I ask the above because Socrates in the Republic has proven that the cessation of suffering is a quietude of the mind, an illusion or a jugglery not real. What we should we aim according to him is not the end of suffering which is a quietude, but true Joy.

Quoted below is form the Republic ... ( i have added [mind] next to Soul to ease the reading for those who detest the idea of the soul; i think, the soul in Socratic tradition is akin to mind in Buddist ideas, but that in itself is a long discussion ..)

Say, then, is not pleasure opposed to pain?

True. And there is a neutral state which is neither pleasure nor pain?

There is.

A state which is intermediate, and a sort of repose of the [mind] soul about either --that is what you mean?


You remember what people say when they are sick?

What do they say?

That after all nothing is pleasanter than health. But then they never knew this to be the greatest of pleasures until they were ill.

Yes, I know, he said.

And when persons are suffering from acute pain, you must. have heard them say that there is nothing pleasanter than to get rid of their pain?

I have.

And there are many other cases of suffering in which the mere rest and cessation of pain, and not any positive enjoyment, is extolled by them as the greatest pleasure?

Yes, he said; at the time they are pleased and well content to be at rest.

Again, when pleasure ceases, that sort of rest or cessation will be painful?

Doubtless, he said.

Then the intermediate state of rest will be pleasure and will also be pain?

So it would seem.

But can that which is neither become both?

I should say not.

And both pleasure and pain are motions of the [mind] soul, are they not? Yes.

But that which is neither was just now shown to be rest and not motion, and in a mean between them?


How, then, can we be right in supposing that the absence of pain is pleasure, or that the absence of pleasure is pain?


This then is an appearance only and not a reality; that is to say, the rest is pleasure at the moment and in comparison of what is painful, and painful in comparison of what is pleasant; but all these representations, when tried by the test of true pleasure, are not real but a sort of imposition?

That is the inference.

Look at the other class of pleasures which have no antecedent pains and you will no longer suppose, as you perhaps may at present, that pleasure is only the cessation of pain, or pain of pleasure.

What are they, he said, and where shall I find them? There are many of them: take as an example the pleasures, of smell, which are very great and have no antecedent pains; they come in a moment, and when they depart leave no pain behind them.

Most true, he said.

Let us not, then, be induced to believe that pure pleasure is the cessation of pain, or pain of pleasure.


Still, the more numerous and violent pleasures which reach the [mind] soul through the body are generally of this sort --they are reliefs of pain.

That is true.

And the anticipations of future pleasures and pains are of a like nature?


Shall I give you an illustration of them?

Let me hear.

You would allow, I said, that there is in nature an upper and lower and middle region?

I should.

And if a person were to go from the lower to the middle region, would he not imagine that he is going up; and he who is standing in the middle and sees whence he has come, would imagine that he is already in the upper region, if he has never seen the true upper world?

To be sure, he said; how can he think otherwise?

But if he were taken back again he would imagine, and truly imagine, that he was descending?

No doubt.

All that would arise out of his ignorance of the true upper and middle and lower regions?


Then can you wonder that persons who are inexperienced in the truth, as they have wrong ideas about many other things, should also have wrong ideas about pleasure and pain and the intermediate state; so that when they are only being drawn towards the painful they feel pain and think the pain which they experience to be real, and in like manner, when drawn away from pain to the neutral or intermediate state, they firmly believe that they have reached the goal of satiety and pleasure; they, not knowing pleasure, err in contrasting pain with the absence of pain. which is like contrasting black with grey instead of white --can you wonder, I say, at this?

No, indeed; I should be much more disposed to wonder at the opposite. ....

6 Answers 6


In regular life (outside of Buddhist context) we can talk about a reward mechanism working in our brain: when things are not the way we want, the brain generates stress hormone, when we achieve a goal and make things be the way we want, the brain produces the joy hormone, but when things continue being the way we want - then there's no hormonal jumps, we just feel satisfaction and peace.

This type of quiet Peace is what Buddhism is after, not that Joy, which is an impermanent condition.

Hunting for more and more joy, is like increasing the drug dosage, not sustainable. No matter how good things get, once we are used to them, we don't feel that big joy anymore. We have to find a new goal to strive for, to get happy. It's just hormones.

But the peace of suchness has a light of it's own. It's like always being in loving relationship, you always hear "yes, you're right" from your partner, you feel validated and that gives you a type of quiet joy. Similarly in Nirvana, you are your own validation, or technically the truth and dharma and wisdom is your validation, so you always hear "yes, you're right" from it.

So it's not just cessation of suffering arriving to some dead neutral zombie state, it's the state of healthy peace and confidence, because you are in sync with reality of how things are, moment after moment.

  • Isn't "loving relationship" an burdensome drug? Just if interested to improve the answer and make it even more less confussing. Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 12:44
  • always hearing "yes, you are right" sounds like confirmation bias to me
    – Ooker
    Commented Mar 9, 2019 at 14:17

Cessation of suffering is a source of joy by itself

Ud 2.10

[The Buddha:] "Is it true, Bhaddiya that, on going to a forest, to the foot of a tree, or to an empty dwelling, you repeatedly exclaim, 'What bliss! What bliss!'?"

