The choice of suffering vs love

Wow! What an excellent thread this is :grinning:

To you all I say SADHU X 3, such excellent companions on the path :anjal:

It is curious isn’t it, when you first of all become aware of your attachments (already a good sign IMHO) but then as the opening post says you have trouble letting go :frowning_face:

What to do? Yet the fact that we can be aware of them means there is hope right? :grinning:

Even though intrinsically there is no such thing as a ‘self’, but conventionally there is still a ‘self’ which is made up of form, feelings, perception, choices and consciousness.

And we can still do our best to love ‘ourselves’ and by doing so we can gain a better understanding this ‘self’ and by doing so we can let go a little bit more each time surely?

Any who, this is a video I watch every now and again which I think is appropriate to the subject. It is nice and short and has some practical advice and some humor as well. Thanks again :anjal:


@AdrianMagno… thank you for the beautiful link… the wise encouragement to notice when there is suffering in relation to love and to investigate the conditions placed.
Thich Nhat Hanh has said that where there is true love, there is no suffering. This love, he describes as an attentive understanding of the other and the wish to foster only happiness.


Another explanation could be that this sort of direct control does not exist within the five khandas?

Like, why can’t we just decide to love unconditionally? Or even decide to want to love unconditionally?

It’s tempting to think that there must be some metaphysical entity inside experience that is, or should be, capable of exerting this kind of control.

Maybe a better way is to try to learn the causes that make unconditional love arise? That way, we might get what we want without having to appeal to a supernatural/metaphysical entity (the self) to make things happen :slight_smile:


@Erik_ODonnell , could you do your duty to your child without loving them ? Is this possible ?

Because duty is fine, but I find buddha critized love in many suttas especially related to relationship

Also we need to be clear here, when we say we love our child ,is this the form aggregate of that child that we are talking about or other aggregate ?

If you say that 5 aggregates of our child is what we love then we all know that “it” is not our child, our child is not the 5 aggregates I think but the grasping aggregates so we send love to these grasping aggregates, what do you think ?

“If you suffer I hope you are happy”, I think buddha is talking about the grasping aggregates here for grasping is suffering, there’s no way “not grasping” can suffer so this love or prayer is directed to suffering or to being

This is my current understanding, feel free to correct me
So by attachment is when you think your child are just the 5 aggregates
While love in conventional sense is when you think your child is the grasping aggregates
Love in ultimate sense is when you don’t love at all maybe because you know you and your child are love itself since eye can’t see itself ,love can’t love itself

Just my 2 cents

Thank you for all the great replies! You have given me much to think about.

You may have hit the nail on the head here. Perhaps the issue I have is self-identification with my ego.

I have understood through meditation that I am not in control of my thoughts. My thoughts happen all on their own, even if I actively try to stop them. This goes double for thoughts originating from the ego. My ego is not my self, but rather a form of sensory input, not entirely unlike hearing or vision. My ego only gives emotional stimulus, like the feeling of aversion when yells at me or calls me names. This is not unlike the sense of touch when being pricked by a thorn. The words that enter my mind are a reaction to this stimulus (in a dependent origination sort of way).

Curiously, I don’t get upset at the plant if I get pricked by a thorn (I consider this my own fault for not being mindful of my surroundings). But if my ego gets pricked by a person, I get upset. Sure, I can let it go, and Buddhism gives many tools for doing exactly that (I typically use the 3 marks of existence; suffering, not-self, impermanent). Perhaps my question is why do I get upset at a person, when I would not get upset at a thorn or rock? Is it that the person has agency, and made a choice to upset me? But, did they even make that choice, or are they simply a tool of their own ego too?

Yes, thank you for pointing this out.

Perhaps we should use the Greek words for love, as they separated love into multiple distinct categories?
Eros (romantic, passionate love)
Philia (affectionate love)
Agape (selfless, universal love)
Storge (familiar love)
Mania (obsessive love)
Ludus (playful love)
Pragma (enduring love)
Philautia (self love)

As for myself, I have been posting about the Agape form of universal, selfless love towards humanity in general. I compared it to a romantic love (Eros) only because I felt a similar sensation when it happened.

