Are rebirth, old age etc. 'dukkha'? Or, merely *characterised* by dukkha?

I’ve been away from the forum since early February, when I asked a question in a topic but since then the topic was closed down. This seems a highly significant question with wide implications, so, seems worthy of creating this topic on. My question was regarding this passage:

Rebirth is suffering; old age is suffering; death is suffering; sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress are suffering; association with the disliked is suffering; separation from the liked is suffering; not getting what you wish for is suffering. In brief, the five grasping aggregates are suffering.

Jātipi dukkhā, jarāpi dukkhā, maraṇampi dukkhaṃ, sokaparidevadukkhadomanassupāyāsāpi dukkhā, appiyehi sampayogopi dukkho, piyehi vippayogopi dukkho, yampicchaṃ na labhati tampi dukkhaṃ, saṃkhittena pañcupādānakkhandhā dukkhā—

I have considered that either the suttas talk about dukkha in two separate ways, with differing domains of meaning (which would not be unusual for Pāli); or, there may be an issue with the interpretation of this passage.

Regarding the latter, I’m interested to know more about the grammar of this passage, so would much appreciate input from anyone with good Pāli skills. So, is there any other possible interpretation of this passage? I’m not asking if there is any other interpretation that’s been proposed or any that’s been accepted. I’m asking more broadly - simply by the grammar, is there any other possible interpretation of this passage, based on the rules of grammar, if we ignore all received interpretation?

For example, could something like this be possible?

Rebirth: suffering; old age: suffering; death: suffering;
Jātipi dukkhā, jarāpi dukkhā, maraṇampi dukkhaṃ,

If such English could be possible based on the Pāli, then this could be interpreted as being based on a doctrine that rebirth etc. lead to suffering. Or are characterised by suffering. And, that doesn’t necessarily mean that there is no such thing as no suffering, under these conditions. Such that the Buddha might still ‘get what he didn’t wish for’ (such as noisy surroundings, which he tended to like to avoid), but not experience dukkha. Or he could even experience old age and death, but without dukkha. In fact he even experienced dukkha’s antonym, sukha, while in jhāna as he was dying.

@Brahmali replied:

This sentence is as simple as a Pali sentence gets. Here it is:

Abhinibbatti kho, āvuso, dukkhā, anabhinibbatti sukhā.

There are two phases: Abhinibbatti dukkhā and anabhinibbatti sukhā. Both of these are what is sometimes called equational sentences of the type A is B: Abhinibbatti is dukkhā and anabhinibbatti is sukhā. There is no grammar to speak of.

In any case, in the context of the Dhamma of the suttas this is hardly a surprising statement. It fits in squarely with everything else.

@Brahmali I would love to hear more about this if you have the time to share. For example, @sujato’s translation of this passage is:

Rebirth is suffering, reverend, no rebirth is happiness.

Examining this logically, it seems nonsensical to me. I will explain why. Sukha is an emotional affect. If you die, and are not reborn, you cannot experience any emotional affect at all - neither dukkha nor sukha. There is no dukkha, sure. But that’s because there is no subject! And therefore no sukha also.

I can see a counterargument to this, since in this particular sutta, sukha is given a negative definition. Though this also seems very strange to me, as sukha generally seems to me in my admittedly limited understanding, to be specifically the presence of something - namely, a specific positive emotional affect.

I also note that this sutta has no parallels listed, in which case, can we even consider it an Early Buddhist Text? If not, perhaps we should not be relying on this sutta…

So, returning to the actual passage I was questioning, “Jātipi dukkhā, jarāpi dukkhā, maraṇampi dukkhaṃ…”, could @Brahmali or @sujato or any other Pāli expert here give a clear analysis of what the exact possibilities are for the meaning of this passage? Specifically, if we abandon all learned understanding of the meaning, and rely only on cold Pāli grammatical analysis, what are the parameters of possible interpretations? And, does my above proposal fit within the parameters derived from such a cold analytical analysis of the language?

Again, I find it crucial to consider the Buddha and arahants in general. If we insist that old age = dukkha, then we must insist that the Buddha was not free from dukkha, that he in fact did not achieve the cessation of dukkha when he became enlightened. So, is this the position of the Early Buddhist texts - that the Buddha’s post enlightenment life was characterised by dukkha? I have the sense that this is not the case, but welcome being corrected (hopefully with supporting evidence!)

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Regarding the feeling of pleasure in awakening:

"I have heard that on one occasion Ven. Sariputta was staying near Rajagaha in the Bamboo Grove, the Squirrels’ Feeding Sanctuary. There he said to the monks, “This Unbinding is pleasant, friends. This Unbinding is pleasant.”

When this was said, Ven. Udayin said to Ven. Sariputta, "But what is the pleasure here, my friend, where there is nothing felt?

“Just that is the pleasure here, my friend: where there is nothing felt.”—AN 9.34


Yes, indeed! Are you therefore agreeing with my proposed position, that the position/interpretation no rebirth = sukha, and old age = dukkha, does not make sense?

