Why is birth dukkha?

I’m not saying the Arahants don’t have back pain (whatever), I’m saying that for them it isn’t dukkha.

It’s not dukkha because the Arahant is free from self-view. They longer regard it as “my pain”, it’s just an impersonal sensation.
It’s not dukkha because the Arahant is free from craving and aversion, so they don’t crave the cessation of unpleasant sensations.

And again, it seems arbitrary to exclude bodily pain from the cessation of dukkha, given the Second and Third Truths are not expressed in this partial or qualified way.

Yes, some insist that this means that only future dukkha ceases totally when tanha ends in this life. After death no more rebirth, no more suffering.

I don’t understand the view that tanha and dukkha only finally cease at death, given that Nibbana is a living experince, and is described as cessation of the taints.

I think they teach that tanha can end before death. At that moment any future dukkha ends, because all causes for future suffering, i.e. rebirth, are gone. I think this the most common interpretation.

Yes, that is actually the traditional theravada interpretation.

No doubt every mother is shaking her head in disbelief that anyone would ask that question.:grin:

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This question actually began as a conversation with my mom who thought birth wouldn’t be painful for the baby since most of the pain of childbirth is (from what she tells me) due to contractions and the cervical dilations, not the baby actually having to fit through.

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I don’t disagree that arahants don’t suffer mentally due to these physical sufferings.

What I am saying is that the first noble truth doesn’t seem to carry a conditional statement that rebirth, aging, sickness, death are suffering, except for arahants. Oh maybe it works, see how flexible your mind is to refer to the term dukkha. It seems that your mind is not flexible to see dukkha as in a bigger picture to include both primary and secondary arrow, both physical and mental suffering, so stick with your knowledge then.

Let’s stick to conventional truth/reality/ language. I am using arahant to refer to the 5 aggregates who has given up clinging.

This sounds like reifying a self beyond the 5 aggregates. Do investigate. Still an eternalist view.

To reconcile with how all suffering ends when cravings are eradicated, it’s that the ending comes in stages. The mental suffering, second arrow ends while the arahant are living, nibbana with remainder.

The primary arrow of old age, death ends due to no more rebirth. Not that the arahants become immortal, but due to no more rebirth, no more subject to these primary suffering. Nibbana without remainder. It’s only possible for an arahant, thus the ending of the suffering of rebirth, old age and death is also due to eradication of craving, ignorance.

A graphic example of the sufferings possible for an arahant due to past kamma: MN 86: Aṅgulimālasutta—Bhikkhu Sujato (suttacentral.net) Do note that whatever feelings, reactions, imagination you think you would have if you’re in Aṅgulimāla’s shoes is not the same as whatever arahants would experience, unless you’re also an arahant. So this example is not to say that there’s a secondary arrow to Aṅgulimāra’s suffering, but nonetheless, from external perspective, I would regard being hurt in such a manner as part of suffering, even if it’s just a primary arrow.

Then Aṅgulimāla, living alone, withdrawn, diligent, keen, and resolute, soon realized the supreme end of the spiritual path in this very life. He lived having achieved with his own insight the goal for which gentlemen rightly go forth from the lay life to homelessness.

He understood: “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.” And Venerable Aṅgulimāla became one of the perfected.

Then Venerable Aṅgulimāla robed up in the morning and, taking his bowl and robe, entered Sāvatthī for alms. Now at that time someone threw a stone that hit Aṅgulimāla, someone else threw a stick, and someone else threw gravel. Then Aṅgulimāla—with cracked head, bleeding, his bowl broken, and his outer robe torn—went to the Buddha.

The Buddha saw him coming off in the distance, and said to him, “Endure it, brahmin! Endure it, brahmin! You’re experiencing in this life the result of deeds that might have caused you to be tormented in hell for many years, many hundreds or thousands of years.”

