Unpleasant pain in Jhana?


For those interested, Gombrich has this to say, in his book ‘How Buddhism Began’:
Sory I don’t have time to correct the optical character recognition on this part but hopefully it will make sense (bare in mind diacritic mistakes):

Since even the core of the fire metaphor was thus early forgotten by Buddhist tradition, it is not surprising that its extensions were forgotten too. The word upadana has both a concrete and an abstract meaning. In the abstract it means attachment, grasping; in this sense it is much used in Buddhist dogmatics. Concretely, it means that which fuels this process. The P.E.D. s.v.: ‘(lit. that [material] substratum by means of which an active process is kept alive and going), fuel, supply, provision’. So when the context deals with fire it simply means fuel. The five khandha, from form to consciousness, are often referred to in the texts as the upadana-kkhandha, and this is usually translated something like ‘the aggregates of grasping’. While not wrong, this translation has lost the metaphor.

In my opinion it is clear that the term khandha too was a part of the fire metaphor. I would trace it back to a small sutta which has caused a good deal of trouble in the history of Buddhist thought: the sermon about the burden at SaÅyutta Nikaya Khandhavagga, sutta 22 ! SN III, 25–6. Like most of these short sermons in the SaÅyutta Nikaya, this has no narrative context. The Buddha simply begins by saying: ‘Monks, I shall teach you the burden, the bearer of the burden, the taking up of the burden and the putting down of the burden.’ He is expounding a metaphor. The burden, he says, is what we may call the five upadanakkhandha; he then names the standard five, from matter to consciousness, calling each an upadana-kkhandha. Each is being metaphorically called a bundle of fuel. The normal fuel was firewood, and we can, if we like, extend the image to being one of the brahmin student (brahmacarin), one of whose daily duties was to collect the firewood to feed the sacred fires.

corrected the copy paste erros in this part though:

Once one understands that the five processes that constitute our experiences are being compared to burning bundles of firewood, or at least to bundles of firewood to feed the fires of passion, hatred and delusion, this also makes sense of the old terms for the two kinds of nirvana: sa-upādi-sesa and an-upādi-sesa. As the P.E.D. s.v. upadi tells us, upādi = upādāṇa. The attainment of nirvana during one’s life (the only time when it is possible to attain it!) is called sa-upādi-sesa, but this does not mean that one still has a residue of grasping – just a little bit of vice! If we follow the metaphor, we understand that at the moment when we extinguish the fires of passion, hatred and delusion we still have the five khandha, that which experiences, so we still have a residue (sesa) of fuel (upādi); however, it is no longer burning. When the five khandha cease to exist, i.e., when we die Enlightened, we have no more potential for experience; we have run out of fuel.

This was apparently forgotten at a very early stage. Because of phonetic similarity, upādi in this context was changed to upadhi. The latter means basis, foundation, and in particular was used to refer to the basis for craving (taṇhā). As this made satisfactory sense, no one noticed that there was even a problem with the original terms.

@Mat it’s again hard to follow as you have given a quote with no source, so it’s hard to see the context of this passage! You’re also not saying what your point is. Just some explanation about daratha without saying what you mean to do with that information in terms of directing your argument. So it’s hard to follow you. You also talk about Uddakka Buddha, but I tracked down the sutta you quoted and this seems unconnected.

Your quote actually seems to be describing someone who is not enlightened. But what you noted about daratha does confirm to what I’ve been finding - I’ve have been looking into occurences a bit. Please note exactly what you have written there, namely that daratha precedes dukkha! This seems to confirm that it is possible to have daratha without having dukkha, so long as one does not allow daratha to lead on to dukkha. And since we have examples in the EBT’s of arahants having daratha, but so far apparently no examples of arahants having dukkha, my position seems to be holding up very well so far. What do you think?

I can see no occurence of the word daratha in the passage that you quote, therefore I cannot understand your claim.


So the aggregates are like fuel for the fire of grasping, and Nibbana corresponds to the fire going out, just leaving some unburnt fuel?


See my post No. 106 above. MN149 appears to describe the cessation of both daratha and dukkha for the Arahant.