I think this where you go wrong. Sukha can be “an emotional affect”, but not necessarily so.


There’s 3 types of Dukkhas. As Buddhas are arahants too, the post I made makes it clear of which types of dukkha is still experienced by arahants, and which is not. In general physical suffering still exist because the body is still here, mental suffering doesn’t.

Dukkha in the broadest term refers to all suffering, mental and physical. Nibbana with remainders (arahants who are still alive) only have no more mental suffering, they still suffer physically.

In terms of Nibbana is the highest happiness, in that sense sukha should be understood with regards to nibbana. Sukha does have a more technical terminology tied with cessation of sukha at attainment of 4th Jhana, that’s not the sukha which is referred to when discussing about Nibbana as the highest happiness. So many words has many meanings. One has to look at the context to see the right meaning which makes sense.

The mind tends to operate in a rigid dichotomy way . That is the nature of thoughts . Wisdom however are able to pierce through this illusive separation . But the logical mind are not ready to accept it hence the duality . If mental sufferings are gone , physical suffering is irrelevant , right ? If physical sufferings are negligible , mental suffering then is irrelevant . However , mental sufferings appears related to cerebral , it seems it isnt totally mental after all !

This is admittedly a slightly tangential reply (click on the link to read it), but it speaks to the ‘absence of suffering/stress’ as being a source of happiness/relief >Sukha, and thus might shed some light on your question.

Regarding this, one of my favourite suttas is from Itivuttaka - 73, which speaks directly to the peace and joy of cessation, over and above that to be found in either the form or formless realms; ie there is still dukkha/stress to be found in all realms, until cessation/pari-nibbana.

With metta :slightly_smiling_face: :sunflower:


Thanks @Brahmali , sounds interesting. Could you elaborate? And perhaps give examples in sutta contexts where it is clear that the word carried a different meaning?

I read your post but not all of the responses. I did not see any evidence of arahants experiencing dukkha. Do you have any early sutta references where it specifically reports any arahant experiencing dukkha?

I will explain the reasoning behind my question. Let’s take this quote which someone provided on your post:

“Monks, there are these three kinds of suffering.[1] What three? Suffering caused by pain,[2] suffering caused by the formations (or conditioned existence),[3] suffering due to change.[4] It is for the full comprehension, clear understanding, ending and abandonment of these three forms of suffering that the Noble Eightfold Path is to be cultivated…”—SN 45.165

Ah, as I paste that I can see they’re using accesstoinsight as source. I will provide Sujato’s:

The suffering inherent in painful feeling; the suffering inherent in conditions; and the suffering inherent in perishing.
Dukkhadukkhatā, saṅkhāradukkhatā, vipariṇāmadukkhatā—
These are the three forms of suffering.
imā kho, bhikkhave, tisso dukkhatā.

The difference is interesting. Sujato’s English tells the dukkha as being inherent in the phenomena. Whereas Walshe’s translation does not - he gives the phenomena as causing dukkha - that’s quite different.

Is Walshe’s translation categorically wrong? Impossible from the grammar? If not, I suggest this hypothesis:
In ordinary experience, these 3 categories of experience lead to the mental generation of dukkha. But, it is possible to train your mind such that it does not produce dukkha in response to these 3 categories of phenomena.

If we find claims in the early suttas that the Buddha and arahants are free from dukkha, this would support this analysis. On the other hand, if we find reports in the early suttas of arahants or the buddha specifically being said to have dukkha, this would counter this position. But I know of no such evidence. So, can anyone provide any?

I have personally never seen the physical pain of any arahant or the Buddha being referred to as dukkha, in the early texts. I do not deny they can experience physical pain, but from studying the texts, so far it seems that dukkha in the context of the path, specifically refers to negative emotional affect. That’s my point. If we assume that physical pain devoid of any emotional pain (which is not at all normal for non-arahants) = dukkha, then when we read of the Buddha having pain, we assume he is experiencing dukkha. That we would be in danger of projecting our preconception onto the texts. This is why I am insisting on evidence.

And if we can find no example in the early texts of the term ‘dukkha’ being applied to the experience of any arahant (including the Buddha), then this would make my case very strong - such evidence should be entirely unexpected if the correct interpretation is that the Buddha was teaching that arahants do in fact still have dukkha.

Nibbāna is the extinguishing of the 3 fires. Two of which are specifically negative emotional affects (greed and hatred), the other (ignorance) having a causal relation to those two. And the Buddha and the arahants, who have extinguished those fires, are characterised by positive emotional affect, such as calm contentedness, happiness, compassion, and so on, and having no negative emotional affect (getting angry, being jealous, etc.). Therefore it is no surprise to me that nibbāna can be described as ‘the highest happiness’.