I think this is very useful and helpful reflection, but I don’t think it fully answers the question… It is not just physical birth that is suffering, it is all kind of birth into any kind of state of existence. After all, from the point of view of an enlightened being, being conscious of anything is equivalent to being speared or burned. :flushed:

Looking at it from this perspective it is not the case that an enlightened being only feels physical pain and not mental pain, though the suffering of reacting in unskillful ways to physical pain is definitely gone. It could be said that most of their suffering is gone when craving is gone. That can probably be compared to being free from a burning, feverish, tormenting itch.

So the ending of craving in itself really seems to be a huge relief, there is no denying that. But still, even an arahant has to carry these five khandas around, which includes varying levels of perceiving, doing and being conscious of things. So there is still a lot of burning and spearing going on. :grimacing: In that way their experience is just suffering arising and suffering ceasing as is the case with everyone else, only difference being that they (an arahant) are free of the burning itch of craving and know for sure that all suffering is coming to an end.

From this point of view suffering doesn’t completely end when identification ends, identification ends when you see something as impermanent, suffering and completely out of your control. That includes all experience. And when you see all possible ways of existing as suffering there is no way there can remain even tiniest bit of craving or attraction for any kind of existence. This is beautifully stated in SN 12.15:

But if—when it comes to this attraction, grasping, mental fixation, insistence, and underlying tendency—you don’t get attracted, grasp, and commit to the notion ‘my self’, you’ll have no doubt or uncertainty that what arises is just suffering arising, and what ceases is just suffering ceasing. Your knowledge about this is independent of others.

So to sum it up: when you see something as suffering identification stops and when there is no ego to protect there is no doubt that it is, in fact, nothing but plain old suffering, nothing to do with you. So to see suffering fully means the same as realizing non-self.

The positive spin on this is that when the understanding of suffering deepens it is a very, very blissful experience full of joy and happiness. As described in AN 9.34, it is all about slicing away pieces of suffering and freeing your self gradually, bit by bit. So for a noble being who has realized deep states of samādhi, even “equanimous bliss” is perceived as a painful hassle. :exploding_head: That is pretty cool if you ask me.

What is not so cool is being stuck in this process of ongoing birth and death. And once we are stuck in this process, the suffering described in @faujidoc1 's post is to be expected. However, the statement “birth is suffering” also refers to something much more deeper than that, in my mind, anyway. That is one reason why I like Bhante Sujato’s choice of translating that part as “rebirth is suffering”. It includes all of the aspects mentioned here…

Hope this is of use to someone. :blush:


That’s still ‘painful’, even though it’s not ‘painful for the baby’ - in a not-self, impersonal process, sort of way.

Yes. That is literally what the arrow sutta says. It is comparing the puthujjana with the ariya saying that the first suffers from both arrows and the second suffers from just the first.

You may be interested in this quote from Ajahn Brahm

The above two Pali phrases imasmiṁ sati idaṁ hoti and imasmiṁ asati idaṁ na hoti are grammatical constructions called in Pali “locative absolutes”. In Professor A.K.Warder’s Introduction to Pali, the author states categorically that, in such a grammatical construction, the subordinate action (the cause) can precede or be simultaneous with the main action (the effect). As far as the Pali is concerned, the grammar allows the cause to precede the effect by any length of time interval.
Dependent Origination

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Thanks. I have shared this before here. I do not think i have any level yet but i feel there is the aspect of no-change too inside me. Something does not change during the years. Body changes, habits change, opinions change, feelings, emotions, sense-impressions, but there is also something that does not change. I try to understand that. For myself I do not immediately judge this as delusion, wrong view, etc. I try to understand it.

No-change seems very controversial because people think that this no-change would refer to an eternal soul or individual self while no change, i belief at this moment, only refers to the empty and open and undefiled nature of mind which is never not present while awake.
Anyway, i think i am not the only one who experiences internally no aging. The mind does not seem to have an age. Especially the nature of the mind. Its empty essence. How can you determine the age of mind?
Maybe there is the impression of inner no-aging because all is always anew. The vinnana moments which arise are never old, always anew and fresh. It has no age. It is always a momentarily but new awareness. So that can explain, i think, why there is no aging.

