Sunday, April 15, 2012

Two Darts, Or Just One?

On a long walk by myself yesterday, there were plenty of pleasures to be had. Temperature just right, enough sun to brighten the moment, flowers going nuts with colors, birds singing what sounded like happy notes . . . it would have been a perfect experience, except for the pain in my right shoulder.  I noticed the mind's habits with such unpleasantness. First tightening, and rebelling against such a spoiler, soon turning into full blown unpleasantness and hatred of the moment. Then, searching for a way out, hoping for pleasure to be found again, quick. From there, escaping into the world of thoughts, thinking about the future, work to be done, the pleasure of food awaiting at home . . . Anything but being in this moment. It worked. There was no more pain, only a vague dullness and the quasi-satisfaction of imagined pleasures. Nothing wrong with that, except for the subtle sadness of knowing that this was one more moment not fully lived, a delaying of the cultivation of real happiness. The hour turned into a reflection on The Dart sutta:
"When an untaught worldling is touched by a painful (bodily) feeling, he worries and grieves, he laments, beats his breast, weeps and is distraught. He thus experiences two kinds of feelings, a bodily and a mental feeling. It is as if a man were pierced by a dart and, following the first piercing, he is hit by a second dart [...]
"Having been touched by that painful feeling, he resists (and resents) it. Then in him who so resists (and resents) that painful feeling, an underlying tendency of resistance against that painful feeling comes to underlie (his mind). Under the impact of that painful feeling he then proceeds to enjoy sensual happiness. And why does he do so? An untaught worldling, O monks, does not know of any other escape from painful feelings except the enjoyment of sensual happiness. Then in him who enjoys sensual happiness, an underlying tendency to lust for pleasant feelings comes to underlie (his mind). He does not know, according to facts, the arising and ending of these feelings, nor the gratification, the danger and the escape, connected with these feelings. In him who lacks that knowledge, an underlying tendency to ignorance as to neutral feelings comes to underlie (his mind). 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.
"But in the case of a well-taught noble disciple, O monks, when he is touched by a painful feeling, he will not worry nor grieve and lament, he will not beat his breast and weep, nor will he be distraught. It is one kind of feeling he experiences, a bodily one, but not a mental feeling. It is as if a man were pierced by a dart, but was not hit by a second dart following the first one [...]
"Having been touched by that painful feeling, he does not resist (and resent) it. Hence, in him no underlying tendency of resistance against that painful feeling comes to underlie (his mind). Under the impact of that painful feeling he does not proceed to enjoy sensual happiness. And why not? As a well-taught noble disciple he knows of an escape from painful feelings other than by enjoying sensual happiness. Then in him who does not proceed to enjoy sensual happiness, no underlying tendency to lust for pleasant feelings comes to underlie (his mind). He knows, according to facts, the arising and ending of those feelings, and the gratification, the danger and the escape connected with these feelings. In him who knows thus, no underlying tendency to ignorance as to neutral feelings comes to underlie (his mind). When he experiences a pleasant feeling, a painful feeling or a neutral feeling, he feels it as one who is not fettered by it. Such a one, O monks, is called a well-taught noble disciple who is not fettered by birth, by old age, by death, by sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair. He is not fettered to suffering, this I declare.
Turning towards the pain in the shoulder, watching it dissolve eventually . . . and being replaced by a myriad of sensations as  I walked down Stanford avenue. Some pleasant, some not so pleasant, some without a known quality. Pain eventually moved to the other side. The body's got its own ideas. Nothing to do but watch, and make the best of each moment. I thought of the Buddha's last moments, ridden with physical pain. I need to guard against the confusion in my mind, between pain and unhappiness, and pleasure and happiness. Not worrying about what the next moment may bring in terms of pain, also allows one to relax. 

How do you deal with pain, both physical and emotional pain? 

8 comments:

  1. I usually react as you did in this story. For me the darts are arrows and I rarely stop with the second. St. Sebastian.

    I am thinking more about the pause (however brief) that occurs before my habitual reaction. I think my meditation is teaching me to slow down enough to notice it and extend it so that after the first arrow stikes me, I can hold the pause and perhaps choose a new way of responding (as you've so wonderfully described above).

    It is heartening to know that none of us is alone in this life of arrows and habits.

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  2. Michael, thank you. And, yes, the sacred pause . . . Responding wisely, not reacting mindlessly.

    For me, the main insight lately has been around a deeper understanding of the difference between pleasure and happiness, and of the truth of the qualitative nature of life, often times infused with pain, and not to be relied upon.

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  3. So difficult to catch myself resisting.. Especially when it is emotional pain.
    Mostly I am caught up in it so badly.

    I did not know the Dart Sutta. Thank you.

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  4. Oh! I am so glad to be able to share the Dart Sutta with you. I find it so helpful to understand what is REALLY happening. Not getting so caught in the object of our reactivity, but in the reactivity itself, hence the possibility of freedom . . . Regarding resisting emotional pain, you might also enjoy studying 'vedana' - I have written quite a few posts on the topic, particularly notion of booster of emotion, e.g. fearing the fear, hating the hate, etc . . . If we miss that step, we stay stuck.

    I wish you best with your practice!

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  5. (sorry, did not intend to be anonymous) Thank you!

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  6. Sometimes called the Arrow Sutta. I feel that drama is what we are addicted to...it seems so much more interesting than a fine, beautiful day where the joy slips through your fingers so fast it makes your head spin reaching for some pain to get your teeth on.

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  7. Thank you Marguerite for introducing me to the dart sutra. The words you quote from the sutra are really profound and are very helpful to me at this moment in my life.

    I want to say that i really enjoy your blog so keep up the good work!

    In gratitide

    Thane

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