Maybe not irrelevant from the practical perspective - the pain from being burned or breaking a bone is extremely useful! And best not ignored! But, from the perspective of ‘suffering’, yes indeed, this is where we realise that in fact ‘pain’ and ‘suffering’ are not synonymous, as we may have always thought. And this gives a totally different perspective on these two related but not synonymous categories of experience. One can have physical pain in the total absence of mental suffering! But that is not normally experienced, since it generally requires relinquishing grasping and fully embracing acceptance of ‘things as they are’. Due to the rarity of such mental position, many people don’t even believe it’s possible - but it is.

That depends what you mean by ‘mind’ - I don’t take ‘citta’ to be limited to the cerebral, for example! But let’s look at the definition of ‘cerebral’:

of or relating to the brain or the intellect

Well, when I’m saying mind, I’m certainly not talking about the intellect. But as for the brain - Jaak Panksepp, founder of the field of Affective Science, found that all mammals have at least 7 hard wired pathways in the brain for specific emotional affects. One of which concerns love, which I’m sure will be associated with mettā, for example. So, this certainly doesn’t exclude the brain!

With regard to positive emotional affect, I think it’s also relevant to consider that even after enlightenment, the Buddha spent much of his time by himself deliberately mentally generating positive affect, in jhāna. It seems to have been his favourite thing to do.

Thanks, I’ll quote from that sutta:

Having directly experienced the deathless element,
Kāyena amatadhātuṁ,
free of attachments;
phusayitvā nirūpadhiṁ;
having realised relinquishment
of attachments, the undefiled
sacchikatvā anāsavo;
fully awakened Buddha teaches
Deseti sammāsambuddho,
the sorrowless, stainless state.”
asokaṁ virajaṁ padan”ti.

This doesn’t sound to me like a man experiencing dukkha, even though living in conditioned existence, and experiencing change. Unless he is saying that his life in characterised by dukkha except for the time he spends sitting in meditation absorbed in the amatadhātu. And if that were the case, it should only be natural that that was made explicit. Which brings us back to the crucial question - where is the Buddha or any arahant ever described as experiencing dukkha, which should permeate their lives for all the time they are not meditating on the amatadhātu?

Here is a good one from MN 59:

‘The ascetic Gotama spoke of the cessation of perception and feeling, and he includes it in happiness. What’s up with that?’

When wanderers who follow other paths say this, you should say to them, ‘Reverends, when the Buddha describes what’s included in happiness, he’s not just referring to pleasant feeling. The Realized One describes pleasure as included in happiness wherever it’s found, and in whatever context.’”

‘saññāvedayitanirodhaṁ samaṇo gotamo āha; tañca sukhasmiṁ paññapeti.
Tayidaṁ kiṁsu, tayidaṁ kathaṁsū’ti?

Evaṁvādino, ānanda, aññatitthiyā paribbājakā evamassu vacanīyā: ‘na kho, āvuso, bhagavā sukhaṁyeva vedanaṁ sandhāya sukhasmiṁ paññapeti; api ca, āvuso, yattha yattha sukhaṁ upalabbhati yahiṁ yahiṁ taṁ taṁ tathāgato sukhasmiṁ paññapetī’”ti.

And here is AN 9.34 again:

“Extinguishment is bliss!”

When he said this, Venerable Udāyī said to him,
“But Reverend Sāriputta, what’s blissful about it, since nothing is felt?”

“The fact that nothing is felt is precisely what’s blissful about it.”

“Sukhamidaṁ, āvuso, nibbānan”ti.

Evaṁ vutte, āyasmā udāyī āyasmantaṁ sāriputtaṁ etadavoca:
“kiṁ panettha, āvuso sāriputta, sukhaṁ yadettha natthi vedayitan”ti?

“Etadeva khvettha, āvuso, sukhaṁ yadettha natthi vedayitaṁ.”

I suppose you could summarize these as the absence of suffering being happiness, which in this case means that the absence of feeling is preferable to feeling of any kind. This explains why the end rebirth is considered as happiness.


SN 4.13 ?

On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Rajagaha in the Maddakucchi Deer Park. Now on that occasion the Blessed One’s foot had been cut by a stone splinter. Severe pains assailed the Blessed One—bodily feelings that were painful, racking, sharp, piercing, harrowing, disagreeable. But the Blessed One endured them, mindful and clearly comprehending, without becoming distressed.


I think you’re suffering from the transition from the fairy tale we tell beginners to what the Buddha actually taught.

First off, dukkha, suffering is used to include physical as well as mental sufferings. In the first discourse, the Buddha very clearly laid this down. Birth, old age, illness, and death are sufferings. Granted all these are physical things thus dukkha includes physical suffering. Second evidence, on the second discourse on not self. Is form permanent or impermanent? Impermanent. Is what’s impermanent suffering or not. Suffering. Form is very clearly not mental. Thus physical form of any kind is characterised by suffering because it’s impermanent. These should be sufficient to establish that the aim of Buddha to end all dukkhas is not merely mental sufferings, but death itself, it includes all physical sufferings. And the final liberation is at the death of arahants to be liberated from all physical sufferings due to no more rebirth. The enlightenment while still alive already got ended mental sufferings for the arahants.

