If all conditioned phenomena are dukkha, how can an arahant no longer have dukkha mentally?


According to the Buddha, all conditioned phenomena are dukkha. But mental phenomena are conditioned. So mental phenomena are dukkha.

But the arahant is supposed to have no more mental dukkha.

How can we reconcile the two statements?

Thanks in advance

May all beings cease to rejoice in sensual pleasures.

The arahat still has sankhara dukkha.

The Nettippakaraṇa :

Herein, the world is, at one time or another, somewhat free from to the unsatisfactoriness of pain (dukkhadukkhatā) as well as the unsatisfactoriness of change (vipariṇāmadukkhatā). Why is that? Because there are those in the world who have little sickness and are long-lived. But only the nibbāna component with no fuel remaining (anupādisesa nibbānadhātu) liberates from the unsatisfactoriness of fabrications (saṅkhāradukkhatā

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Thank you I didn’t know that arahant can still have painful mental perceptions. But I suppose hypothetically (without proof) that an arahant cannot have feelings of shame, humiliation, sadness. So for example, what painful mental perceptions can he have?

As far as dukkhadukkhata, painful feelings, the arahant only has bodily painful feelings; no mental painful feelings (which are always associated with dosa). Thus an arahant has no feelings of shame, humiliation or sadness at all.

However the deepest type of dukkha- saṅkhāradukkha - is inherent to existence. It is the continual arising and passing away of the khandhas. Only upon khandha parinibbana - samuccheda-marana, the death of the arahant, is this unceasing chain of arising and ceasing finally ended.

For us too, as understanding deepens - this saṅkhāradukkha becomes gradually more apparent and we understand a bit more of the real meaning of dukkha.

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Saṁyutta Nikāya 45.165

  1. Searches
  2. Esanāvagga
    Forms of Suffering
    “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.”
Imāsaṁ kho, bhikkhave, tissannaṁ dukkhatānaṁ abhiññāya pariññāya parikkhayāya pahānāya …pe… ayaṁ ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo bhāvetabbo”ti

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All right, thanks.
So to summarize, the arahant cannot have mental pain, he can have physical pain, and he can undergo the dukkha of the impermanence of khandas (as long as he is in nibbana with residue).

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And to make it clearer. In the truest sense there is no arahant( or worldling for that matter ). All there is is dukkha , which ceases upon final nibbana.

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Can you explain this further? There is no arahant or worldling? Is this from the Prajnaparamita Sutra?

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Hi Kilaya,
Thanks for the question.
It is not from the Prajnaparamita Sutra. This is standard Theravada. :slightly_smiling_face:

So all there is, is nama and rupa, mentality and materiality, the 5 khandhas - 1. rupakkhandha (rupa),
2. vedanakkhandha (feeling),
3. sannakkhandha (remembrance or perception),
4. sankharakkhandha,all other cetasikas
5. vinnanakkhandha, consciousness, citta.
These khandhas are conditioned, they arise and fall away instantly and there is no being or self or manager controlling any of it.
Let`s consider the Yamakasutta:
SN 22.85: Yamakasutta—Bhikkhu Bodhi (suttacentral.net)

What do you think, Reverend Yamaka?
“Taṁ kiṁ maññasi, āvuso yamaka,
Do you regard the Realized One as in form?”
rūpasmiṁ tathāgatoti samanupassasī”ti?

“No, reverend.”
“No hetaṁ, āvuso”.

“Or do you regard the Realized One as distinct from form?”
“Aññatra rūpā tathāgatoti samanupassasī”ti?

“No, reverend.”
“No hetaṁ, āvuso”.

“Do you regard the Realized One as in feeling …
“Vedanāya …
or distinct from feeling …
aññatra vedanāya …pe…
as in perception …
saññāya …
or distinct from perception …
aññatra saññāya …
as in volitional formations
saṅkhāresu …
or distinct from volitional formations
aññatra saṅkhārehi …
as in consciousness?”
viññāṇasmiṁ tathāgatoti samanupassasī”ti?

“No, reverend.”
“No hetaṁ, āvuso”.