Thank you very much for posting the quote from Gombrich. I will take the time to read it through more closely later.


I can’t see post numbers, don’t know how to also. Can you quote yourself? That gives a button also that helps us click back. Thanks.


Ah I found it in the sutta now, and yes that’s one I also came across recently. We seem to have mixed reports about whether arahants experience daratha or not. However, we seem so far to have zero reports of them having dukkha. Unless anyone has an example?


I can’t think of any suttas which describe an Arahant experiencing dukkha. The second truth says that dukkha results from tanha, so logically when tanha ceases then so should dukkha.


Yeah @Mat insists they do but it’s seeming that it may be his imagination. That would seem to contradict the whole canon!


@Senryu please provide me with your arguments against what’s below:

You seem to be keen to highlight evidence for your argument but unable to engage with mine. I’m sure you’re selectively seeing only your side.


The second truth in death includes the origination starting with ignorance, that is the DO. The DO is in it’s ceasing phase in the 3rd Noble truth. The DO ends with a definition of suffering. This includes aging, disease death. The arahanth is subject to it.


I don’t think that old age and death are dukkha for the Arahant. Aversion and resistance have ceased, so there is equanimity towards these natural processes. Or you could say there is no more craving for continued existence. Sense bases and aggregates are dukkha for the unenlightened, but not for the Arahant. DO describes what happens to the unenlightened, but the Arahant is liberated from that cycle.


@Mat, my primary reason for so far rejecting your argument is that you have failed to provide even one direct reference of any arahant having dukkha. This is a very important point. We have so many teachings! And so many teaching about dukkha! The whole Buddhist path is aimed at overcoming dukkha. And it would be quite extraordinary for arahants who are said to have completed the path ending dukkha, to be seen as still having dukkha, without this being considered significant to ever state in even so much as one sutta! Furthermore, are you aware of even any ancient commentator, of even any later Buddhist masters in India, ever saying that arahants have dukkha? If neither the ancient nor later texts ever make such a claim, it seems absurd to consider that such an important aspect of the view was standard but never recorded!

I doubt that is meant literally. For example, in mettā absorption, there is no dukkha, right? Furthermore you can even experience nibbāna in the present life, in meditation. However, you still have eyes! Even if they are not seeing. So, this disqualifies the literal understanding of the sense bases being dukkha.

[Please clarify if that is saying the aggregates, or the clinging aggregates. There seems to be a difference between the two. Aside from that…]
Same argument applies as above. I’ll give another example. Look at the Four Noble Truths. He says:

Now this, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of suffering: birth is suffering, aging is suffering, illness is suffering, death is suffering; union with what is displeasing is suffering; separation from what is pleasing is suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering; in brief, the five aggregates subject to clinging are suffering.

From that it, taking it out of context and literally, it would imply that there is in fact no way to be free from dukkha while alive. You’re still likely to age and get ill, and certainly will die!

However, he continues:

Now this, bhikkhus, is the noble truth of the cessation of suffering: it is the remainderless fading away and cessation of that same craving, the giving up and relinquishing of it, freedom from it, non-reliance on it.

There is no mention whatsoever here of any need to die in order to end dukkha. He talks of a mental shift, which must be happening, we can assume, while alive. This is of course confirmed by many accounts in the suttas.

And how can we test this hypothesis? Well, we can read the canon, and find that arahants indeed to experience old age, sickness, and death. But never once (apparently) are they said to have dukkha. And this is apparently in perfect harmony with my interpretation of the Noble Truths I just gave.

Also since you apparently believe that arahants have not attained the cessation of dukkha, then due to the second noble truth, you must believe that arahants have taṇhā, as @Whippet may have been pointing out. So then can you prove that arahants have taṇhā? Do you have any references where that is stated? If not, how can you explain that they have taṇhā (which they must since it is the origin of dukkha) and yet are never said to have taṇhā?

He never called himself a bodhisattva, but I know what you mean. Nevertheless, the path he did end up taking as the right path after he left that school, was the path of jhāna, which results in the blissfully positive affect, and he continued to use that practice until he died. He seems to have used that to entirely overcome negative emotional affect, which is what I suggest the term dukkha refers to.