Second, the usual fairy tale we have to tell beginners is usually that dukkha is mental suffering. Why? Because they might not have basis in faith in rebirth and the noble 8fold path yet. So if they think that life is suffering, they may go into depression due to not knowing the path to end suffering, or that they may try to kill themselves seeing no joy in living, due to no faith in rebirth. Only once people got faith in rebirth and know roughly the noble 8fold path, it’s safer to tell them that life is dukkha. Samsara is dukkha. Dukkha means physical and mental sufferings. You seem to be stuck with dukkha means only mental suffering. So here’s the growing in the dhamma tip. Drop that.

Third, this shift of viewpoint is important as the goal is sightly shifted. As most beginners see Buddhism is merely a set of tools for them to use to as you said: “train your mind such that it does not produce dukkha in response”. That’s a kid’s level. The proper adult level of seeing and understanding suffering is that samsara is inherently suffering. There’s nothing in samsara worth it at all to delight in. Thus the mind turns away from samsara to nibbana. Dispassion arises, liberation happens. To be liberated from samsara, the goal is to see samsara is suffering. Then the mind doesn’t crave for samsara at all.

It’s not to train the mind to become a person who can live as a theoretical immortal and enjoy samsara like heaven. That’s using Buddhism to seek delight in samsara. If you got this notion of how good it would be if one attains to become arahant, then got a tech fix to be young and immortal (at least until the universe ends). That’s attachment to life. To samsara. That’s seeking delight in samsara. That would produce craving, thus suffering. That’s not the way those who had gone beyond cravings would think.

One way to truly see samsara as inherently suffering is via the 3 dukkhas in the other post I linked. That’s a good training for the mind to let go. Of course, as a beginner, without proper deep meditation experiences, it’s a bit dangerous to see dukkha all the time. An unskillful usage of this might result in one to become depressed. So train in deep meditations of Jhanas, then you’re more ready to understand the truth of suffering deeply.

So to recap. While it’s good to reduce cravings to reduce sufferings. The ultimate endpoint is that one has to see samsara itself as suffering in order to completely abandon all causes of suffering. End of dukkha comes in two stages, end of mental sufferings while arahant is still alive via enlightenment realization, and death of arahant for the nibbana without remainders, which ends physical sufferings as well.

Sorry, it seems that you’re not so much a beginner, anyway, here’s some add on. To the noble ones, even the sukha of jhanas is suffering. Samsara is inherently suffering, only having seen this is one able to turn completely away from samsara to nibbana, not seeking delight in samsara.

But that is still living experience. Not being dead. It’s pleasurable meditation experience that one “enters and remains in” for a period of time. You need a kāya to experience it (Ettāvatāpi kho, āvuso, kāyasakkhī vutto bhagavatā pariyāyena, in AN 9.43). And the affective* nature of this experience is suggested by the phrase kāyena phusitvā viharati. The Buddha happened to classify it as ‘neutral’ instead of ‘positive’, so we may argue as to whether it can be classified as positive emotional affect or not. But in his explanation, he clearly defines it as positive. So from a modern perspective, classifying it as positive seems very logical. Though, not essential for the rest of the argument.

I also wonder if this sutta represents an argument in the community after the Buddha’s death on which category to put this state in, positive or neutral. The conclusion seems to be a heirarchical list of increasingly positive affects, that in the end even go beyond the common Pāli concept of ‘positive’!

Are you assuming here that the Buddha had not attained nibbāna, and that he was not experiencing bliss (sukha)?

If that is your assumption, then that makes some sense. Though, do the EBTs claim the Buddha did not attain nibbāna during his life?

There’s also the indication that arahants do not have painful sensory and homeostatic affects (dukkhāya vedanāya) but no negative emotional affect, such as in the Salla Sutta. This makes sense if dukkha in the context of what is eliminated by enlightenment, which the arahants no longer experience, is specifically negative emotional affect. The Buddha says of ‘educated noble disciples’:

When they’re touched by painful feeling, they don’t resist it.
Tassāyeva kho pana dukkhāya vedanāya phuṭṭho samāno paṭighavā na hoti.
There’s no underlying tendency for repulsion towards painful feeling underlying that.
Tamenaṁ dukkhāya vedanāya appaṭighavantaṁ, yo dukkhāya vedanāya paṭighānusayo, so nānuseti.

At this point, the ordinary experience of ‘pain’ and ‘suffering’ being synonymous, breaks down, and what for ordinary people is unimaginable - that negative sensory/homeostatic affect (kāyikaṁ) will not lead to negative emotional affect - comes about. Thus if we believe arahants have attained nibbāna and thereby eliminated dukkha, it must be dukkha in the sense of negative emotional affect (cetasikaṁ) in that context.


