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I am a beginner and I stumbled upon the sentence in a video given by a monk.

There is no benefit and there is no intrinsic positive nature in a pleasant sensation

I will give you the context

We have to remove this idea that there is something beneficial about the happiness. This is probably mind blowing for most people if they've never studied things like Buddhism. But really what objective and what answer can you give if I ask objectively or intrinsically "What benefit do you gain from pleasure ? From physical pleasure ? What is positive about it ?" And you know you can simply you can give a tautology and say "it's good because it's pleasant" or "pleasant sensations are good because they're pleasant" which are both meaningless of course.

And this isn't simply a tricky sort of argument, it's not an intellectual trick of sorts. It's actually true that there is no benefit and there is no intrinsic positive nature in a pleasant sensation. (...) The issue is this clinging, this craving for pleasant sensations and the idea that pleasure is somehow positive.

As the monk said, it is a bit mind blowing for me. If I take an example, when I am hungry, I am in pain, which is the nature way to tell me "Time to have a meal" and when I am full, the nature is telling me I have eaten enough and I do not need to eat more. And when I am listening to pleasant music or when I am with people I like/I love, I feel my mind at ease and I am happy.

So my question is: what does the monk really mean ?

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It's really simple. (Long-term) benefit and (immediate) pleasure don't always go hand in hand, and more often than not they are in the opposition to each other.

Life can be lived with pleasure as one's guide, always choosing what's pleasant now regardless of its long term harm or benefit.

Or life can be lived with long term wellness, health, and happiness as one's guide - regardless of whether it is immediately pleasant or unpleasant.

Guess which method actually leads to more pleasure down the road?

This is the basic idea, that pleasure is a bad advisor. Children and naive people pursue pleasure over benefit. Wise people pursue benefit over pleasure.

Now, not all pleasure is misleading. There's a category of pleasure that accords with Dharma. A pleasure of peace, a pleasure of simplicity, a pleasure of laying down a burden of attachment, a pleasure of understanding the Teaching, a pleasure of recognizing one's attainments.

But if you are looking for a simple rule of thumb as a beginner, then the easiest way to practice is by separating all your thoughts, impulses, and motives in two classes: ones that lead towards peace, harmony, enlightenment, Nirvana - and ones that lead away. Pursuing long-term benefit you'll attain both benefit and pleasure. Pursuing just pleasure you'll attain none.


That's the main idea, and the second, more subtle idea, is that the pleasure in and of itself is an illusion. Sweets that seem tasty to young children are awfully primitive to most adults - but try to explain that to a kid. Experiences seem pleasant when the observer is naive enough to evaluate them in a superficial way.

It is with other experiences like it is with the tastes - they are only pleasant in contrast with each other and only in certain combinations and only when you're hungry. Sexual act is only pleasant when you are "hungry" but quickly becomes a burden when you are satisfied and your partner begs for more. Not to mention the sexual disgust of having to share a bed with a person you don't find attractive.

If you carefully examine a pleasant sensation such as taste, smell, touch, or even a more subtle pleasure of looking at a beautiful picture - you will notice your brain hard at work making the experience pleasant, comparing and contrasting it with other experiences and memories of experiences - all to convince itself that this sensation is in fact pleasant.

To a lucid observer pleasure is insubstantial like a lens flare and so is pain. However bright it's just a reflection.

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  • thanks a lot, I really appreciated the effort to explain, specially the metaphors in the second part in the answer. I have just not understood your last sentence. I agree with you, pleasure works with comparison, but so are a lot of things in life: which job I prefer, which path of spirituality I want to follow, which person I want to marry, All that is based on previous experience and comparison. They are not insubstantial. I think I may have missed a point. – Makoto Nov 14 '20 at 21:39
  • Another thing: I do not understand why you seem to think that pain is an illusion. There are (very) rare cases where people are desensitized to (physical) pain. These people tend to have huge health problems because pain is the way of the nature to tell there is a danger. – Makoto Nov 14 '20 at 21:49
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    A lot of time in Buddhism we talk from a perspective of the immediate phenomenology. So here I'm talking about the raw experiences of pleasure and pain. The previous experiences and comparisons may well be relatively real and valid. But the pleasure-ness felt at a specific moment in time is ephemeral like a desert mirage. It's not reliably pleasant, it seems pleasant and then it's not. What you said about pain is common knowledge. I'm not saying the information most people experience as pain is useless - I'm saying the "painfulness" of pain is a mirage overlayed on top of the original signal. – Andrei Volkov Nov 15 '20 at 0:11
  • thanks a lot for your comment, i'm starting to get what you mean – Makoto Nov 15 '20 at 8:52
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There is no benefit and there is no intrinsic positive nature in a pleasant sensation