I think it’s broader and it includes rebirth. First you accuse me of not giving you EBTs, then of not giving explanations because you aren’t able to understand them, then you say my quotes are too literal, and then you resort to commentators not agreeing with it. It seems reasonable that for you dukkha ends with enlightenment. Your dukkha is psychological and secular. For me dukkha is all fabrications, and I’m afraid you are not in a position to understand what I’m saying as you cannot understand what the ‘bliss where there is no feeling’ is about. I’m stopping this conversation.


It would be quite natural for it to include rebirth. Why? Because you are born with emotional suffering. Why? Because you are not an arahant. If you’re an arahant, then you will never be reborn. So, this line of reasoning seems to be fatally flawed.

Mat you made posts actually devoid of any explanation, so I can’t understand ones that aren’t given.

Mat, if there is no single EBT that says arahants have dukkha, and on top of that, even no commentaries, then that is a rather strong reason why your position, being in opposition to so far as I know all understandings on this topic through Ancient Buddhist history (no-one has provided any evidence to the contrary), seems particularly weak. You seem to portray that as some kind of weak accusation. Do you not rather see this as a highly significant point? I find it very hard to not see this as significant.


See the below sutta to understand where @Mat is coming from. I think you guys are kind of just arguing over the semantic range of a Pali term rather than having some deeper disagreement in terms of doctrine.

But the Buddha has also said:
Vuttaṃ kho panetaṃ bhagavatā:

‘Suffering includes whatever is felt.’
‘yaṃ kiñci vedayitaṃ taṃ dukkhasmin’ti.

What was the Buddha referring to when he said this?”
Kiṃ nu kho etaṃ bhagavatā sandhāya bhāsitaṃ:
‘yaṃ kiñci vedayitaṃ taṃ dukkhasmin’”ti?

“Good, good, mendicant!
“Sādhu sādhu, bhikkhu.

I have spoken of these three feelings.
Tisso imā, bhikkhu, vedanā vuttā mayā.

Pleasant, painful, and neutral feeling.
Sukhā vedanā, dukkhā vedanā, adukkhamasukhā vedanā—

These are the three feelings I have spoken of.
imā tisso vedanā vuttā mayā.

But I have also said:
Vuttaṃ kho panetaṃ, bhikkhu, mayā:

Suffering includes whatever is felt.’
> ‘yaṃ kiñci vedayitaṃ, taṃ dukkhasmin’ti.

When I said this I was referring to the impermanence of conditions, to the fact that conditions are
Taṃ kho panetaṃ, bhikkhu, mayā saṅkhārānaṃyeva aniccataṃ sandhāya bhāsitaṃ:
‘yaṃ kiñci vedayitaṃ taṃ dukkhasmin’ti.

liable to end,
Taṃ kho panetaṃ, bhikkhu, mayā saṅkhārānaṃyeva khayadhammataṃ … pe …

vayadhammataṃ … pe …

fade away,
virāgadhammataṃ … pe …

nirodhadhammataṃ … pe …

and perish.
vipariṇāmadhammataṃ sandhāya bhāsitaṃ:
‘yaṃ kiñci vedayitaṃ taṃ dukkhasmin’ti. - SN36.11

Arahants experience feelings

All feelings are dukkha

Therefore, arahants experience dukkha

See also:

“Mendicants, there are these three forms of suffering.
“Tisso imā, bhikkhave, dukkhatā.

What three?
Katamā tisso?

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 noble eightfold path should be developed for the direct knowledge, complete understanding, finishing, and giving up of these three forms of suffering.”
Imāsaṃ kho, bhikkhave, tissannaṃ dukkhatānaṃ abhiññāya pariññāya parikkhayāya pahānāya … pe … ayaṃ ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo bhāvetabbo”ti. - SuttaCentral

In the same way, when an educated noble disciple experiences painful physical feelings they don’t sorrow or pine or lament, beating their breast and falling into confusion.

