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Home > Fundamentals of Tibetan Buddhism > Level 4: Deepening the Understanding of the Path > The Relationship between Happiness and Unhappiness, and Pleasure and Pain

The Relationship between Happiness and Unhappiness, and Pleasure and Pain

Tsenzhab Serkong Rinpoche II
translated, compiled, and edited by Alexander Berzin
Bodh Gaya, India, December 2009

Within the aggregate factor of feeling levels of happiness (tshor-ba’i phung-po), feelings of happiness (bde-ba) and unhappiness (sdug-bsngal, suffering) include both physical feelings (lus-kyi tshor-ba) and mental feelings (sems-kyi tshor-ba). Feelings of physical happiness and unhappiness accompany sensory cognition (dbang-shes) of forms of physical phenomena (gzugs). Feelings of mental happiness and unhappiness accompany mental cognition (sems-shes) of any validly knowable phenomenon (shes-bya).

Feelings of happiness and unhappiness, whether the physical or mental varieties, are not the same as physical sensations (reg-bya) of bodily pleasure (bde-ba) and bodily pain (sdug-bsngal). This is the case despite the fact that the Tibetan terms for “happiness” and “ pleasure” are the same, and for “unhappiness” and “pain” are the same. Bodily pleasure and pain are included in the aggregate factor of forms of physical phenomena (gzugs-kyi phung-po). They are objects of cognition (yul) that are forms of physical phenomena. Happiness and unhappiness, on the other hand, are mental factors (sems-byung), ways of being aware of something.

What in the West are known as “mental pleasure and mental pain” are not forms of physical phenomena. They are the mental factors of mental happiness and mental unhappiness.

If it is a physical sensation of bodily pleasure, it is pervasive that the physical feeling that experiences it is a physical feeling of bodily happiness; otherwise the person wouldn’t experience the pleasure. The same is the case with a physical sensation of bodily pain and a physical feeling of bodily unhappiness. However, in both cases, the mental feeling that follows the physical feeling can be either a mental feeling of mental happiness or a mental feeling of mental unhappiness.