Why are the Arahant aggregates suffering due to impermanence?

What is the suffering of impermanence if there is no upadana and sadness due to change? Why did the Buddha’s disciples take this statement for granted in those days? This argument has already been put forward to me many times - if there is no clinging, then the impermanent will not bring any experiences and there will be an equal attitude towards it, without sadness or suffering. Pain does not always replace pleasant sensations. In particular, why are the states of mind contemplating higher objects, such as pointlessness and emptiness, suffering?

It’s out of one’s control and will therefore change from pleasant to unpleasant and back and forth, life after life. Dukkha.
See SN22.97

The higher mind states are temporary and, as the Buddha said, do not in themselves solve the problem of rebirth and dukkha.

Even when there’s no clinging, there is the sheer unpleasantness of painful sensations for an arahant, since the aggregates are still present. Even the Buddha appeared to look forward to being released from the aggregates, as in DN16.
Also SN45.165:
"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."

In other words, the “second arrow” of what might be called mental affliction through grasping and identification has been “removed” for an arahant, but the first arrow remains until the khandhas fully cease without rebirth.


But in the world of pure abodes there is no theoretical painful feeling. I don’t remember whether beings with an arahant-level mind live there. What you say applies well to an unenlightened being. But I am especially interested in why impermanence is dukkha for those who are enlightened.

Yes, this sutta says that all types of aggregates are impermanent, and that which is impermanent is suffering. But there is no explanation of how exactly impermanence is associated with suffering.

Some suttas explain this through clinging - a person is attached to something and when the object of attachment is destroyed, he suffers. But this explanation does not explain the case of the arahant well.

Another explanation is what you gave: namely, that good is replaced by something bad, pleasant by painful and back again. In a cup of aromatic drink, poison is mixed, so the wise man should stay away from such a poisoned “pleasure.”

To this they answer me that:
*Change does not always lead to suffering, sometimes change leads to nibbana, the cessation of suffering (quite a strong argument). *Suffering does not always replace happiness. This especially applies to the same clean lands. *Suffering must have reasons, it is not without cause, if bad karma and mental defilements are eliminated, then the production of suffering stops (but I consider this argument weak.).

Yes, but this sutta also does not explain how exactly formations and variability are associated with suffering. That’s why I opened this topic. To find obvious and irrefutable arguments showing that changeable formations are always suffering (associated with suffering or experienced as suffering).

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But one never knows, one cannot control all the changes, and only with the ending of all this can one be assured of no further dukkha. Ever.

Rather than “irrefutable arguments” this is directly known through practice and insight.
The more the mind realizes equanimity and sees into the nature of all conditions, the more clear the truth of the three characteristics become, yathābhūtañāṇadassanaṁ. This is the knowledge that the suttas state leads to the understanding of liberation.

Reasons and arguments are known for their limitations and their inability to offer this kind of understanding.

The Buddha did not base his teachings on philosophical or even ontological issues, but on what was true and directly verifiable through practicing the Dhamma for the explicit purpose of ending dukkha, as we know.

Just saying…

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arahants still feel pleasure and pain. they do not cling to or crave that pleasure and are not averse to that pain - but it is still pleasurable or painful.

arahants are also bound by their kamma - some arahants had more pleasure and less pain, and others vice versa, each according to their kamma. for example, of the buddha’s two chief disciples, moggallana was beaten to death by brigands, with every bone in his body broken, while sariputta died peacefully in his mother’s house, after being visited by a host of heavenly beings.

these aggregates we experience are the result of kamma.

i guess one can still experience dukkha but still be free from it. they can experience pleasure and pain but be free from it.

the story of subha gives a good indication of how arahants would experience and view the aggregates:



Yes, this is an explanation, but only for the human world. It is said that everything that is impermanent is necessarily suffering. But let’s assume that a certain arahant has very good karma and, on the whole, has not experienced major illnesses. Then this guarantee of dukkha does not work. And finally, the option that stands out most from the general scheme is the arahants living in the world of pure lands, where there is no physical pain, and there is only one feeling - the calm feeling of 4 jhana, upekkha-vedana. What is the suffering of the impermanence of the deva-arahant aggregates?

That it will end.

And, from another viewpoint, beings tend to fall into complacency when experiences are pleasant. This reduces their motivation to deeply engage in the Dhamma, forestalling their progress on the Path to finally end all dukkha, free of all impermanence.

The fact that they end will cause mental suffering for the one who is attached to. But the Arahant is not attached, therefore the cessation of upekkha-vedana will not be sad for him. Moreover, if we consider that the peace of nibbana-cessation is an even greater happiness, then the end of upekkha-vedana in this world will not be suffering, but even greater happiness. The transition from one happiness to an even more perfect one.

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Arahants in the world of pure lands no longer need to continue their practice.

It is interesting that the highest vision is described as that in the visible there is only the visible, in the audible there is the audible, in the conceivable there is the conceivable, in the cognizable there is the cognizable. That is, pure suchness, without signs of suffering, happiness, beauty, ugliness, self or non-self, etc… Isn’t this the mind setting to overcome craving and reach this suchness, tathata-sunnyata?