This is only my experience, so take it with a grain of salt. Love is not something that I can grasp; the harder I try, the faster it runs away from me. I only experience love for another when I set aside my own ego, and choose to love them no matter what they do. Love is not a grasping; love is a release. The (unconditional) releasing of my ego makes unconditional love arise all by itself. It is as if love is the foundation, but there is so much ego and social constructs built on top of it, that the love cannot shine through all of that rubbish.


I don’t know, I don’t have children :slight_smile:

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Have you ever noticed how we can get subtly excited/ afraid/ upset over what we see in a film or a TV serial? Its not even real - and we know that! Yet a skilled film maker is able to manipulate our sensory input in such a way as to get us to construct an alternate reality and then react to that construction.

In just the same way, it doesn’t matter if the person we are interacting with has agency or not or made an active choice or not, or even if there really is a person out there or not. We actively construct our Experience based on our perception of sense input and we react to that construct. Its all in our own Mind. If we are wise, we are cautious of what features of sense input we are paying attention to and of what kind of perceptions and feelings are arising within us as a result of our constructed experience. If we heed the Buddha’s instructions, perhaps we are even able to alter the perceptions that arise within us on demand. (This might be the choice you refer to and which you intuitively know exists). The Dhamma becomes apparent in both ourselves and others. And there is nothing left to cling to.

(All my own opinion of course - keep what you find useful and throw away the rest)


I think this sutta is a good example that neither love nor hate is needed in relationships but equanimity

“Sir, this is not my only incredible and amazing quality; there is another. I had an only son called Nanda who I loved dearly. The rulers forcibly abducted him on some pretext and had him executed. But I can’t recall getting upset when my boy was under arrest or being arrested, imprisoned or being put in prison, killed or being killed.”

Metta— that unconditional love that is being talked of, is one of the Brahmaviharas, an abiding of Brahma. But is this considered as being without suffering in the EBTs? We have the idea in the EBTs that any amount of existence is undesired e.g.

1.1“Just as, mendicants, even a tiny bit of fecal matter still stinks, 1.2 so too I don’t approve of even a tiny bit of continued existence, not even as long as a finger-snap.”

And abiding in the Brahmaviharas (or jhanas or whatever) is normally considered as existence.
While metta is undoubtedly part of the journey, it can’t be the destination can it? That’s nibanna, yes?

We can’t make this existence we find ourselves in perfect. The title of this thread gives us the choice of “suffering vs love”. But that isn’t a real choice is it? The choice from an EBT perspective is between “suffering vs extinguishment”.


Thanks for quoting this Sutta. :pray:

I read it in its entirety and it was obvious towards the end that Nanda’s mother is in fact highly attained (once returner or non-returner? one of those) and is therefore skilled in all 4 of the jhannas.

I think perhaps it would be wise not to quote a certain passage from a Sutta and say ‘well there you go, here is your answer’.

I think for the majority of us, we need to start with developing our virtue, our gratitude, our generosity all these fundamental teachings which you here again and again from our teachers.

Then perhaps one day we too can be equanimous just like Nanda’s mother. But until then, we have to develop all the good qualities as best we can starting with love, the metta kind of love.

Thanks again for quoting this sutta much appreciated :pray:


There is an EBT which makes the very distinction that you are pointing out. The “Great Steward” is a teacher of metta meditation, and Buddha contrasts this with his own noble eightfold path:
Long Discourses 19: The Great Steward

And the Great Steward meditated spreading a heart full of love to one direction, and to the second, and to the third, and to the fourth. In the same way above, below, across, everywhere, all around, he spread a heart full of love to the whole world—abundant, expansive, limitless, free of enmity and ill will. He meditated spreading a heart full of compassion … rejoicing … equanimity to one direction, and to the second, and to the third, and to the fourth. In the same way above, below, across, everywhere, all around, he spread a heart full of equanimity to the whole world—abundant, expansive, limitless, free of enmity and ill will. And he taught his disciples the path to rebirth in the company of Brahmā.

