Did Buddha say keep pain as your meditation object?

In the following video, Bhante Sujato said that Buddha never did say that you keep pain as a meditation object. I wish to know your thoughts.

4 Likes

I didn’t watch the whole video clip, just a few minutes during which Bhante Sujato was discussing pain - I never heard him specifically claim that the Buddha never taught pain as a meditation object. Instead I heard him saying that the Buddha never emphasized physical pain as something which was to be pursued, and yet many meditation teachers do seem to do this. You could say that feeling is an acceptable meditation object (vedana), according to the Satipatthana sutta - and feeling would include painful feeling, in addition to pleasurable and neutral feeling. However, it’s something else entirely to say that pain has a purifying effect on the mind, or that it is “your friend,” or that you should never change postures or make yourself comfortable during meditation, or whatever.

4 Likes

On every important sutta in which physical pain is explicitly addressed is the Sabbasava Sutta. The translation of the relevant passage here at Sutta Central reads as follows:

Taints to be Abandoned by Enduring

“What taints, bhikkhus, should be abandoned by enduring? Here a bhikkhu, reflecting wisely, bears cold and heat, hunger and thirst, and contact with gadflies, mosquitoes, wind, the sun, and creeping things; he endures ill-spoken, unwelcome words and arisen bodily feelings that are painful, racking, sharp, piercing, disagreeable, distressing, and menacing to life. While taints, vexation, and fever might arise in one who does not endure such things, there are no taints, vexation, or fever in one who endures them. These are called the taints that should be abandoned by enduring.

However, the translation of the same passage at Access to Insight translates the verb as “tolerating” rather than “enduring”, which to me has a quite different flavor.

5 Likes

It’s too broad of a question, there isn’t a categorical answer for that. As far as physical pain, it takes some practice and experience to learn which types of pain can be ignored, and which have to be treated with carefully.

Knee pain, you have be real careful with, for example. Some types of pain are the body going through an energy channel opening phase, which can take many months, or even years, and you have to just patiently wait it out.

The best general advice I believe is AN 3.16, here is an excerpt. Notice the Buddha didn’t give specific amounts of time on how long to sit or walk. The switch from sitting to walking can be used judiciously, to avoid any knee and hip problems from becoming an issue, and this will vary from person to person, and for the same person, will change over time as well.

proper way to sleep

Kathañ-ca, bhikkhave, bhikkhu
jāgariyaṃ anuyutto hoti?
{devoted-to} wakefulness ****?
Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu
Here, monks, a-monk

(sunrise to sunset, 6am to 6pm)

divasaṃ
[during] day [time],
caṅkamena nisajjāya
walking-[meditation]-forward-and-backward (and) sitting [meditation],
āvaraṇīyehi dhammehi cittaṃ parisodheti,
obstructive qualities (of) mind (he) purifies,

(first watch of night, 6pm to 10pm)

rattiyā paṭhamaṃ yāmaṃ
At-night-time, first watch-of-the-night,
caṅkamena nisajjāya
walking-[meditation]-forward-and-backward (and) sitting [meditation],
āvaraṇīyehi dhammehi cittaṃ parisodheti,
obstructive qualities (of) mind (he) purifies,

(middle watch of night, 10pm to 2am)

rattiyā majjhimaṃ yāmaṃ
At-night-time, middle watch-of-the-night,
dakkhiṇena passena sīhaseyyaṃ kappeti
(on his) right side, (the) lion-lying-down [posture] *******,
pāde pādaṃ accādhāya
(one) foot (on the other) foot overlapping,
sato sampajāno
mindful (and) clearly-comprehending,
uṭṭhāna-saññaṃ manasi karitvā,
rising-[from sleep]-perception (his) mind sets,

(last watch of night, 2am to 6am)

rattiyā pacchimaṃ yāmaṃ
At-night-time, last watch-of-the-night,
Pacc-uṭṭhāya
After-rising [from lying down],
caṅkamena nisajjāya
walking-[meditation]-forward-and-backward (and) sitting [meditation],
āvaraṇīyehi dhammehi cittaṃ parisodheti,
obstructive qualities (of) mind (he) purifies,
Evaṃ kho, bhikkhave, bhikkhu
thus indeed, monks, a-monk
jāgariyaṃ anuyutto hoti.
{is} {devoted to} wakefulness.
Imehi kho, bhikkhave,
These indeed, monks,
tīhi dhammehi samannāgato bhikkhu
three qualities possessed (by a ) monk,
Apaṇṇaka-paṭipadaṃ paṭipanno hoti,
(the) faultless-path practiced ****,
yoni cassa āraddhā hoti
{and} the basis aroused for
āsavānaṃ khayāyā”ti.
Asinine-inclinations’ destruction.
Chaṭṭhaṃ.
(end of sutta)
3 Likes

Many people have the aversion to pain.
In meditation, you have to develop equanimity for the pain.
To do that first you have to consider pain as your friend. (I am not advocating self-harm or self-inflicting here) That way you eliminate the aversion to pain.
I think Bhante @sujato has a different opinion to mine.
Perhaps due to his good past karma, he may not have been a severe pain in his life.
But I have been through few episodes and I have developed my own method to deal with that.
This matter is discussed in detail in the following post.
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=16532&hilit=Seven+days+without+pain+killers

1 Like