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Pleasure and pain, happiness and sadness || (2018)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
9 min
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All those things that you associate with pleasure, pain, hurt are all concepts that we have been indoctrinated into. Remove those concepts and then show me where is pleasure? And where is pain? Then there is just Life. Simple, total and Joyful. ~Acharya Prashant

Acharya Prashant: Pleasure and pain here are in the context of happiness and sadness, celebration and suffering, good and bad. So you’re saying “When I feel hunger, how is hunger a concept? When my finger gets burned and I feel pain, how is pain a concept?"

No. Pain is not a concept and so is hunger. Pain is felt by the body. Have you seen how instantaneous the reaction to pain is? The moment the fingers get burnt, the body knows what to do. Or does the body ask you what to do? Your fingers get burnt and the body knows what it should do. So the body does what it should. The body is a self-contained and self-sufficient mechanism designed with the objective of self-preservation. This system knows how to self-preserve. It also knows how to self-proliferate.

Self-preservation and self-proliferation are the two objectives of the design of this body. And the body knows that.

Now when these objectives are defeated, the body calls that situation as pain. When these objectives are furthered, the body calls that situation as pleasure. Look into pleasure and pain, go deeply into them and you will find that all instances of pleasure are somehow happenings that help you stay alive bodily. And all instances of pain threaten your bodily existence. Isn’t it?

So there’s something wrong somewhere in the body which you cannot even know of. You get a headache. Because the headache will be noticeable to the conscious part of the brain, the brain will be forced to respond to the pain. It will be forced to take care of the body.

Pain and pleasure are bodily. They are of the body and to the body. They have nothing to do with you.

Then what do you have to do with pain and pleasure? Nothing. When there’s pain or pleasure the body knows what to do. The body cannot have concepts. The body is a beast and beasts don’t have concepts. Who has a concept then? You have. You are the primal tendency to associate with the body. Who are you? You are the old, timeless tendency to associate with the body and treat bodily happenings as your own.

So when pain is happening to the body you say, “I am in pain”. And if there is pleasure to the tongue you say, “I am happy”. If the shoulder gets hurt you say, "I am hurt." That’s the definition of you, the very old tendency to consider the body as your own self. And this is a concept because this can be removed. One can get rid of this concept. Mind you, you can never get rid of your property, but you can get rid of your concepts.

The body’s property is to get burnt when in a fire. And it doesn’t matter what kind of enlightenment you get into, the body will get burnt when in fire. That will not change. But your association with bodily happenings can change and that is a concept. That is being called a concept precisely because that can be changed, that can be dropped. Properties cannot be dropped. And if something can be dropped, surely it cannot be an essential property, it is merely a concept.

So if Buddha’s body is threatened with burns he would let the mind-body complex do what it must. In a condition where there is a risk of physical elimination, the brain knows what to do. Doesn’t the brain have intellect? What else is the intellect for? Doesn’t the brain have memories, doesn’t it have the capacity to analyze, arrange, organize, plan, find a way out? The brain knows all these things.

So what would the Buddha do? — he will let the brain do what it must. What would the common man do? He would start crying, “I’m burning! I’m burning!” and would make his condition pathetic and would ultimately get burnt. That’s the difference between the concept-less Buddha and the man who’s carrying the concept “I am the body.” In a burning house, Buddha wouldn’t say “I am burning.” He will let the expert take over. Who’s the expert? The body-brain duo is the expert, and it finds out a way.

If the body-brain complex cannot find out a way, surely the ego tendency can’t. The ego tendency only knows attachment, foolish attachment. The ego tendency doesn’t even have intellect, let alone intelligence. Where does the intellect reside? It’s in the brain. Ego only knows to panic, it only knows foolishness. All kinds of worries start coming to him. “What would happen to my kids if I get burned down?" “Within two minutes if help doesn’t arrive, I am gone.”

Do any of these thoughts help the body survive? We know the kind of foolishness that man is capable of when in adverse situations. Panic kills more people than calamities. And who is panicking? Does the body ever panic? No, it’s the ‘I’ sense that is panicking. The Buddha is free of that ‘I’ sense. He lets the body experience pleasure and pain, and doesn’t interfere. He lacks the concept that he must interfere in the matters of the body. He lets the body work. When I say the body, I include the brain. So the Buddha doesn’t interfere with the intellect. His intellect is free from the ‘I’. So if he has thoughts, his thoughts are free from the ‘I’.

Buddha is not thoughtless. It’s just that his thoughts are not burdened with ‘I’.

He is not continuously thinking about himself like the common man. That’s the difference between ‘Living Concept free’ and ‘Living Conceptually’.

When you live conceptually all the things related to your body become your own. When you eat you would say, “The food would satisfy me.” The Buddha knows the food would indeed satisfy only the stomach. The common man thinks by having great food he will get a deep internal satisfaction. And that’s why the common man is always frustrated because that which he wants never comes true.

The Buddha is never frustrated as he never meddles with others' affairs. For him, the body is an ‘Other’. The body wants food, let it have. The brain wants to think, let it think. And what does the brain want to think of? Let the intellect decide.

The brain doesn’t need to think of me. My thoughts don’t need to carry the ‘I’. So there need not be any thoughts about ‘I’. Because the ‘I’ of the Buddha is not in need of any nursing. It’s not threatened anymore. He doesn’t have to continuously wonder about his safety, his progress and accomplishments, or fulfillment. The brain thinks whatever it wants to think. But the Buddha doesn’t think. So thoughts are free of ‘I’.

The most fundamental concept is that you’re in danger; you are unfulfilled; that you’re lonely and hence need company.

The first company you accord to yourself is that of the body and that’s how the child is born. Who is the child? The Ego having assumed foolish company. That is called childbirth. The Ego has chosen another foolish partner. Now the Ego, throughout the life of the child will keep on saying, “It’s me.”

The body is just a natural instrument; there are hands, eyes, nose, lungs, brain, and so on. It’s a complete apparatus in itself. It doesn’t even need the support or interference of the ‘I’. But the ‘I’ is such a trespasser. It even likes to claim, ‘I breathe’, ‘I sleep’, ‘I took birth’. Upon birth, the 2 kg thing is saying “I took birth”. It took 10 people to just get you out into the air. You say, "I died". Doesn’t matter if the fellow expired in a coma, you still say, “He died.” What did he have to do with the death?

That’s Ego. It tries to attach itself to that which is none of its business. And therefore it keeps suffering and keeps getting disappointed. It’s a meddler poking its nose everywhere. It has one concept, it is the concept – “I need”. I need association. I need fulfillment. The fundamental concept is that “you need”. Pleasure and pain are not concepts. They are material states of the body.

Just by examining a person’s brain, you can tell if he is experiencing pleasure or not. Just by introducing some material dopamine into your body, you can be induced to experience pleasure. These are material states. On the contrary, happiness and sadness are concepts. The body feels pleasure and pain. The Ego feels happy or sad. The Ego in itself is a concept.

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