Those of his disciples who completely understood the Great Steward’s instructions, at the breaking up of the body, after death, were reborn in the Brahmā realm. Of those disciples who only partly understood the Great Steward’s instructions, some were reborn in the company of the Gods Who Control the Creations of Others, while some were reborn in the company of the Gods Who Love to Create, or the Joyful Gods, or the Gods of Yama, or the Gods of the Thirty-Three, or the Gods of the Four Great Kings. And at the very least they swelled the hosts of the fairies.

And so the going forth of all those gentlemen was not in vain, was not wasted, but was fruitful and fertile.

Do you remember this, Blessed One?”

“I remember, Pañcasikha. I myself was the brahmin Great Steward at that time. And I taught those disciples the path to rebirth in the company of Brahmā. But that spiritual path of mine doesn’t lead to disillusionment, dispassion, cessation, peace, insight, awakening, and extinguishment. It only leads as far as rebirth in the Brahmā realm.

But this spiritual path does lead to disillusionment, dispassion, cessation, peace, insight, awakening, and extinguishment. And what is the spiritual path that leads to extinguishment? It is simply this noble eightfold path, that is: right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right immersion. This is the spiritual path that leads to disillusionment, dispassion, cessation, peace, insight, awakening, and extinguishment.

Those of my disciples who completely understand my instructions realize the undefiled freedom of heart and freedom by wisdom in this very life. And they live having realized it with their own insight due to the ending of defilements.

Of those disciples who only partly understand my instructions, some, with the ending of the five lower fetters, become reborn spontaneously. They are extinguished there, and are not liable to return from that world.

Some, with the ending of three fetters, and the weakening of greed, hate, and delusion, become once-returners. They come back to this world once only, then make an end of suffering.

And some, with the ending of three fetters, become stream-enterers, not liable to be reborn in the underworld, bound for awakening.

And so the going forth of all those gentlemen was not in vain, was not wasted, but was fruitful and fertile.

Buddha gives the exact same phrase in regards to both of these paths:
“And so the going forth of all those gentlemen was not in vain, was not wasted, but was fruitful and fertile.”

With that said, the metta I am trying to talk about is different from metta meditation. With metta meditation, I actively send love out towards other people (or directions, whatever). This was different, there was no sending out of love. It was a realization that my ego is the cause of all my suffering, and that my ego also inflicts suffering on others. It was a choice to ignore my ego, and not let my ego cause suffering to myself or others, regardless of what anyone said or did (equanimity?). This caused the metta to flow all on it’s own, with no effort at all.


If a sutta Is related to a topic I will share that, do you have problem with that ?

What is ego in term of aggregates ?

No problem friend, all good.

My apologies if I offended you, please know it was not my intention to do so :pray:


The ego is difficult to define as it means many things to different people.

My definition involves the ego being the source for self-identity. It is our selfish nature (as opposed to the conscience, our selfless nature).

The ego does not fit neatly into one of the five aggregates (I assume those are the aggregates you mention?). Perhaps the closest aggregate would be sensations, because the ego seems to be the source of negative sensations (like when someone call us a name, our ego provides the feeling of being hurt). But, the ego is also involved with perception. The ego is in part a social construct, where our perception of events is colored by the way society would perceive such an event. The ego can also directly influence our thoughts (mental activity/formations). So I’d say the ego covers at least 3 of the 5 aggregates.

I feel like I have 2 voices in my head that constantly disagree with each other. One voice (my conscience) will tell me that I should do the dishes or clean my room. The other voice (my ego) tells me that I can do it tomorrow, or makes up some excuse for why I should be selfish and not do the thing that I know I should do. It’s like the old analogy of having an angel whispering in one ear (conscience), and a demon whispering in the other ear (ego).