Pleasant feelings do have a benefit, in that they allow the mind to be at ease in concentration (MN 36 paragraph 39). Pleasant feelings from meditation also allow the mind to overcome the temptation of sensual pleasures (MN 14 paragraph 3) .

As for "no intrinsic positive nature", this can only be understood by those minds that have reached higher levels of meditation, where knowing/touching the Nirvana element surpasses the benefit of pleasant feelings (AN 9.36).

In short, Buddhism teaches there are two types of pleasant feelings:

(i) arising from sensuality; and

(ii) arising from Dhamma practise.

Refer to the Sukha Vagga in the Anguttara Nikaya.

The second type of pleasant feelings have benefit. The Buddha taught they are to be developed and not feared (MN 36 paragraph 39).

We have to remove this idea that there is something beneficial about the happiness.

"Happiness" is a word often used in a positive way in Buddhism. For example, the scriptures say: "Nirvana is the highest happiness" (Dhammapada 203 & 204).

As said above, it is important to distinguish between the different types of pleasant feelings and also distinguish between pleasant feelings and happiness.

While ultimately, the highest happiness is Nirvana or Non-Attachment, dhammic pleasant feelings have a strong role in the Buddhist way of life, such as the pleasant feelings & equanimous feelings of jhana.

This is probably mind blowing for most people if they've never studied things like Buddhism.

There is nothing "mind blowing" about the verbal drivel & babbling of monks that don't understand Buddhism.

But really what objective and what answer can you give if I ask objectively or intrinsically "What benefit do you gain from pleasure ? From physical pleasure ? What is positive about it ?

The Buddha taught "The Middle-Way" in his 1st sermon, which is a path of non-sensual pleasure and the avoidance of self-created pain (called 'self-mortification'). The quote above is not related to Buddhism but is sheer nonsense.

And you know you can simply you can give a tautology and say "it's good because it's pleasant" or "pleasant sensations are good because they're pleasant" which are both meaningless of course.

The above quote sounds like just Western philosophy. "Pleasantness" is "Dhamma" because pleasantness makes life bearable & liveable.

I already mentioned the Buddha taught there are two types of pleasantness and the 2nd type of pleasantness is to be developed and not feared or shunned.

And this isn't simply a tricky sort of argument, it's not an intellectual trick of sorts.

Sorry but the above is an intellectual trick, i.e., a trick of ignorance.

It's actually true that there is no benefit and there is no intrinsic positive nature in a pleasant sensation. (...) The issue is this clinging, this craving for pleasant sensations and the idea that pleasure is somehow positive.

Since the true pleasant feelings of Buddhism arise from non-clinging, the above quote is illogical and heretical nonsense.

In conclusion, the quote in the question is unrelated to Buddhist principles and is probably best posted on Philosophy Stack Exchange.

If I take an example, when I am hungry, I am in pain, which is the nature way to tell me "Time to have a meal" and when I am full, the nature is telling me I have eaten enough and I do not need to eat more.

The Buddha taught to eat food as follows:

In this a monk takes his food properly considering, not for sport, for intoxication, for adornment or beautification, but purely for the maintenance and nourishment of this body, for keeping it unharmed, as an aid to the practice of the holy life, thinking: 'I shall put an end to the old [unpleassant] feeling and not produce any new [unpleasant] feeling [from over-eating or excitement due to lust]. Thus I shall keep going, incur no fault and live at ease.' (SN 35.120)



And when I am listening to pleasant music or when I am with people I like/I love, I feel my mind at ease and I am happy.