Evameva kho, bhikkhave, sutavā ariyasāvako dukkhāya vedanāya phuṭṭho samāno na socati, na kilamati, na paridevati, na urattāḷiṃ kandati, na sammohaṃ āpajjati.

They experience one feeling:
So ekaṃ vedanaṃ vedayati—

physical, not mental.
kāyikaṃ, na cetasikaṃ.

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.
Tamenaṃ dukkhāya vedanāya appaṭighavantaṃ, yo dukkhāya vedanāya paṭighānusayo, so nānuseti.

When touched by painful feeling they don’t look forward to enjoying sensual pleasures.
So dukkhāya vedanāya phuṭṭho samāno kāmasukhaṃ nābhinandati.

Why is that?
Taṃ kissa hetu?

Because an educated noble disciple understands an escape from painful feeling apart from sensual pleasures.
Pajānāti hi so, bhikkhave, sutavā ariyasāvako aññatra kāmasukhā dukkhāya vedanāya nissaraṇaṃ.

Since they don’t look forward to enjoying sensual pleasures, there’s no underlying tendency to greed for pleasant feeling underlying that.
Tassa kāmasukhaṃ nābhinandato yo sukhāya vedanāya rāgānusayo, so nānuseti.

They truly understand feelings’ origin, ending, gratification, drawback, and escape.
So tāsaṃ vedanānaṃ samudayañca atthaṅgamañca assādañca ādīnavaṃ ca nissaraṇañca yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti.

There’s no underlying tendency to ignorance about neutral feeling underlying that.
Tassa tāsaṃ vedanānaṃ samudayañca atthaṅgamañca assādañca ādīnavañca nissaraṇañca yathābhūtaṃ pajānato, yo adukkhamasukhāya vedanāya avijjānusayo, so nānuseti.

If they feel a pleasant feeling, they feel it detached.
So sukhañce vedanaṃ vedayati, visaññutto naṃ vedayati.

If they feel a painful feeling, they feel it detached.
Dukkhañce vedanaṃ vedayati, visaññutto naṃ vedayati.

If they feel a neutral feeling, they feel it detached.
Adukkhamasukhañce vedanaṃ vedayati, visaññutto naṃ vedayati.

They’re called an educated noble disciple who is detached from rebirth, old age, and death, from sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress, I say.
Ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, ‘sutavā ariyasāvako visaññutto jātiyā jarāya maraṇena sokehi paridevehi dukkhehi domanassehi upāyāsehi, visaññutto dukkhasmā’ti vadāmi.

This is the difference between an educated noble disciple and an uneducated ordinary person.
Ayaṃ kho, bhikkhave, viseso, ayaṃ adhippayāso, idaṃ nānākaraṇaṃ sutavato ariyasāvakassa assutavatā puthujjanenāti. - SuttaCentral


But I think much of the EBT content is describing the “default” position for the unenlightened ordinary person - it simply doesn’t apply to the Arahant. It’s analogous to diplomatic immunity, where none of the host country’s laws apply - the diplomat is “detached” from them. Note that the Dukkhata Sutta you referenced above describes the 3 types of dukkha as being completely given up and finished. So the Arahant still experiences feeling, but craving and suffering no longer apply - as per the second Noble Truth.


I agree that through dispassion, non-identification and detachment the arahant is no longer subject to dukkha. I’m gonna bow out with that because I feel like this is just a terminological argument and the suttas themselves are not entirely consistent in the use of terms so it’s pointless to debate. Everybody’s right, good night.



I agree about inconsistency in the suttas. Probably some of it is translation issues, but there is also stuff which just looks contradictory. It gives the impression of suttas being written by different people at different times?


The consistency can be found in meaning, if not in the word.

Sankhara dukkha still persists (‘Is that which is impermanent dukkha or sukkha, dukkha, sir’) though felt detached. And this is emphasised here: Sabbe sankhara anicca, sabbe sankhara dukkha. All fabrications are impermanent, …unsatisfactory. This means some unsatisfactoriness persists however subtle and this level of understanding is possible for someone who has developed mindfulness of the arising and passing away of the sense bases, in an extensive manner in a retreat setting. Until then the concept that suffering should be ‘fully understood’ doesn’t mean much and they will only understand emotional suffering, existential suffering or the suffering of painful sensations which most people without any particular training in the dhamma can understand.