“Or do you regard the Realized One as distinct from consciousness?”
“Aññatra viññāṇā tathāgatoti samanupassasī”ti?

“No, reverend.”
“No hetaṁ, āvuso”.

“What do you think, Yamaka?
“Taṁ kiṁ maññasi, āvuso yamaka,
Do you regard the Realized One as possessing form, feeling, perception, volitional formations and consciousness?”
rūpaṁ … vedanaṁ … saññaṁ … saṅkhāre … viññāṇaṁ tathāgatoti samanupassasī”ti?

“No, reverend.”
“No hetaṁ, āvuso”.

I welcome any comments or questions.
For more on the Yamaka sutta there is this thread.
Yamaka sutta with notes by Bodhi - Classical Theravāda (classicaltheravada.org)

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Great sutta and very worthwhile topic. Thanks for engaging me on this. I hope to grow in my understanding of the dhamma.

I don’t understand how this sutta, though, supports the view that there is no worldling, there is no arahant.

In your response you answered that all there is includes nama rupa and the 5 aggregates. Do you include dukkha in this? Would you include ignorance as part of the list of “all there is?” And if ignorance is not part of the all, then how do you interpret the first noble truth that life is suffering? If life is suffering then those who suffer must exist, right? If those people don’t exist then how is there suffering? How is life suffering if there are no such people who are suffering?

Furthermore how does one practice loving kindness or compassion towards worldlings if they don’t exist? Wouldn’t such feelings be false/untrue if such people, or any people for that matter, don’t exist?

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Dear Kilaya,
your questions are very useful.
at the link I gave to the Yamaka sutta there are notes from the Commentary:

Spk: If he had thought, “Formations arise and cease; a simple process of
formations reaches nonoccurrence,” this would not be a view (diṭṭhigata) but
knowledge in accordance with the Teaching. But since he thought, “A being is
annihilated and destroyed,” this becomes a view. What follows is paralleled by
MN I 130-31 and I 256-57.

Yamaka had the idea of a being who was born , performs various actions, and then dies. Whereas in fact there are only conditioned elements arising and ceasing.

156 This passage can be read as a gloss on the Buddha’s famous dictum, “I make
known just suffering and the cessation of suffering” (see end of 22:86).

So all there is a dukkha and the Buddha`s teach about dukhha and how to end it - completely.

158 Spk: The uninstructed worldling attached to the round is like the gullible
householder, the five fragile aggregates like the murderous enemy. When the
enemy comes up to the householder and offers to serve him, that is like the time
the aggregates are acquired at the moment of rebirth. When the householder
takes the enemy to be his friend, that is like the time the worldling grasps the
aggregates, thinking, “They are mine.” The honour the householder bestows on
the enemy, thinking, “He is my friend,” is like the honour the worldling bestows
on the aggregates by bathing them, feeding them, etc. The murder of the
householder by the enemy is like the destruction of the worldling’s life when the
aggregates break up.

In fact dukkha is not separate from the khandhas - the khandhas ARE dukkha.
MahaSatipatthana sutta:
DN 22: Mahāsatipaṭṭhānasutta—Bhikkhu Sujato (suttacentral.net)

And what is the noble truth of suffering? .Katamañca, bhikkhave, dukkhaṁ ariyasaccaṁ?

Rebirth is suffering; old age is suffering; death is suffering; sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and distress are suffering; association with the disliked is suffering; separation from the liked is suffering; not getting what you wish for is suffering. In brief, the five grasping aggregates are suffering.

Jātipi dukkhā, jarāpi dukkhā, maraṇampi dukkhaṁ, sokaparidevadukkhadomanassupāyāsāpi dukkhā, appiyehi sampayogopi dukkho, piyehi vippayogopi dukkho, yampicchaṁ na labhati tampi dukkhaṁ, saṅkhittena pañcupādānakkhandhā dukkhā.

And what is meant by ‘in brief, the five grasping aggregates are suffering’?
Katame ca, bhikkhave, saṅkhittena pañcupādānakkhandhā dukkhā?