For common ordinary unenlightened people (called 'puthujjana'), some types of music are not greatly harmful. However, from the viewpoint of enlightenment, music is sensual pleasure and an obstacle to the higher path.

As for associating with wise people (such as myself), yes, Buddhism recommends this. The Buddha said this will be for your welfare & happiness.

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Good householder,

Good explaining by the Venerable in regard of what one seems to be most attached. How ever, people tend often to take things out of larger context to maintain certain sensation. So:

It's important, so that one doesn't get it wrong, falls even toward aversive approaches, or householder-equanimity, that there is also intrinsic negative nature in what is negative sensed, felt, and no intrinsic neither-positive-nor-negative (neutral) nature in what is neutral sensed. It's the nature of all touch, all feelings caused by touch on the six senses, all grasping and clinging arising on it, to be not real, not lasting, not to be controlled, taken to be ones own.

Just look for your self whether the certain object of sensation, the touch, the feeling that arises, the intend toward touch, the perception, the consciousness... what ever on being touched, lasts, is real, can be taken as refuge, regarded as own.

And if something can not be taken under control, can actually not be made ones own, isn't it stressful, loaded with suffering, Dukkha, good householder?

So importand, to understand, is to abstain from brain-masturbation, and actually look for one self in "real" occasion. Take one object of the eye and investigate touch, feeling, craving... perception, intent... the ear,...nose, thonge, body, intellect and see for your self.

Who sees the pain in happiness and views the painful feeling as a thorn, perceives the transience in neutral feeling which is peaceful — right outlook, truly, has such a monk who fully understands these feelings; And having penetrated them, he will be taint-free in this very life. Mature in knowledge, firm in Dhamma's ways, when once his life-span ends, his body breaks, all measure and concept he has transcended. Datthabba Sutta: To Be Known

And importand addition: ...aside of telling good householder that it isn't for his best to approach in a imature and faithless community of doubters, enjoying there times here on commercial interest of the giver, as not able to undertake something requiring given by themselves... but he might be bound likewise... no more of demerit increasing then seeking touch, association with fools.

Better to approach the Venerable or others of the Sangha of monks of the Buddha then to pull their gift into the dirt of doubt and attachments, bad conditions for grow. Anyway, as there was just a possibility, it was given for those who could be healed.

[Note that it isn't given for stacks, exchange, other world-binding trades, but for an escape from this wheel]

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All feelings are categorically classed as unpleasant in the Dhamma. If any feeling whatsoever was classed as good, something longed for, something that should be, as something that should occur and as worthy of being maintained, then in that case one can not be expected to develop disenchantment towards feeling & perception.

Whatever is felt is to be seen as impernanent, as a thorn, as dukkha. For one such as this disenchantment and turning away is possible.

As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One: "Just now, lord, while I was alone in seclusion, this train of thought arose in my awareness: 'Three feelings have been spoken of by the Blessed One: a feeling of pleasure, a feeling of pain,[1] & a feeling of neither pleasure nor pain. These are the three feelings spoken of by the Blessed One. But the Blessed One has said: "Whatever is felt comes under stress." Now in what connection was this stated by the Blessed One: "Whatever is felt comes under stress?"'"

"Excellent, monk. Excellent. These three feelings have been spoken of by me: a feeling of pleasure, a feeling of pain, & a feeling of neither pleasure nor pain. These are the three feelings spoken of by me. But I have also said: 'Whatever is felt comes under stress.' That I have stated simply in connection with the inconstancy of fabrications. That I have stated simply in connection with the nature of fabrications to end... in connection with the nature of fabrications to fall away... to fade away... to cease... in connection with the nature of fabrications to change.

"It may happen, Ananda, that Wanderers of other sects will be saying this: 'The recluse Gotama speaks of the Cessation of Perception and Feeling and describes it as pleasure. What is this (pleasure) and how is this (a pleasure)?'

"Those who say so, should be told: 'The Blessed One describes as pleasure not only the feeling of pleasure. But a Tathagata describes as pleasure whenever and whereinsoever it is obtained.'"

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