Unpleasant pain in Jhana?


For an arahat these are not dukkha as dukkha is caused by craving and they have destroyed craving.

This is an important point. piti and sukha are not the result of contact with an external objet with the body (e.g. drug, sex, etc.) but internally produced as result of the suppression (temporarily or permanently) of the five hindrances.


I guess I’m saying that the dukkha of sensory phenomena arising and passing away is the same and it’s makes up the experience of being sick, etc.

Dukkha is caused by being alive: ‘old age, sickness and death’. Re-birth in turn is caused by ignorance, including craving, which gives rise to re-birth. In that playing field, cravings cause suffering when the craving is denied and other defilements cause suffering just because they are unpleasant… Unpleasant sensations cause suffering. Taking sensory phenomena as me or mine causes suffering. At a very subtle level the incessant start and ending of sensory phenomena is suffering, when viewed through the process of vipassana.

What do you think, mendicants?
Taṃ kiṃ maññatha, bhikkhave,

Is form permanent or impermanent?”
rūpaṃ niccaṃ vā aniccaṃ vā”ti?

“Impermanent, sir.”
“Aniccaṃ, bhante”.

“But if it’s impermanent, is it suffering or happiness?”
“Yaṃ panāniccaṃ dukkhaṃ vā taṃ sukhaṃ vā”ti?

“Suffering, sir.”
“Dukkhaṃ, bhante”. SuttaCentral


Are you saying that nibbana is only a meditative experience, and not something experienced off the cushion?


Nibbana is defined both as the ending of cravings aversions and delusion AND cessation of phassa/vinnana. Yet arahanths are alive and conscious and go about pretty much as normal except they don’t have the three poisons or fires :fire: and have ended emotional or psychological suffering as they have ended the three fires. The latter shows what they are like off the cushion and Cessation of phenomena show the meditative counter-part. This concept unifies these two very disparate situations. Nibbana as a meditative attainment (-dhatu) and well-being are both a must as per the lived experiences recorded in EBTs.


I disagree dukkha is not inherent to these things. Craving is the cause of dukkha : the 2nd truth.
An arahat does not suffer of these things he is equanime about them.


Surely not, nibbāna is the result of having completely eliminated the three poisons. The Buddha meditation (the Jhanas) is just a tool to help noticing what’s left to eliminate (done outside meditation) and at the end to come to realise that one has finished the job.


Clearly aversion to old age, sickness and death is a cause of dukkha, and presumably that ceases when aversion ceases - I think this is equivalent to not being struck by the second arrow in the Arrow Sutta, ie cessation of mental anguish. However I’m still not clear as to whether the first arrow in the Arrow Sutta represents dukkha for an Arahant - what do you think?

So it seems important to distinguish between Nibbana on and off the cushion.


If we had a rough day it’s difficult to become quiet in meditation, and similarly if craving, aversion and delusion haven’t been removed it’s not possible to experience nibbana, that is, the experience of total cessation of all sensations, including mental states, as nibbana-dhatu is beyond the 8th arupa jhana. I hope this clarifies that there’s a connection between how someone is when off the cushion and on the cushion.


I again disagree; the Buddha didn’t go through the so-called jhanas 5 to 8 (they were called Jhana long after the EBTs) in his awakening night where he came to realise while in Jhana 4 that the taints has been previously destroyed. Again meditation is not where the destruction of the fetters/asavas/taints occur. It occurs with the skillful use of the first seven components of the 8FP. Jhana four will allow eventually to discover that there is nothing more to be done ; that the asavas indeed had been eradicated. Meditation is fundamentally a tool to notice what’s to be done and verify that it has been achieved. The eradication job is done outside the cushion.


Again I disagree with this definition of nibbāna. Nibbāna is the complete eradication of greed/hatred/delusion. Once this has been achieved nibbāna is always there.


Do you have any evidence, @Mat, of any arahant ever being described as having dukkha? If so, I think your point is worth considering. However, if not, then I cannot see any validity in your position. Does this make sense?

So then I ask you, do you have any evidence? If so, please provide it as that would seem to be the only way to move your position to a stage higher than mere speculation. Even one specific reference to any arahant, which may include the Buddha or any of his arahant disciples, where it is said specifically that they have, or experience, dukkha.

And if not, then it would seem that the assumption that arahants are beyond dukkha, stands undefeated.

They have not ended psychological suffering. They still can have negative sensory and homeostatic affects, as we see from the Buddha’s life. I am proposing that they however have no negative emotional affect, and that is one of the reasons why I believe that dukkha as a technical term usually (or always?) refers to negative emotional affect.

All affect is ‘psychological’. But there are different subdivisions of psychological experience.

Might it not be both? It is for example possible to temporarily experience nibbāna (the first time of which makes you a Stream Enterer). Perhaps that can refer to a state. Whereas when one says one has attained nibbāna, then that may refer to the extinguishment (permament) of those 3.

If nibbāna is merely a state at the end of a series of immaterial attainments, this would seem to potentially bring doctrinal difficulties bearing in mind that it’s possible to attain nibbāna without any immaterial practice at all, according to the EBT’s.


“And what is the noble truth of dukkha? ‘The six internal sense media,’ should be the reply. Which six? The medium of the eye… the ear… the nose… the tongue… the body… the intellect. This is called the noble truth of dukkha.”

— SN 56.14

[Ven. Sariputta:] "Now what, friends, is the noble truth of stress? Birth is stressful, aging is stressful, death is stressful; sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair are stressful; association with the unbeloved is stressful; separation from the loved is stressful; not getting what is wanted is stressful. In short, the five clinging-aggregates are stressful.

