In relation to the question: "Is there is no benefit and there is no intrinsic positive nature in a pleasant sensation?", I read the following quote from SN 36.5 on the internet:

A mendicant who sees pleasure as pain, one who has seen the pleasant as painful, who sees the pain in happiness, Yo sukhaṃ dukkhato adda,

and suffering as a dart, the painful as a dart, views the painful feeling as a thorn, dukkhamaddakkhi sallato;

and that peaceful, neutral feeling adukkhamasukhaṃ santaṃ,

as impermanent, addakkhi naṃ aniccato.

sees rightly; sa ve sammaddaso bhikkhu,

they completely understand feelings. parijānāti vedanā;

Completely understanding feelings, So vedanā pariññāya,

they’re without defilements in this very life. diṭṭhe dhamme anāsavo;

Not necessarily adhering to the literal translations above:

  1. What is the meaning of the Pali in verse above from Datthabba Sutta?

  2. Does the Datthabba Sutta support the idea: 'there is no benefit and there is no intrinsic positive nature in a pleasant sensation'?

  3. How does the above verse in the Datthabba Sutta reconcile with the Pali verse: "Nibbanam paramam sukham: Nibbana is the supreme happiness"?

  4. Are any of the translations above of the three Western monks accurate so to inspire faith in these ordained Westerners?

  • 1
    Maybe break this question up into several questions since current questions are too comprehensive/complex to address in a single answer.
    – user19910
    Nov 13, 2020 at 11:47

3 Answers 3


MN1 states:

MN1:171.4: ‘Nandī dukkhassa mūlan’ti—

The happiness of nibbana is therefore empty of nandī.

MN1 also states the difficulty of this understanding:

MN1:172-194.31: But the mendicants were not happy with what the Buddha said.

Perhaps the clarification here may help, since there is identification in nandī:

MN1:148-170.24: nibbānaṁ nibbānato abhiññāya nibbānaṁ na maññati, nibbānasmiṁ na maññati, nibbānato na maññati, nibbānaṁ meti na m aññati, nibbānaṁ nābhinandati.
MN1:148-170.24: But he doesn’t identify with extinguishment, he doesn’t identify regarding extinguishment, he doesn’t identify as extinguishment, he doesn’t identify that ‘extinguishment is mine’, he doesn’t take pleasure in extinguishment.


Have you tried a different translation? The Access To Insight translation seems clearer.

This text seems pointed at equanimity, recognition of impermanence, and turning away from desire or aversion. All conventional Buddhist teaching.

Painful feelings as a thorn, seems to imply, as requiring attention/remediation like extracting a thorn, rather than, as something that disturbs the mind eg with hate or anger.

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

You choose a curious phrasing, that seems to unnecessarily complicate this. Positive, is very general term, as is benefit. Pleasant, implying pleasure, links to sensory gratification. Buddhist practice is about not pursuing sensory gratification for it's own sake. Fine things and comforts and rich foods and pleasant sensations, the things which 'push our buttons', are what are to be recognised as painful. If we don't get what we crave, it is painful. Getting it, we want more, or mourn it's loss or fading. So there is always pain involved, to craving.

The hold craving for pleasure has over us, and pursuit of pleasures, disturbs our equanimity, and fails to recognise that they are impermanent: they don't speak to or engage with the real business of living a meaningful life, and ending suffering and the causes of suffering, through direct insight into the true nature of things. That, is our task, as Buddhists.

Sensations can be a guide though, like the thorn example. When we add salt to food you could see it as 'seeking gratification', but paying close attention we find there are necessary minerals. So pleasure in that sense can be a kind of 'thorn', a guide.


What is the meaning of the Pali in verse above from Datthabba Sutta?

  1. SN 22.59 says the five aggregates are impermanent, unsatisfactory (dukkham) & not-self, which are called the three characteristics.

  2. Many suttas, such as SN 22.1, clearly show the word 'dukkha' in relation to the three characteristics does not mean suffering or pain but, instead, refers to the potential of impermanent things to bring suffering when clung to or the incapacity of impermanent things to bring real lasting happiness. For example, SN 22.1 says feelings (vedana) are related to suffering (sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief & despair) only when clung to as "I", "me" & "mine".

  3. It logically follows the Datthabba Sutta does not say "pleasure as pain" or "the pleasant as painful" or even "pain in happiness" as the translators translated.

  4. Logically, if sukha was painful then sukha would be a "dart" or "sallato".

  5. While pleasant feelings can be a "dart" ("sallato") in comparison to Nibbana, this is not the teaching in the Datthabba Sutta.

  6. The word "dukkhato" or "dukkhata" means "state, nature or characteristic of unsatisfactoriness; capacity to bring suffering or incapacity to bring real happiness". A synonym for "dukkhato" is "danger" or "bait" ("agha"). "Dukkhato" is used in relation to the three characteristics in AN 6.99, in Thig 1.14 or as follows:

Khandhe aniccato disvā, dukkhato ca anattato; Khepetvā āsave sabbe, arahattamapāpuṇiṃ. Thi Ap 26

  1. The Datthabba Sutta says the wise person sees the "potential for suffering" or "danger" or "unsatisfactoriness" or "imperfection" in pleasant feelings.

  2. The Datthabba Sutta does not say pleasant feelings are painful, as the translators literally & illogical say.

  3. If pleasant feelings were painful, why would many suttas, such as AN 4.41, say jhana is a pleasant abiding here & now (diṭṭhadhammasukhavihārāya).

  4. While the 3rd translation of "pain in happiness" is the best of these three errors, it remains an error. The translation should be "potential suffering of the pleasant" or "unsatisfactoriness of the pleasant". "Sukha" here does not mean "happiness".

  5. Note: "sukkham" in the Datthabba Sutta does not mean "happiness". The Datthabba Sutta is about vedana or feelings and the translation should be "the pleasant" or "pleasant feelings". The Datthabba Sutta says:

Pleasant feeling should be seen as suffering. Painful feeling should be seen as a dart. Neutral feeling should be seen as impermanent.

Sukhā, bhikkhave, vedanā dukkhato daṭṭhabbā, dukkhā vedanā sallato daṭṭhabbā, adukkhamasukhā vedanā aniccato daṭṭhabbā.

  1. The Datthabba Sutta further says the wise person sees the impermanent state of neutral feelings.

  2. In conclusion, the Datthabba Sutta does not infer: "there is no benefit in a pleasant sensation". Instead, the Datthabba Sutta simply says, in accordance with the Dhamma, that pleasant & neutral feelings are impermanent & are unsatisfactory; they are not perfect or permanent happiness; they are fraught with danger if clung to.

  3. It follows the Dhammapada 203 says: "Nibbana is the supreme happiness" because true Nibbana is a permanent happiness that excludes the danger or suffering of clinging.

  4. Thus Nibbana is a not a "pleasant feeling". The word "sukha" in Dhammapada 203 does not mean "pleasant feeling" but means "happiness"; just as the word "sukha" in the Datthabba Sutta does not mean "happiness" but means "pleasant feelings".

  5. Thus only a fool would agree with the translation: "Who sees the pain in happiness" because: (i) there is no pain in Nibbana; and (ii) the Datthabba Sutta is not about "happiness" but is about "pleasant feelings".


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