When an educated noble disciple experiences painful physical feelings they don’t sorrow or wail or lament, beating their breast and falling into confusion.
Sutavā ca kho, bhikkhave, ariyasāvako dukkhāya vedanāya phuṭṭho samāno na socati, na kilamati, na paridevati, na urattāḷiṁ kandati, na sammohaṁ āpajjati.
They experience one feeling:
So ekaṁ vedanaṁ vedayati—
physical, not mental.
kāyikaṁ, na cetasikaṁ.

I also notice that this sutta is going through a list of positive affective states, classing each successive state as more pleasant than the next, and hence each relatively less pleasant than the former. And he’s saying if you’re not fully absorbed in one state, but instead “beset” by also perceiving a state lower in the heirarchy, then that will generate some kind of dukkha for them. Well, this is interesting. This makes sense of dukkha being negative emotional affect, since in this case, the dukkha is not coming from the positive affect, but rather, from your reaction when you are comparing one positive affect with another which is more positive, a more refined* positive affect. And, these examples are of monks/nuns who have not mastered their jhāna/immaterial states training.

Here’s another example where it seems being an arahant does mean being free happy, with no negative emotional affect, which again makes sense if nibbāna = the end of dukkha; if dukkha in that context = negative emotional affect; and if this lady has attained nibbāna. (She uses the synonym nibbuta). Thig1.18:
gave up my home, my child, my cattle,“Hitvā ghare pabbajitvā, Variant: pabbajitvā → pabbajitā (bj)
and all that I love, and went forth.hitvā puttaṁ pasuṁ piyaṁ;
And now that I’ve given up desire and hate,Hitvā rāgañca dosañca,
dispelled ignorance,avijjañca virājiya;
and plucked out craving, root and all,Samūlaṁ taṇhamabbuyha,
I’m at peace, I’m quenched.upasantāmhi nibbutā”ti.

[Oh, some copy paste issues from the site there! @sujato tagging you in case this is useful for you]

Well here it is in English to avoid paste errors:

I gave up my home, my child, my cattle,
and all that I love, and went forth.
And now that I’ve given up desire and hate,
dispelled ignorance,
and plucked out craving, root and all,
I’m at peace, I’m quenched.

I cannot see that conclusion from the data, since, these are felt experiences of specific mind generated states by a living person.

Nice find, thanks! This is sārīrikā dukkhā vedanā, i.e. negative sensory affect. Also, he remained ‘unperturbed’ (avihaññamāno). He’s specifically free from negative emotional affect (“Having reached the goal, I’m rid of sorrow.” - Atthaṁ sameccāhamapetasoko) and generating positive emotional affect (I lie down full of compassion for all living creatures. - Sayāmahaṁ sabbabhūtānukampī).

I admit that I had forgotten some of the details of ‘bodily dukkha’ the arahants have and what seems to be possibly 2 ways of using the word ‘dukkha’. But I was cautious to specify the dukkha being referred to such as in the context of that which is eradicated by enlightenment, to avoid that complication. In that context, that usage of dukkha seems to me to refer specifically to negative emotional affect. And hence why arahants are free from dukkha in that sense which is extinguished by nibbāna, and hence have no negative emotional affect even when cutting their feet like in this case, where the Buddha was still experiencing only positive emotional affect.

If people here disagree with this idea, then can you tell me if in your opinion it is therefore correct to make this statement, which seems the logical conclusion of your view?

The Buddha’s life post-enlightenment was characterised by dukkha.
Or even, to be in keeping with the translation this post is challenging in from the beginning:
The Buddha’s post-enlightenment life was dukkha.

You seem to have ignored every point I have made, and are just re-stating your original position. That makes no change to the argument. The question of this topic is

To establish your claim that “suffering is used to include physical as well as mental sufferings”, can you produce any evidence from the EBTs where physical suffering in the specific absence of mental suffering is labeled dukkha? Not merely

Also, I am specifically talking about the kind of dukkha that is eliminated by nibbāna. Which is why I wrote:

By saying “In the first discourse, the Buddha very clearly laid this down. Birth, old age, illness, and death are sufferings.”, you are ignoring the question, and just restating one translation, with no linguistic analysis.

Regarding the part I highlighted in bold, on this logic, a stone has dukkha. You don’t even need a subject for dukkha. So then this means dukkha is not an experience. Do you propose it is a substance? And how can dukkha have any meaning if it doesn’t even need a subject? Also, with no subject, it is impossible to classify dukkha as ‘negative’, since ‘negative’ only has any meaning for a subject. With no subject, nothing can be ‘wrong’, ‘bad’, ‘imperfect’, or problematic in any way.

I was not told any of this you ‘you’. I am not familiar with your beginner material, and I do not even know what collective you are referring to. My sources are the EBTs.

You are calling the monks and nuns to whom the Buddha was teaching int he Sala Sutta, “kids”?

You must be confused, perhaps mistaking this for some other conversation you have been having with some other person elsewhere? This has nothing to do with what I have written.