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Great post @M_Asunta

There’s 3 things to note:

  1. experience here and now: when experience itself is seen as painful then non-experience or activity is seen as peaceful, hence your AN 9.34 reference

“But Reverend Sāriputta, what’s blissful about it, since nothing is felt?”

“The fact that nothing is felt is precisely what’s blissful about it.

You can also see Assaji somewhat implying he’s unhappy losing his ability to enter samadhi (samadhi is the reduction of experience and activity by stilling sankhara) because of his sickness here

“Sir, before my time of illness I meditated having completely stilled the physical process. But now I can’t get immersion.


  1. As the Buddha tries to tell Assaji, death is the ending of processes, one cools down and extinguishes. For one who sees non-experience as peaceful, the ending of life is peaceful and one has a good death, and he also tells vikkali that he will have a good death in SN 22.87.

  2. So Samadhi is dying before you die, and that is seen as peaceful because there’s less experience and activity. Thus one naturally doesn’t want future experience, whether in this life through Samadhi or the next through extinguishment.

A good essay that touches on the first point from a phenomological perspective is Being and Craving by Ven Bodhesako

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I feel like we must be careful to aim at, long for, wish for…no future experiences…the end of all feelings and perceptions… because probably one is suffering that much that one longs for no feelings at all. One longs not the exist. It is very close to, i think, if it isn’t, vibhava tanha.

I think this only refers to the arahant and Buddha. Other ariyas still feel not completely detached, for example, from pain, because of the presence of rest avijja and rest mana (asmi mana) (SN22.89), rest craving.

Text always say …the well-instructed or educated person does not…feel the second dart…but we are educated, well-instructed but are we free from aversion to pains, free of attachment, free of cravings?
Free of second dart. I am not. I think not many of us. Still we are well-instructed and well educated.
But not really well developed, well dispassionate. To arrive there, that is really challenging, right?

Isn’t vibhava tanha a self that wishes to not exist?

“And how do some slip right past? Some, feeling horrified, humiliated, & disgusted with that very becoming, relish non-becoming: ‘When this self, at the break-up of the body, after death, perishes & is destroyed, and does not exist after death, that is peaceful, that is exquisite, that is sufficiency!’ This is how some slip right past.

As Ven Punnaji said: an Arahant has woken up from the dream of existence.

Well, there’s discernment and there’s reaction, judging seems to be able to refer to one or another in popular usage.

Discernment is required to know what’s right view, what’s wrong view, thus we can see right view as right view, wrong view as wrong view.

Reaction is to react with greed/follow, hatred/aversion. The secular mindfulness, nonjudgmental is actually not reacting. Discernment is still important.

So indeed, one can be calm and investigate what’s the deal with this experience which doesn’t seem to change? Best to do with Jhana power.

At the very least consciousness and the mind disappears in the cessation of perception and feelings. So there’s no such thing as anything eternal mind.


The discussion started with:

I have tried to describe that there is a inner aspect of no aging. One can see that the body becomes old, one can experience that abilities weaken when getting old, memory weakens etc. but there is also the aspect of not aging. I have never said that this is something eternal. I tried to explain it.

The cessation of perception and feeling can be known, i belief, so i think this implies there is some form of knowing yet while there are no sense-objects to be known.

I also think Buddha says clearly that there is an element which has the characteristic of…no arising is seen, no vanishing is seen and no change in the maintime, asankhata dathu. This most be known.
Why can there be no element of no-change in Buddha-Dhamma?

All conditioned phenomena are impermanent, only Nibbana is not conditioned.

Unless you think you glimpsed Nibbana itself…

Anyway, good not to reify nibbana, because nibbana is not self as well.