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The arahant only experiences the dukkha of the aggregates, which are themselves a form of dukkha.
The aggregates/continued existence don’t completely end until final nibbana and not in the pure realms or deva realms.

The main point is no rebirth, not continued existence in some ineffable sphere of ease.
We agree that arahants have no need to cultivate and practice the Path – and they also know that after their final death, the final cessation of the khandhas - there will no further existence or dukkha.

Do we agree that one of the most repeated phrases about this in the suttas is:
"They understand: ‘Rebirth is ended, the spiritual journey has been completed, what had to be done has been done, there is no return to any state of existence.

That’s the point being offered here.

If an anagamin attains nibbana in pure lands, he is an arahant. I want to understand what is the dukkha of even such refined khandhas and why is the impermanence of these khandhas associated with dukkha?

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From the Buddha, stated many times in the EBTs and here in SN22.59, after going through each aggregate and identifying them as impermanent:

"But if it’s impermanent, is it suffering or happiness?” “Yaṁ panāniccaṁ dukkhaṁ vā taṁ sukhaṁ vā”ti?
“Suffering, sir.” “Dukkhaṁ, bhante”.

Also, any form of existence is dukkha. … there is no return to any state of existence.
That’s why: nibbāna.
Extinguishment is bliss, AN9.34.

Yes, I know that the Buddha said this, judging by the suttas. But where is the explanation for this statement? Another sutta explains that the disintegration of something to which there was attachment causes mental sadness. But the arahants should not have any sadness due to the change. The fact is that we can feel suffering only through vedana. Either physical or mental. If constant disintegration tires us, suppresses us, worries us and bothers us - all these sensations and experiences are mental vedana, they are associated only with clinging. If there is no bodily pain (for example, in the world of pure lands), mental pain and a fall into the lower worlds are not foreseen, then the nature of suffering is not obvious. But it exists, I’m sure, if only we could understand exactly how. Perhaps here we are talking either about the potential danger of suffering in the case of clinging or about subtle unsatisfactoriness in the sense of the imperfection of happiness in comparison with complete peace, I don’t know.

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Yup. :slightly_smiling_face:

It is helpful to recall that the teachings are not grounded in trying to explain the “why” of how things are in a purely scientific or ontological sense.
They are true, but truths that apply to the understanding of the 4NTs and the cessation of all dukkha.

Otherwise, it’s easy to slip into papañca-nizing. :slightly_smiling_face:

Just saying…
Thanks for the convo.

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A minimum of explanation is still given, for example for anatta-lakhana. Yes, it is mysterious and can only be known through experience, but there is still an explanation to begin with.

an arahant who has good kamma and experiences a body without illness will still experience old age and death. both of those things necessarily involve suffering.

i don’t believe there are arahants in the pure abodes - only non returners. once a deva attains enlightenment, i imagine that even their finer material body ceases.

there is still dukkha associated with a fine material body - it too ceases with time, but even more than that, if you read the suttas, there are monks who arise in the deva realm and find it suffering - even pleasurable stimuli is unsatisfactory at that level.


The dissatisfaction of such stimuli can be experienced either as physical or mental suffering. This means that in order for this dissatisfaction to exist, they retain a certain clinging. Perhaps there is a third option (besides bodily and mental painfulness) through which the suffering of aggregates is experienced/or understood?

i think there is, as the buddha says, the aggregates with clinging, and the aggregates without.

the suttas consistently note that arahants experience pleasurable and painful sensations of the body after attaining nibbana for the remainder of the life of the body. even the buddha himself experienced pleasure and pain after enlightenment.

however, i don’t think they are going to take that pleasure and pain as theirs. they would endure it with equanimity. it would be of no consequence to them either way. there is no cloning or craving for the arahant but pleasure and pain are experienced directly and fully.

it’s a strange thing for us to try to grasp because we can’t conceive of pain and pleasure as things we don’t cling to or crave.


My answer would be:

The word dukkha is used with a few different senses throughout the suttas. Sometimes it means pain, as the opposite of pleasure. That’s mostly a “worldly” sense, the conventional use of the word. But sometimes it means anything that is not parinibbana, anything that is not the complete end of suffering. This is how the Buddha reemployed the word.

Suffering due to impermanence is not merely the fact that impermanent things inevitably change into some painful type of suffering; it is also that everything that is impermanent is not nibbana, and hence not the end of suffering.

So when the Buddha asks: “What is impermanent, is that suffering?” he is not just asking a psychological question. It is also an ontological one, namely that anything that’s not nibbana (anything that’s impermanent) is by that very fact suffering.

You could say this is just a matter of definition, but it isn’t. This is also how it is experienced by noble ones. It is only by contrasting the aggregates to the cessation of the aggregates that this scope of suffering can be understood, hence only noble ones truly understand dukkha. What others think is happiness, the noble ones know to be suffering, it is said in the sutta, and this includes the highest realms of existence.

(Dukkha doesn’t mean ‘unsatisfactory’. There’s many reasons for that, and I don’t want to derail the topic, but for one, it is the opposite of sukha, which doesn’t mean ‘satisfactory’ but ‘pleasant’.)