The Sallatha Sutta (SN 36.6) in the Pali Canon is well-known in the Theravada and MBI (mindfulness-based-intervention -- MBSR, MBCT, etc) worlds for the two-arrows paradigm.

The first arrow is a physical pain (or in modern readings, also primary emotional pain such as loss of a loved one). The second arrow, which ones shoots at oneself, is the emotional reaction to the first-arrow pain. The first arrow is inevitable -- it's part of being in samsara; the second arrow is not inevitable and is preventable dukkha.

It's sometimes expressed in the aphorism -- pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.

My question -- is this paradigm, aphorism or sutta discussed anywhere in the Mahayana? I cannot find it in the Gelug Lam Rim (via Pabonka), but maybe it's elsewhere, or subsumed under something else? But perhaps this sutta is not included in the Tibetan canon (the Kangyur) at all.

Below is the two-arrow (dart) excerpt, Bikkhu Bodhi's translation. (But you might want to read the whole sutta; even though it is fairly short, there is a lot more to it than what's covered by most contemporary teachers and commentators.)

Bhikkhus, when the uninstructed worldling is being contacted by a painful feeling, he sorrows, grieves, and laments; he weeps beating his breast and becomes distraught. He feels two feelings a bodily one and a mental one. Suppose they were to strike a man with a dart, and then they would strike him immediately afterwards with a second dart,so that the man would feel a feeling caused by two darts. So too, when the uninstructed worldling is being contacted by a painful feeling ... he feels two feelings—a bodily one and a mental one.
Bhikkhus, when the instructed noble disciple is contacted by a painful feeling, he does not sorrow, grieve, or lament; he does not weep beating his breast and become distraught. He feels one feeling a bodily one, not a mental one. Suppose they were to strike a man with a dart, but they would not strike him imme­diately afterwards with a second dart, so that the man would feel a feeling caused by one dart only. So too, when the instructed noble disciple is contacted by a painful feeling ... he feels one feeling—a bodily one, not a mental one.

Thanks! --David

  • It doesn't mean much, but as a Gelug monk studying intensely, I have never heard of it. If you really want, I can always ask my teacher. Commented Aug 15, 2016 at 0:44

3 Answers 3


Most Mahayana sutras are in Chinese Text, as a result someone who is good both in English and Chinese will help you.

I tried google, and found 2 results based on the titles: (however not sure how smart google is in buddhism, so i do not know if they are Chinese versions of your selected sutra)

http://tripitaka.cbeta.org/T01n0026_060 (二二一)中阿含例品箭喻經第十 http://www.cbeta.org/result/normal/T01/0094_001.htm 佛說箭喻經

However similar story might appear in some other sutras, the story below is one of them which I read before:


http://www.cbeta.org/result/normal/T19/0945_005.htm (From line: T19n0945_p0126b20(00))



And the English version of above text:


Pilindavatsa arose from his seat, bowed at the Buddha's feet, and said to the Buddha:

"When I first left home to follow the Buddha and enter the way, I often heard the Thus Come One explain that there is nothing in this world that brings happiness. Once, when I was begging in the city, I was reflection on this Dharma-door and did not notice a poisonous thorn on the road until it had pricked my foot. My entire body experienced physical pain, but my mind also and recognized the feeling of pain, I knew that in my pure heart, there was neither pain nor awareness of pain.

"I also thought, 'Is it possible for one body to have two awareness?' Having reflected on this for a while, my body and mind were suddenly empty. After twenty-one days, my outflows disappeared. I accomplished Arhatship and received certification in person and a confirmation that I had realized the level beyond study. "The Buddha asks about perfect penetration. As I have been certified to it, purifying the awareness and forgetting the body is the superior method."


May you be happy and at ease


According to Sutta Central, SN 36.6 has been translated into Chinese as SA 470 (Saṃyuktāgama). Sutta Central does not show a Tibetan parallel for it, but it might be incomplete.

On the other hand, as a Gelug monk, I have never heard of it. As far as I know, it is not an object of study of the Geshe program or other programs and is not referred to in any Lam Rim text. Apart from the Heart Sutra, we do not study Sutras that much, but commentaries.


There is some confusion here, whenever you are looking for a parallel in the Theravada Pali Canon, it's in the Agama Early Buddhist Scripture. They are generally preserved in Chinese and generally translated from Sanskrit (among other Indic languages), and they are actually not considered Mahayana Sutras by Mahayana Buddhism, as Mahayana is very clear about preserving Early Buddhist teachings separately from Mahayana, but they are the foundation of Mahayana.

So the best thing to do is to open up Sutta Central and look for the Sutta in question, then look for the neatly categorized parallel.


Where the Chinese Agama parallel is found at Saṃyuktāgama SA 470


箭 "Arrow"

Unfortunately there is no translation into English here, but it's about the same story of getting shot by arrows twice.

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