I think the problem is the ability to misunderstand the suttas without proper context.

As @AdrianMagno said, that example is from a non-returner. It’s generally not wise to pretend that we are at that high level when we are not. Mere intellectual understanding does not equal to realization. If we try to be without attachments when in fact we do have, that’s forcing, deceiving oneself, it will lead to more suffering. It’s one of the pitfalls along the path.

What’s more important is to know where we are, and just practise, one need not aim for no attachments towards relationships to be immediately realised. It comes automatically when our wisdom is at that high level.


Thank you Bhante, very beautifully said :anjal:


I was reading this passage just this morning, it’s from the Simile of the Snake MN 22, Bhante Sujato’s translation:

We do perceive all 5 of the aggregates as our ‘self’, perhaps not all 5, all at the same time but close enough, depending I guess on the situation or context.

I sympathize with you here :anjal:
It’s a blessing that you are able to observe your ‘self’ though isn’t it?

I like to think of the 2 voices as skillful (kusala) and un-skillful (akusala).

This is going to sound very simplistic so I apologize (because it’s never simple or easy!) but the way I understand to practice according to the teachings and our teachers is to ‘nudge’ the mind towards the skillful as often as you can.

Bearing in mind ofcourse that every once in a while you will be unable to do so and when that happens you just need to be compassionate and forgiving towards yourself.

That way we in effect are ‘starving’ the un-skillful and ‘feeding’ the skillful.
Not easy, but we can always try :grinning:

With regards to washing the dishes, I did hear Ajahn Brahm once say during a talk that we should give our ‘selves’ a break once in a while and maybe do them later on or tomorrow, so that’s what I do on a Friday night, I won’t wash the dishes till the following morning! :wink:



I agree, but what’s the grasping aggregates that buddha is talking about in some suttas, can you help me with that ?

For example can the grasper be called as self, is the grasper different from the aggregates they grasp ?


Okay well we need a hypothetical situation to illustrate the process.

Let’s say you are at a Meditation retreat and it’s lunch time and you’ve just finished your lunch and you queue up in the buffet line to get some dessert.

As you are walking slowly to the table you see straight away there is a nice big chocolate cake :moon_cake: which all the people in front of you seem to be taking a piece of.

By the time it’s your turn there is only one piece left :worried:

So let’s use this situation.

You see the cake with your eye
the chocolate cake is a type form (rupa)
then you become conscious of that form, there is eye consciousness (vinnana)
These 3 together (eye + form + consciousness) = contact (phassa)
The contact gives rise to a pleasant feeling (vedana)
The feeling then gives rise to craving (tanha)
The craving in turn leads to grasping (upadana)

The “grasper” or the “feeling” (not to be confused with vedana) of a “sense of self” is as I understand from the EBTs and our teachers is “fueled” by akusala dhamma (unwholesome) or kusala (wholesome) state.

So in the above example you might feel greed (I want that last peice of cake, it’s mine!) which is akusala (unwholesome) state.

But in another situation or context you might feel anger, jealousy, frustration, depression, anxiety, contempt etc.

Or maybe you might think ‘Oh it’s the last piece of cake, maybe I’ll just get something else so the person behind me can have it’, which is kusala (wholesome).

So as you can see there is no self, no ‘grasper’, it is a process, it is dependently originated.
The reason why it feels as though there is a ‘grasper’ or a ‘self’ is because sometimes the feeling is very strong and we feel compelled to act on that feeling.

At least this is how I understand it. I’m sure if one of our more experienced companions on the path who might read this and see an error hopefully they will point it out and we can both learn from it.

This is my understanding, more than happy for someone to correct me :pray:


That’s ok bro we all are here to learn

Your definition of grasping as process is very cool and something I never thought before so thanks bro for this new good definition

Do you know what is freed from defilements ?