"And what is birth? Whatever birth, taking birth, descent, coming-to-be, coming-forth, appearance of aggregates, & acquisition of [sense] spheres of the various beings in this or that group of beings, that is called birth.

"And what is aging? Whatever aging, decrepitude, brokenness, graying, wrinkling, decline of life-force, weakening of the faculties of the various beings in this or that group of beings, that is called aging.

"And what is death? Whatever deceasing, passing away, breaking up, disappearance, dying, death, completion of time, break up of the aggregates, casting off of the body, interruption in the life faculty of the various beings in this or that group of beings, that is called death.

"And what is sorrow? Whatever sorrow, sorrowing, sadness, inward sorrow, inward sadness of anyone suffering from misfortune, touched by a painful thing, that is called sorrow.

"And what is lamentation? Whatever crying, grieving, lamenting, weeping, wailing, lamentation of anyone suffering from misfortune, touched by a painful thing, that is called lamentation.

"And what is pain? Whatever is experienced as bodily pain, bodily discomfort, pain or discomfort born of bodily contact, that is called pain.

"And what is distress? Whatever is experienced as mental pain, mental discomfort, pain or discomfort born of mental contact, that is called distress.

"And what is despair? Whatever despair, despondency, desperation of anyone suffering from misfortune, touched by a painful thing, that is called despair.

"And what is the stress of association with the unbeloved? There is the case where undesirable, unpleasing, unattractive sights, sounds, aromas, flavors, or tactile sensations occur to one; or one has connection, contact, relationship, interaction with those who wish one ill, who wish for one’s harm, who wish for one’s discomfort, who wish one no security from the yoke. This is called the stress of association with the unbeloved.

"And what is the stress of separation from the loved? There is the case where desirable, pleasing, attractive sights, sounds, aromas, flavors, or tactile sensations do not occur to one; or one has no connection, no contact, no relationship, no interaction with those who wish one well, who wish for one’s benefit, who wish for one’s comfort, who wish one security from the yoke, nor with one’s mother, father, brother, sister, friends, companions, or relatives. This is called the stress of separation from the loved.

"And what is the stress of not getting what is wanted? In beings subject to birth, the wish arises, ‘O, may we not be subject to birth, and may birth not come to us.’ But this is not to be achieved by wanting. This is the stress of not getting what is wanted. In beings subject to aging… illness… death… sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair, the wish arises, ‘O, may we not be subject to aging… illness… death… sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair, and may aging… illness… death… sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair not come to us.’ But this is not to be achieved by wanting. This is the stress of not getting what is wanted.

— [MN 141]

I think people need to understand what dukkha is before saying anything at all.


Speaking from direct experience when I enter into higher states as a result of that I don’t experience painful feelings, but there might already be painful bodily feelings in me.

But I’m not sure if this exactly is a jhana, just that the energy goes into my third-eye area, it feels pleasant but not that great, when the energy goes above onto the top of my forehead it feels better, then when it goes even further above it feels really good.

But based on the suttas the jhanas are just one level not the highest, the cessation of perception and feeling is the highest:

“And what, Ananda, is another pleasure more extreme & refined than that? There is the case where a monk — quite withdrawn from sensual pleasures, withdrawn from unskillful qualities — enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. This is another pleasure more extreme & refined than that. Though some might say, ‘That is the highest pleasure that beings experience,’ I would not grant them that. Why is that? Because there is another pleasure, more extreme & refined than that.” (MN 59)

Pleasure in MN 59 (and repeated elsewhere) is categorized into these levels (each one higher and more pleasant):

  1. Sensual Pleasure (pleasure born from the five senses)
  2. First Jhana
  3. Second Jhana
  4. Third Jhana
  5. Fourth Jhana
  6. Infinite space
  7. Infinite consciousness
  8. Nothingness
  9. Neither perception nor non-perception
  10. Cessation of perception & feeling

From my personal experience the development of concentration or iddhi is important for gaining good physical health and reducing the negative effects of bad kamma (It says in DN 16 that anyone who well-develops iddhi can remain alive for the entire kappa or aeon).

Entering into higher states would help out in ending mental pains but in many conditions not help much with physical pains.


These are likely to temporarily stop the feeling of such mental pains- problems aren’t going to be resolved this way.


So what’s the point of these higher states if they don’t resolve problems?


But can cessation of perception be called as jhana? There is some strange things about it:

  1. all other formless jhana has “dimension (ayatana)” in their name, while cessation of perception do not
  2. other jhana have corresponding rebirth-realm, while rebirth-realm of cessation of perception is debated (KV 15.10 SuttaCentral)

Also, i am quite confounded on this section of MN 59, what is pleasure that is not pleasant feeling? please help :anjal:

By Ven. Sujato
It’s possible that wanderers who follow other paths might say: ‘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.’”


Well that’s a misapprehension of them. They provide access to the innermost layers, allows the mind to be ‘malleable enough’ for insight to penetrate. They also show up the defilements. I also think they give taste of what the mind of an arahanth is like and that’s the target and therefore the path to follow which leads to that state, but permanently! I think the bodisattva was followed that memory, and it led to the permanent state (‘permanent’ as in until the death of an arahanth).


Please see my post, above. :arrow_up:


My initial post was intended to be a reasoned argument attempting to show that the EBTs do suggest one can feel one’s body at least in some jhanas. However, I came across the comment below, which helped me decide that I didn’t need to debate this topic here.


Read through the above but could not see what you’re talking about. Please post the quote as a reply or tag me and I’ll happily have a look.