Well yes, for me it is very interesting to understand Pāli terms, and it seems significant to define their semantic range, in order to understand the doctrine.

In the quest for understanding the semantic range of a word, it also seems important to me to see how the word is applied. @Mat seemed to be applying dukkha to the experience of arahants even though he could apparently produce no single example of any EBT appling the term dukkha to the experience of arahants, and to me this makes the case for applying dukkha to the experience of arahants very weak.

That is to say, I felt an investigation of the term dukkha and whether it applies to arahants required two main things:

  • investigation of the semantic range of dukkha as used in the EBT’s in context.
  • investigation of whether arahants are said to have dukkha, or to be free from dukkha.

This is great - finally an argument about dukkha which actually refers to a text discussing dukkha! Thanks.

I have to say I’m surprised by this. It implies that to overcome dukkha, we have to have no vedanā at all. This seems to be quite a different doctrine to that found in the Noble Eightfold Path. Can anyone shed light on this? Is this quote from a sutta known to be later? Is there understanding on this matter, such as a known conflict in the EBT’s? What does standard Theravada doctrine say - does it say all vedanā is dukkha?

Also please note that later in this sutta we have:

For someone who has attained the cessation of perception and feeling, perception and feeling have ceased.
samāpannassa saññā ca vedanā ca niruddhā honti.

If we take the first part literally, that ‘Suffering includes whatever is felt’, then it follows that the way to end dukkha is through the immaterial absorption ‘the cessation of perception and feeling’. If this is so, then how do you explain why ‘the cessation of perception and feeling’ is not part of the Noble Eightfold Path, that very path that is the path to the end of dukkha? This would seem to be a most critical question.

Perhaps there were two opposing views int he early community:

  • That the 4 jhānas were necessary for overcoming dukkha.
  • That the immaterial attainments were, in addition to jhāna, necessary for overcoming dukkha.

If this is the case, then the idea of vedanā being dukkha could come from the second camp. This would be a very good reason why to label immaterial practice as necessary. And conversely, if vedanā is not inherently dukkha, then that could be part of the reasoning as to why it is not necessary to attain a state where there is no vedanā.

It was my impression that the majority of the canon expressed the firt view, that immaterial practice is an optional extra.

Now another thing to consider:

I offer a possible resolution. It may be that usually, vedanā gives rise to dukkha (as emotional suffering) due to vedanā being impermanent. Usually that emotionally disturbs people. Of course not all the time - the impermanance of negative feelings can actually lead to happiness, such as:

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.

This is a good example of the happiness we can get from the fading away of negative feelings, unpleasant vedanā.

So, the impermanent nature of vedanā sometimes causes sukha. But yes, generally speaking, the impermanent nature of vedanā can cause us dukkha.

However, I would suggest that it doesn’t have to. That an arahant can experience vedanā and not be tripped out by its impermanence.

If we examine a moment of vedana, while that vedana is existing, then what is the revelevance of its impermanence? Well, its impermanence only exists relative to extended time. Only when we examine a timeline, do we see arising and passing away. That is to say, it requires a time sequence.

If you have a nice feeling, you can be tripped out by knowing it will end. You can also be tripped out the moment it ends. And you can still be tripping out about it after it ended.

But what if you stop all mental profileration? Well, you won’t be tripping out about the fact that it will end in the future, if you are not thinking about the future. Similarly, you will not be tripping out about ones that have ended, if you are not thinking about the past! So we are left only with the present. So supposing right now a nice vedana is ending. Well, that will only be experienced as negative if there is comparison going on. And for that, you have to leave the present moment, or at least refer to the past in order to compare.

So you see, if you stay only in the present moment, then even the impermanent nature of vedana should not be any problem at all.

And so consider the Buddha’s teachings, or being present, of disengaging from thoughts of the past and future. While walking, just walk. While sitting, just sit, and so on.

