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The Sallatha Sutta, famous for the idea of two arrows, has the following passages that are less often discussed. I am particularly interested in interpretations of the highlighted words and how they might relate to the modern psychological concept of decentering, defusion, disidentification or a metacognitive stance. (See modern passage below.) Both personal opinions and references welcome.

Sallatha Sutta, SN 36.6, Thanissaro Bikkhu translation

About the "uninstructed person"...

Sensing a feeling of pleasure, he senses it as though joined with it. Sensing a feeling of pain, he senses it as though joined with it. Sensing a feeling of neither-pleasure-nor-pain, he senses it as though joined with it. This is called an uninstructed run-of-the-mill person joined with birth, aging, & death; with sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs. He is joined, I tell you, with suffering & stress.

And later about the "well-instructed disciple", the same structure, for example...

This is called a well-instructed disciple of the noble ones disjoined from birth, aging, & death; from sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs.

The Nyanaponika Thera translation is a bit more condensed here and uses "fettered" instead of "joined"

When he experiences a pleasant feeling, a painful feeling or a neutral feeling, he feels it as one fettered by it. Such a one, O monks, is called an untaught worldling who is fettered by birth, by old age, by death, by sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair. He is fettered by suffering, this I declare

Bikkhu Bodhi (not online) uses "attached" and "detached"...

"If he feels a pleasant feeling, he feels it attached. If he feels a painful feeling, he feels it attached. [209] If he feels a neither- painful-nor-pleasant feeling, he feels it attached. This, bhikkhus, is called an uninstructed worldling who is attached to birth, aging and death; who is attached to sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair; who is attached to suffering, I say.

If he feels a pleasant feeling, he feels it detached. If he feels a painful feeling, [210] he feels it detached. If he feels a neither- painful-nor-pleasant feeling, he feels it detached. This, bhikkhus, is called a noble disciple who is detached from birth, aging, and death; who is detached from sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeas­ure, and despair; who is detached from suffering, I say.

From the point of view of Buddhadharma of the Pali Canon, is it reasonable to say that the highlighted words (in the negative sense -- disjoined, not fettered, detached) have roughly the same meaning as the modern psychological concept in this passage from a 2002 paper by Teasdale.

Particular importance has been attached to the shift in cognitive set known as “decentering” or “disidentification,” in which, rather than simply being their emotions, or identifying personally with negative thoughts and feelings, patients relate to negative experiences as mental events in a wider context or field of awareness. For example, a patient’s perspective on thoughts and feelings of worthlessness might change from one in which they are experienced as the “reality by which I am condemned” to one in which they are experienced more as “passing thoughts and feelings that may or may not have some truth in them.

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I think they're related but not identical.

I think the Sallatha Sutta can be paraphrased along the lines of, "physical sensations lead to feelings (I feel that I like this, or that I don't like this) which lead to attachment (I want this to continue, or I want this to stop)" -- which means that, now you have two problems, i.e.

  1. an unpleasant physical sensation
  2. not getting what you want.

That's what's meant by,

"... So he feels two pains, physical & mental".

I think the reason given for the second pain is,

... he is resistant. Any resistance-obsession with regard to that painful feeling obsesses him.

So I think this is an example of clinging or attachment causing suffering.

He does not discern, as it actually is present, the origination, passing away, allure, drawback, or escape from that feeling.

Instead he ought to see that the feeling (and sense-contact) is impermanent, that it arises and passes away, and not be attached to it.


Whereas a disidentification or decentering which you quote from the 2002 paper by Teasdale seems to me, not exactly the concept of 'detachment' or of seeing impermanence, but more specifically the concept of 'anatta' or 'non-self'.

For example, the article "No-self or Not-self?" suggests that any concept of self is a cause of suffering.

There's a description of decentering in the Gaddula Sutta,

It's just as when a dog is tied by a leash to a post or stake: If it walks, it walks right around that post or stake. If it stands, it stands right next to that post or stake. If it sits, it sits right next to that post or stake. If it lies down, it lies down right next to that post or stake.

