We have been exploring different aspects of happiness, pleasure, suffering, etc., and I’d like to offer another perspective.
According to many spiritual traditions pleasure and pain go together. I seem to see that working in my life. It was said that “pain is the price for pleasure, pleasure is the reward for pain”. Does it mean we are bound to have a dull existence if we want to escape that pair of opposites? I don’t think so. There is a third factor that could be an alternative path: enjoyment. Let us examine it with an example.
We can enjoy a good dinner. We may experience the moment joyfully and derive from it what we could call pleasure, but that for the sake of the argument I will call “enjoyment”. A natural tendency in human beings, however, is to try to repeat ad infinitum the stimulus that produced a sense of joy. Therefore, the eating becomes a search for pleasure, and we end over-eating. Logically, all that “unlawful” pleasure we enjoyed has a price, whether it is an eventual illness or the deprivation of food that we have to undergo in a diet. The same thing happens when we turn the enjoyment derived from relationships, situations and objects into sources of pleasure.
Enjoyment is always balanced, healthy. It is based on the present moment. Since it is free from the craving for pleasure, it doesn’t overdo anything. But when the desire for repetition (whether during the particular situation or after it was done) appears in scene, the enjoyment is replaced by pleasure and it ends in suffering. We don’t live the moment anymore. We think about the object of pleasure, we look forward to be in contact with it again, and create the appropriate situations to get it.
Now, every single thought we spend on that, every single thought that created that tendency in us (called “skandha” in Buddhism) will have to be paid with suffering, because that skandha we created is not part of our original nature and eventually it has to be dissolved, either in this or in any other life. That dissolution involves a kind of starving, just like in a diet, or when trying to get rid of any addiction. And how much starving we have to go through depends on how much we have overfeed that particular skandha.
The key then, seems to be in learning how to enjoy without any movement to prolong the enjoyment.
What do you think? Have you experienced those two kinds of feelings? How do you work on that?