So then, suppose that this teaching is refering to the normal situation. And suppose also that it is a teaching pointing us to observe our minds at a fine resolution. Not at the gross level of missing friends, wanting to do this and that in future and so on. Rather the fine level moment to moment arising of vedana, which is a process that occurs far far before any of those far more complex processes of the mind such as memory, decision making and so on. It’s right there at the moment to moment level of vedana, that we react. We react to the vedana. Including our reaction to the impermanence of vedana. And we make so much suffering for ourselves in that process.

Perhaps the state of ‘the cessation of perception and feeling’ is useful to give us a new perspective on our experience of vedana. Perhaps it can help rearrange our relationship to the experience of having vedana. Perhaps take them less personally, for example. Anyhow, if we say do take the meaning against which I have just argued, namely that literally all experience of vedanā is dukkha, then we have to say that the Buddha’s life was permeated by dukkha - how comfortable do you feel with such a statement? The only other alternative for holders of that view would seem to be that the Buddha experienced no vedanā, which would seem quite absurd.

Wonderful, thank you for another example that actually includes the term dukkha! Interesting.

Now, you have given Sujato’s translation. Here is Thanissaro’s:

the stressfulness of pain, the stressfulness of fabrication, the stressfulness of change.

So we have ‘of’ vs. ‘inherent in’. Let’s look at the PED entry for dukkhatā:

state of pain, painfulness, discomfort, pain
So basically, the state of dukkha. Perhaps more useful to leave dukkha untranslated just now.

I am not sure how justified ‘inherent in’ is. Does any Pāli reader have an opinion on this? Is it not just a standard tappurisa compound, which would be taken to mean, in the case of dukkhadukkhatā, basically ‘dukkhatā of dukkha’? For this reason Thanissaro’s translation seems more in line with my understanding of the Pāli.

So if we follow Thanissaro and my understanding of the grammar and the PED’s take on ‘state of’, it looks to me that we have basically:

  • The state of dukka… let’s say the ‘dukkha-ness’ of dukka
  • The dukkha-ness of saṅkhāra
  • The dukkha-ness of vipariṇāma

Now, this is a difference from saying that dukkha-ness is inherent in those three things, do you see? No I don’t know if they actually are inherent or not. But my reading allows for the potential that this is referring to 3 types of dukkha, but not necessarily saying that those three things cannot be experienced without dukkha arising. It may be that those are the three usual sources which trigger our dukkha. But, through the training of the Noble EIghtfold Path, it’s possible to eliminate all dukkha, even without eliminating all saṅkhāras and so on.

What do you think?

This is a great quote. I wonder if he is languaging it like that because everyone around him was not realising that dukkha is separate from phenomena experienced in the world. Everyone feels emotional pain in conjuction with negative sensory affects, or hearing abusive words aimed at them etc. So perhaps they think that, for example, painful physical feelings are inherently causing emotional suffering.

But the Buddha carefully separated those out. He gave the arrow teaching for example, to show how the emotional suffering actually occurs after the physical pain.

And here he seems to be pointing out that same thing - that it’s a two step process, and we are able to actually remove the second step:

I suggest this may be saying that they experience the sensory affect of the vedana (or we might even define vedana as that), but there is no emotional affect.
[Oh, I just looked up the source and found that this actually is the sutta about the two arrows!]

If we consider the Four Noble Truths and the various other teachings on the subject to mean that the Noble Eightfold Path does in fact lead to the end of dukkha in this life, then this sutta above may be telling us dukkha, as negative emotional affect, is overcome; but negative sensory affect is not overcome. Because the chain has been broken, which usually makes negative sensory affect (kāyikaṃ) lead to negative emotional affect (cetasikaṃ).

Now, let’s go back to:

Dukkhadukkhatā, saṅkhāradukkhatā, vipariṇāmadukkhatā

One thing this seems to tell me is that there are (at least) two meanings for the term dukkha. This is implied by the term dukkhadukkhatā - and what this suggests to me is that there is a common term, and a specialised technical term.