[Ven. Bhaddiya:] "Yes, lord."

"What meaning do you have in mind that you repeatedly exclaim, 'What bliss! What bliss!'?"

"Before, when I was a householder, maintaining the bliss of kingship, I had guards posted within and without the royal apartments, within and without the city, within and without the countryside. But even though I was thus guarded, thus protected, I dwelled in fear — agitated, distrustful, and afraid. But now, on going alone to a forest, to the foot of a tree, or to an empty dwelling, I dwell without fear, unagitated, confident, and unafraid — unconcerned, unruffled, my wants satisfied, with my mind like a wild deer. This is the meaning I have in mind that I repeatedly exclaim, 'What bliss! What bliss!'"

  • 1
    Yes but note that the word translated there as "bliss" is sukha, not pīti.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 3:00

Let my person bring a Sutta and a simile into here:

Whoever sees pleasure as stress, sees pain as an arrow, sees peaceful neither-pleasure-nor-pain as inconstant: he is a monk who's seen rightly. From that he is there set free. A master of direct knowing, at peace, he is a sage

gone beyond bonds.

iti 53

Carrying a Rock

"Letting go" actually means this: It's as if we're carrying a heavy rock. As we carry it, we feel weighed down but we don't know what to do with it, so we keep on carrying it. As soon as someone tells us to throw it away, we think, "Eh? If I throw it away, I won't have anything left." So we keep on carrying it. We aren't willing to throw it away.

Even if someone tells us, "Come on. Throw it away. It'll be good like this, and you'll benefit like that," we're still not willing to throw it away because we're afraid we won't have anything left. So we keep on carrying it until we're so thoroughly weak and tired that we can't carry it anymore. That's when we let it go.

Only when we let it go do we understand letting go. We feel at ease. And we can sense within ourselves how heavy it felt to carry the rock. But while we were carrying it, we didn't know at all how useful letting go could be.

[Note: This is a gift of Dhamma and not meant for commercial purpose or other low wordily gains by means of trade and exchange.]


Socrates here is talking about pain vs. pleasure, not about suffering in the Buddhist meaning of the word. In Buddhism, suffering is a condition that includes all of our responses to pain, pleasure, and neutral feeling. Those three are facts of life, and they are fundamentally of equal status.

The existential suffering a Buddhist wants to remedy arises, not because of pain, but due to clinging to pleasure, reacting with aversion to pain, and becoming blank and ignorant in response to anything that arouses a neutral feeling.

Joy isn't a goal in Buddhism, but it is a desirable consequence of practice and a quality of an enlightened being's life, as long as one doesn't cling to the "pleasure" aspect of it and expect it to become a permanent state. It rises and falls along with everything else, and recognizing that is part of overcoming the suffering of life.

  • @rub_mtl... can you elaborate on this ** becoming blank and ignorant in response to anything that arouses a neutral feeling.** how is that a suffering?
    – user12965
    Commented Feb 1, 2018 at 7:05
  • It isn't in itself, but it leads to suffering. When you cross the street and you don't see a car coming, you're not suffering now, but the cause of future suffering is in place without you knowing. This is the second "Foundation of mindfulness" - the constant awareness of pleasure as just pleasure, pain as just pain, and neutral sensation as just neutral sensation, without letting those three proliferate into greed, aversion, or ignorance.
    – rob_mtl
    Commented Feb 1, 2018 at 14:57
  • @rub_mtl... But he who is blank and ignorant in response to any natural feeling will be blank also to suffering due to a car accident and ultimately to death. I don't think you are comparing the same person, what future suffering is there for the one who is blank?
    – user12965
    Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 11:25
  • I was referring to momentary blankness, not to a permanent personality trait.
    – rob_mtl
    Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 19:05

From Dhammapada 203-204:

203. Hunger is the worst disease, conditioned things the worst suffering. Knowing this as it really is, the wise realize Nibbana, the highest bliss.

204. Health is the most precious gain and contentment the greatest wealth. A trustworthy person is the best kinsman, Nibbana the highest bliss.

From here, we can see that "Nibbana is the highest bliss" is the translation of "nibbanam paramam sukham".

Nibbana may not be joy that is ecstatic (piti) but is rather happiness that is blissful (sukha). Nibbana is certainly not described here as stoic quietitude.

In the Niramisa Sutta (trans1, trans2, trans3), you can also find detailed descriptions for:

  • worldly joy / rapture of the flesh / carnal rapture
  • unworldly joy / rapture not of the flesh / spiritual rapture
  • worldly happiness / pleasure of the flesh / carnal pleasure
  • unworldly happiness / pleasure not of the flesh / spiritual pleasure

The word piti is used for joy or rapture here and the word sukha is used for happiness or pleasure. However, the unworldly or spiritual rapture and pleasure are associated with jhana states in this sutta, rather than Nibbana.

Hence, the best translation of sukha in association with Nibbana is bliss.

The quest for Nibbana, is therefore the quest for blissful happiness.


Middle Path. Pursuing joy beyond end of sufferings is also a suffering. Cessation of suffering is good enough.

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