"In the same way, an uninstructed run-of-the-mill person regards form as: 'This is mine, this is my self, this is what I am.' He regards feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness as: 'This is mine, this is my self, this is what I am.' If he walks, he walks right around these five clinging-aggregates. If he stands, he stands right next to these five clinging-aggregates. If he sits, he sits right next to these five clinging-aggregates. If he lies down, he lies down right next to these five clinging-aggregates. Thus one should reflect on one's mind with every moment: 'For a long time has this mind been defiled by passion, aversion, & delusion.' From the defilement of the mind are beings defiled. From the purification of the mind are beings purified.

I think there are two related concepts:

  • Detachment from the clinging-aggregates (perhaps by observing arising-and-passing-away, which is an object of vipassana meditation)
  • Learning to avoid the view that, "This is mine, this is my self, this is what I am".
  • Yes, the idea of defusion from the third wave of CBT is a secular rehash of anatta. – Erik Sep 3 at 19:39
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Simply put it, a joined person - identifies sensation with self and is attached to it hence creates becoming in the future hence a joined person remains stressed. The opposite is true for a disjoined person.

With regard to the instruction this is in a different context using the same wording implying if your are (dis)joined with sensation you are (dis)joined with birth, aging and death. A joined person is so due to the fact he is not conversant the the pratice and has no proper instructions to pratice. The implication of this is there is self identification with sensations. When he does pratice property the gets disjoint from birth, aging and death. It is implied you disidentify with sensation.

Multiple authors translate the same into different english words.

Self identity in Buddhism has a very precise meaning, that is the mis identification of the true nature of the 5 aggregates resulting from clinging arisen through craving. [Cūla Vedalla Sutta also in other suttas] E.g. if you see someone as beautify and get a present sensation by seeing such a person and you cling to this the identity view arises; similarly if you that something is absolutely under one's control and permanent hence think this should be like this or not like this or stay the same, now and in the future, and should give me these types of experiences, then identity view arise. I am not sure if the modern psychologist is taking the same view when he mentions "identify personally", but it seems to be somewhat compatible as disidentification seems to mean as not being averse or clinging to thoughts and merely seeing them as mental events, i.e., not considering the thoughts as the self [thoughts are permanent and not dependently arisen hence craving for permanent existance of thoughts], or the self as possessing the thoughts [control of throughts through agency which is permanent and not dependently arisen hence craving for thought to be and not to be], or thoughts as in the self [control and possession of thoughts through agency], or the self as in the thoughts [non changing controllable part within the thoughts which is permanent and not dependently arisen]

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i see some resemblance between the ideas behind the statements

feelings of worthlessness ... experienced as the “reality by which I am condemned”

and

Monk, whatever one stays obsessed with, that's what one is measured by. Whatever one is measured by, that's how one is classified. Whatever one doesn't stay obsessed with, that's not what one is measured by. Whatever one isn't measured by, that's not how one is classified.

Bhikkhu sutta (SN 22.36)

generally i agree that the dhammic idea and the concept of disidentification bear similarity

the terms disjoined, fetterred, detached in this context i understand as meaning being dissociated from psychological phenomena, and from personal experience i can attest that physical pain is endured much easily when you don't associate with it, don't take it as your own and assume an observer and bystander attitude towards it instead

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Three types of feeling a person get when senses are at work:

  1. He thinks thoughts and emotions are valid states and therefore flows along with it. That is joined.

  2. He can watch thoughts and emotions but there is a sense of frustration just like a person who been chained but wants to break free since he has no control on them. That is fettered.

  3. There is complete silence. Even if pain and pleasure arise he is not affected by them. That is detachment.

These are three stages of evolution for meditators. But dis-identification is (2.), I guess, because senses are still powerful.

  • These are my thoughts based on my experiences. That is how how I see people around me. It helps me in my interactions with them. – Shashank Khare Mar 14 '16 at 6:12

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