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’.

Please note that this description is actually entirely devoid of emotoinal content, and is referring to negative sensory affect.

Now, we know that the Noble Eightfold Path leads to the end of dukkha, by way of eliminating taṇha. We also know that eliminating taṇha is possible while alive. AN 3.33:

When a mendicant has no ego, possessiveness, or underlying tendency to conceit for this conscious body; and no ego, possessiveness, or underlying tendency to conceit for all external stimuli; and they live having attained the freedom of heart and freedom by wisdom where ego, possessiveness, and underlying tendency to conceit are no more—
Yato ca kho,
sāriputta, bhikkhuno imasmiñca saviññāṇake kāye ahaṅkāramamaṅkāramānānusayā na honti, bahiddhā ca sabbanimittesu ahaṅkāramamaṅkāramānānusayā na honti, yañca cetovimuttiṃ paññāvimuttiṃ upasampajja viharato ahaṅkāramamaṅkāramānānusayā na honti tañca cetovimuttiṃ paññāvimuttiṃ upasampajja viharati;

they’re called
ayaṃ vuccati, sāriputta:

a mendicant who has cut off craving, untied the fetters, and by rightly comprehending conceit has made an end of suffering.
‘bhikkhu acchecchi taṇhaṃ, vivattayi saṃyojanaṃ, sammā mānābhisamayā antamakāsi dukkhassa’.

And yet, we also know well that arahants can experience pain - negative sensory affect. Now, how can that be, when dukkha was defined as “Physical pain”? How about my suggestion, based on the evidence of the term dukkhadukkhatā, that there are two meanings for this term - general, and technical?

I propose that the general meaning may be that associated normally with ‘suffering’, such as obviously ‘painful’ things. But that the point is, the Buddha is pointing out that in fact what we usually experience as ‘pain’ is a compound phenomena, with both ‘body’ (sensory affect) and ‘mind’/‘heart’ (emotional affect) elements, the latter of which actually occurs later in the time sequence. Those all naturally include negative emotional affect for ordinary people. And so they are easy images for bringing to our mind the torment of suffering. (As a side note, it was not until my first meditation retreat that I realised that, to use my simple English terms, ‘suffering’ and ‘pain’ are not synonymous! For the first time, I experienced strong physical pain in the total absense of negative emotional affect. I just saw the pain clearly, and it was interesting, but I totally let go of all resistance, and saw clearly that there was no ‘suffering’. Only pain, which was totally ok! I assume that’s what was meant in the sutta about the two arrows).

In this case, dukkhadukkhatā could mean something like: 'the state of negative emotional affect associated with ordinarily painful things.'

So, the dukkha that he says the Four Noble Truths eliminates, is actually the mind/heart element (emotional affect), not the body element (sensory affect). This seems to be clearly laid out in the sutta about the arrows, as we discussed above. So this is I suggest is the technical meaning of dukkha. And this would seem to explain why, although arahants have pain - have daratha - (please see my post on this for more discussion about this term and the difference with dukkha: Arahants have no dukkha, but apparently have daratha - negative sensory/homeostatic affect? ), they are (apparently) never referred to as having dukkha, in the EBT’s. Since they obviously do have pain, I suggest that the reason why they are never said to have dukkha is because although that might fit for the ordinary term, their experience of dukkha in that ordinary sense is totally different to ordinary people, because it lacks the negative emotional affect that is usually included. And to save confusion that the dukkha would be taken in the technical sense of the word, as the dukkha which the Noble Eighfold Path eliminates (negative emotional affect according to my proposal), the word is never applied to them. That is to say, the EBT’s keep to the technical meaning of dukkha when discussing arahants.

@sujato I am sure that you might be too busy to want to enter this discussion, but I find this very interesting and I think you might too - I hope it’s not rude to tag you. I am not sure about this, but have been finding it very interesting to explore the discrimination between sensory and emotional affect in the EBT’s, as well as cognitive vs. affective discrimination. I would be very interested if you would wish to share you opinion on this topic! I am not sure about dukkha but this is my reasoning so far at least.

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