They are the grasping aggregates that consist of form, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness.
Seyyathidaṁ—rūpupādānakkhandho, vedanupādānakkhandho, saññupādānakkhandho, saṅkhārupādānakkhandho, viññāṇupādānakkhandho.

This is what is meant by ‘in brief, the five grasping aggregates are suffering’.
Ime vuccanti, bhikkhave, saṅkhittena pañcupādānakkhandhā dukkhā.

This is called the noble truth of suffering.
Idaṁ vuccati, bhikkhave, dukkhaṁ ariyasaccaṁ.

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Yes ignorance, moha, avijja, is indeed part of the all.
It is included in sankhara khandha. Or it is classified as cetasika. It is a conditioned element, not self, anatta.

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We need to be more precise than this. What is life?
In fact “life” is only the khandhas - the very phenomena that we love so much and attach to as mine and me. By breaking down, analysing and learning to see that what was taken as whole - as Life- is a concept and that there are only ephemeral elements.

Dispeller of Delusion p.60

243.The characteristic
of no-self does not appear owing to not keeping in mind, not
penetrating the resolution into the various elements (nänädhätuvinibbhoga) owing to its being concealed by compactness. […]. **When resolving of the **
compact (ghanavinibbhoga) is effected by resolution into the various elements, the characteristic of no-self appears in accordance with
its true essential nature.

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One aspect of the teaching, the Dhamma, is that of understanding the difference between concepts and realties. By its nature the mind experiences objects and sanna, memory, perception, marks the object. So children as they grow up learn more about the conceptual world. It can`t be stopped. Even animails recognize- this is food or that is dangerous.

So it is the way of the mental processes that seeing experiences a visible object and then immediately after that the recognition that “this is John or Peter”. The Buddha - who understood reality perfectly still knew who is Ananda, who is Devadatta.
However, the uninstructed worldling thinks these conceptual objects have some inherent existence, while the arahat understands what is real and what is only concept.

Now back to your question on metta. The object of metta is a being, a concept. While the mind processes take a being as object there may be aversion or lust, or there can be metta.
Knowing that in the ultimate sense there is no being does not stop metta arising. In fact it supports it. Usually we love our children but don`t care much about other peoples children. This is simply attachment - not metta. Knowing precisely the nature of realties mean that this difference is more readily known.

Or we are angry with someone, or irritated about something they did. Then we can reflect that there are actually only elements arising and ceasing, who then is there to be angry with. “Those namas and rupas that arose an instant ago have ceased already. Am I angry with the new ones? But these ones were not the ones that conditioned the sound that impinged on the ear sense. And that ear-sense and hearing consciousness have likewise long since passed…”. this is an example of the type of reflection conditioned by the development of vipassana.

Here is a passage from the Visuddhimagga along these lines:
CHAPTER IX The Divine Abidings

  1. But if he is still unable to stop it [resentment] in this way, he should try resolution into
    elements. How? “Now, you who have gone forth into homelessness, when you
    are angry with him, what is it you are angry with? Is it head hairs you are angry
    with? Or body hairs? Or nails? … Or is it urine you are angry with? Or
    alternatively, is it the earth element in the head hairs, etc., you are angry with? Or
    the water element? Or the fire element? Or is it the air element you are angry
    with? Or among the five aggregates or the twelve bases or the eighteen elements
    with respect to which this venerable one is called by such and such a name,
    which then, is it the materiality aggregate you are angry with? Or the feeling
    aggregate, the perception aggregate, the formations aggregate, the consciousness
    aggregate you are angry with? Or is it the eye base you are angry with? Or the
    visible-object base you are angry with? … Or the mind base you are angry with?
    Or the mental-object base you are angry with? Or is it the eye element you are
    angry with? Or the visible-object element? Or the eye-consciousness element? …
    Or the mind element? Or the mental-object element? Or the mind-consciousness
    element you are angry with?” For when he tries the resolution into elements, his
    anger finds no foothold, like a mustard seed on the point of an awl or a painting
    on the air
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A post was split to a new topic: Anatta and dukkha - it sounds like nihilism?