Do you have any evidence, such as referenced EBT quotes, where the sukha (antonym of dukkha) in jhāna, when experienced one-pointedly (unlike in the activity of comparing two states in the example above), is categorised as dukkha?

While I’m here I’ll give this example of the enlightened experience being described as characterised by physical and mental pleasure, in this very life, in MN 149:

When you do truly know and see the eye, sights, eye consciousness, eye contact, and what is felt as pleasant, painful, or neutral that arises conditioned by eye contact, you’re not aroused by desire for these things.
Cakkhuñca kho, bhikkhave, jānaṁ passaṁ yathābhūtaṁ, rūpe jānaṁ passaṁ yathābhūtaṁ, cakkhuviññāṇaṁ jānaṁ passaṁ yathābhūtaṁ, cakkhusamphassaṁ jānaṁ passaṁ yathābhūtaṁ, yamidaṁ cakkhusamphassapaccayā uppajjati vedayitaṁ sukhaṁ vā dukkhaṁ vā adukkhamasukhaṁ vā tampi jānaṁ passaṁ yathābhūtaṁ, cakkhusmiṁ na sārajjati, rūpesu na sārajjati, cakkhuviññāṇe na sārajjati, cakkhusamphasse na sārajjati, yamidaṁ cakkhusamphassapaccayā uppajjati vedayitaṁ sukhaṁ vā dukkhaṁ vā adukkhamasukhaṁ vā tasmimpi na sārajjati.

Someone who lives unaroused like this—unfettered, unconfused, concentrating on drawbacks—disperses the the five grasping aggregates for themselves in the future.
Tassa asārattassa asaṁyuttassa asammūḷhassa ādīnavānupassino viharato āyatiṁ pañcupādānakkhandhā apacayaṁ gacchanti.
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.

"Evameva kho, bhikkhave, assutavā puthujjano dukkhāya vedanāya phuṭṭho samāno socati kilamati paridevati urattāḷiṃ kandati sammohaṃ āpajjati.
When touched with a feeling of pain, the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person sorrows, grieves, & laments, beats his breast, becomes distraught. So he feels two feelings, kayika & cetasika.

They experience two feelings:
So dve vedanā vedayati—

kāyikañca, cetasikañca."

Salla Sutta

This states that the worldling will feel both kayika & cetasika. Kayika here is painful vedanā whilst cetasika is “sorrows, grieves, & laments…” etc. What is being said here is that there is an experiential side (kayika) & an emotive side (cetasika) when experiencing contact. Now, two things. Firstly, as MN 43 shows the physical body can only ever experience physical touch. This touch can then the basis for painful or pleasant vedanā in the nāmakāya (lets ignore neutral feelings for a moment). However, in the Dhamma there are 6 senses not 5. It then follows that mind-objects too can become the basis for painful or pleasant vedanā in the nāmakāya. For example, if a particularly nasty childhood memory arises at the mind base then this can become the basis for painful vedanā in the nāmakāya without reference to anything physical going on. This memory which has triggered painful vedanā (kāyikañca) goes on in the worldling and develops into cetasikañca. Kāyikañca then is the experiential side whilst cetasikañca is the emotive side. For the Buddha and Arahants they still experience kāyikañca but they do not experience cetasikañca. The Buddha and Arahants then would still experience physical contacts which become the basis for painful vedanā in the nāmakāya, experienced at the mind base, but, due to their awakening, this does not go on to become the emotive side (cetasikañca) and so no grief, lamentation etc. Following this line of reasoning the Buddha and Arahants then would also still experience unpleasant memories (why wouldn’t they?) at the mind-base which can become the basis for painful vedanā (kāyikañca) in the nāmakāya but, as with physical contact, this does not go on to become cetasikañca.

The Buddha and Arahants are free from 1/3 types of dukkha whilst alive, which corresponds to not experiencing the 2nd dart of cetasikañca but they still have to experience the 1st dart of mental and physical pain (kāyikañca). That does not cease without remainder until final nibbāna, at the exhaustion of life. Incidentally this is why rebirth is essential to understanding the Dhamma. The Buddha taught the path to the cessation of all dukkha. Obviously this cannot be fully accomplished whilst alive, only in final nibbāna. He taught that he directly knew that at the exhaustion of his life and of the Arahants there would be no more dukkha, which means he wasn’t agnostic about what happens when life is exhausted. If he knew that ordinary death was the end of all dukkha he would have told us all to kill ourselves. That he makes a distinction between the death of an Arahant and the death of a worldling, it then follows that the Buddha didn’t see dying as the total escape from dukkha. In turn this means he knew that for ordinary folk death is not the end of dukkha. Death is not escape from dukkha, only nibbāna is and that is only for Buddhas and Arahants.

To conclude, for the Buddha and Arahants there will still be physical bodily pain, mental pain and the inherent dukkha of conditioned dhammas until final nibbāna where all dukkha ceases without remainder. 2nd dart goes whilst alive, the 1st at the exhaustion of life.


