkha that arahants eliminate as being negative emotional affect. This would seem to be supported by other things to, such as the opposite of dukkha being sukha, and sukha is positive emotional affect.