You seem to be overlooking the text:

This is not neutral feeling, as you propose. Neutral feeling (adukkhamasukha) is still a feeling.

This sutta is not about the Buddha, but about the nature of nibbāna. In this context Nibbāna must refer to aparisesa nibbāna, “nibbāna without remainder”, that is, the nibbāna that occurs when an arahant dies.


Well, indeed, dukkha is one of the 3 universal characteristics. (from Dhammapada). All conditioned phenomenon are dukkha. So if one doesn’t see the inherent dissatisfactoriness in a stone, one can be liable to be attached to a stone thus causes suffering. The inherent dissatisfactoriness in a stone if not seen can cause delight in it. Eg. stones such as crystal stones, stone statues, stones at natural caves, stone buildings which looks so natural compared to brick buildings, stones with gems inside it, stones which contains valuable raw metals. These are characterised by dukkha, because they are all impermanent. Another way to see it is that having the stones (like the infinity stones from Avengers movies), doesn’t liberate one from suffering forever, thus they are dissatisfactory.

o ending seems to indicate singular nominative (suffering as subject).

that ending is accusative singular (to suffering)

this ending is either nominative or accusative plural (sufferings as subject or object)

Due to this, basically, there’s not much to interpret grammar wise. Notions of characterised by suffering, or inherently suffering or is suffering all are equivalent ways to look at it.

In the context of

It’s very clear that the dukkha that you’re using includes physical suffering. It’s best not to simply insert your personal preference to interpret it as only mental suffering when you’re discussing in this context of which the quote was provided by you. If you wish only to talk about mental suffering, do use the english term instead of dukkha to avoid confusion. It’s also a mistake to simply assume that dukkha can only mean one thing in all contexts. So even in a particular context dukkha is used to refer to mental suffering, in other contexts, it can be generalised to refer to all samsara, as dissatisfaction including physical suffering.

This is exactly due to not wanting to be flexible in the usage of terminology. I think it’s answered as clearly in my post on the 3 kinds of suffering. The statement above is correct if we use dukkha to cover all dukkhas, physical, mental suffering. Physical suffering still exist. Mental suffering does not. If we got baited into thinking only mental suffering is worth calling as dukkha then that statement seems very wrong.

This seems a bit rude. I was addressing your fundamental issue with the concept of dukkha, to not just regard is as mental suffering only, but as all sufferings. I see so far that’s your fundamental issue with the whole post.

It’s due to this wrong understanding of yours which I assumed that you’re still at beginner’s level of understanding. If that somehow offended you, sorry. Sukha is analysed below.

I have limited internet now, but here’s from memory. While it’s true that Jhanas are good and on the path to nibbana, and is similar to the nibbanic joy, the joy and happiness in Jhanas ultimately by themselves are also to be abandoned. Take note that the passage below is not meant to discourage Jhanas, but merely to answer to the request above. Jhanas should be encouraged to be practised.

For the non-returner, there’s fetters of attachment to form and formless realms. So even the sukhas of Jhanas are to be abandoned. Even the attainment of jhanas and rebirth in the brahma realms (without wisdom realizing stream entry), is temporary, impermanent. Anything impermanent (from second discourse) is suffering. Jhanas are good, problem is, they are conditioned, thus impermanent, unlike nibbana.

The Buddha doesn’t recommend even one finger snap length of existence.

The 4th jhana where ordinary sukha disappears is deemed as better than the 3rd Jhana.

Also, do note that sukha used in this context of Jhanas means the sublime happiness, contentment etc. Sukha in the context of 4th jhana and above to nibbana to mean better happiness is even more subtle, and it’s not easy for people who had not experienced them to understand. Perhaps the best way to approximate understanding is to follow the step by step sequence to see what disappears in the 4th jhana, the formless attainments, then followed by cessation of perception and feelings.

As according to Abdhidhamma understanding, there’s no mental stream of citta in the cessation of perception and feelings. And the difference between a dead body vs a person in this cessation is that the physical body of the person in cessation is still alive and warm. As pointed out by Ajahn Brahmali, there’s no feeling in there, thus it cannot be called neutral or positive.

Why is no feelings considered superior to pleasant or even neutral feelings? Because feelings are impermanent. To be freed from the cruelty of impermanent feelings is bliss (again, not pleasant feelings bliss). Which brings us to:

do recall that this is also not pleasant feelings. (I have a bit of doubt here, maybe it could be experienced as pleasant feelings as well.)

Or else attachment can easily arise. Whereas the sukha in 3rd Jhana is very clearly pleasant feelings. 4th Jhana is neutral feelings.

To say that a stone by itself is dukkha due to its impermanency appears meaninglessness . All conditioned things should be referring to the subjective experience of a person instead pointing to some external objects . Whatever experiences that arises in a person is where the dukkha are found . When the defilements are gone , physical pains that one called as dukkha arises as an unpleasant experience for an arahant becomes irrelevant as the ultimate target already achieved in this very lifetimes . The remaining of arahants life are to be compared to someone that are just waiting for getting his wages as final death approaches .


I think it’s pretty obvious that all experiences requires the conventional subjective person. It’s also the danger that there can be things known to be not suffering, as the tendency of the mind is to go there and attach to them.

Eg. Platonic world of pure maths. For many mathematicians, mathematical truth is eternal, beautiful, truly existing out there, minds of mathematicians are just to explore and discover this landscape of Platonic world. If one doesn’t regard even this as dukkha, there can easily be attachments towards it. The similarity is that Platonic world doesn’t need mortals to exist on its own. Like “a stone by itself”. In the Buddhist point of view, there’s no such things. Both stone and Platonic world can be perceived, they do not exist on their own, but are conditioned.

Only nibbana is not dukkha.

All of the above are in the nominative case. The word dukkha here is an adjective, not a substantive, and the variant inflections are owing to differences in number and gender, not grammatical case.

Dukkho: masculine singular, to agree with sampayoga and vippayoga.

Dukkhaṃ: neuter singular, to agree with
maraṇa and yampicchaṃ.

Dukkhā: masculine plural, to agree with sokaparidevadukkhadomanassupāyāsā and pañcupādānakkhandhā. And feminine singular, to agree with jāti and jarā.


That implies that emotions are not experiential. So I am lost on that. There is no emotion outside of experience. One experiences emotions. However, I may prose that kayika is homeostatic and sensory affects, and * cetasika* is emotional affect. Does this fit? I have not analysed these words in depth.

Do you mean when it gives an extremely brief explanation of the extremely simple model of 6 senses? If so, I object. For example

  • Have you never felt fear in your body? Or anger, or love, or disgust? If not, try asking a friend to surprise you at random some time this month with a bag of either fresh vomit or stale urine or faeces. Or to do a severely scary prank on you. I think you will soon experience affect in your body, which has not come ‘physical touch’.
  • The body can perceive sound. Deaf people can do so. I think this falls outside of the sutta explanation of ‘touch’.

There are also senses which the Buddha never mentioned, such as the sense of gravity (balance), sense of heat (even if not touching), and so on. So I don’t think we should take the model as something complete or perfect - just a very simple model that is practically useful for the teaching purpose. Very brief statements explaining roughly what’s going on.

Is this EBT doctrine? If so, do you have a source?

I don’t know what this nāmakāya is, but I assure you that it’s entirely normal for the person in your example to experience vedanā which is perceived to arise in their physical body. And you can even notice some of this by changes in their posture.Similarly, you can even do this in reverse to some extent - change your affective experience by rearranging your posture or even your face.

I still don’t get this. Perhaps you are using the term ‘experiential’ in a way other than meaning ‘experience’? I can’t get how you are seeing emotions as non-experiential.

In English I would say, they experience negative homeostatic and sensory affect, but not negative emotional affect.

But bringing this back to the question of this topic - the questions really become:

  • Is the attainment of nibbāna, the end of dukkha?
  • Did the Buddha attain nibbāna under the bodhi tree?
    If the answer is no to the former and yes to the latter, then we must be correct in saying:
  • The Buddha’s life after enlightenment, was characterised by suffering
  • The Buddha’s life after enlightenment was suffering

That is not the sense I have had, but that seems to be the conclusion contributors must come to, so far as I understand the reasoning being provided.

Though, the actual translation question has remained unaddressed so far. A linguistic analysis would be the most useful way to proceed with the question. If anyone can contribute on that, it would be wonderful!

Would they? I doubt it. Do you have any example of any arahant experiencing kāyikañca in response to a memory? If so, a quote and reference would be great!

‘NIbbāna’ also meant ‘death’ - was that perhaps common usage? But anyway, you said ‘obviously’. Well, do you have any EBT sources which make a clear case that neither the Buddha nor arahants (or either or) have not attained nibbāna? And if so, then is there a corresponding absence of doctrine to say the arahants/buddha saying that they have? That would make it ‘obvious’. And the teachings are supposed to be clear!

Or, are you saying that even in the Buddha’s time, he was teaching about 2 different nibbānas, both with technical path-specific meaning (as opposed to common usage for death), and that the nibbāna attained while alive is a state characterised by dukkha, or even, nibbāna is dukkha? That would seem as if it is the position you are being forced into with this logic, no? If nibbāna is seen not merely as a formal meditation state, but rather, a lived experience, anyway. So if this is not your conclusion, then do you say nibbāna type 1 is only a temporary state while in meditation, and the Buddha was in a constant state of dukkha whenever he was not sat meditating in that specific state? And that only nibbāna type 2, being death )of an arahant), is the only other end of dukkha?

Of course, because an arahant will not be reborn. But this focus seems to miss the blissful life of arahants while alive. For which we have many textual examples.

I have one [edit: several - sorry I hope to get time tomorrow! I wrote this last night] more comment to reply to which I look forward to, but I must stop for the night.