Hi, again:

Another question about a common Theravada and Tibetan Mahayana teaching and its place in Pure Land. This is the three levels of suffering, briefly:

  • suffering of suffering (Pali dukkha-dukkha) -- obvious physical and mental pain and our emotional reactions to it
  • suffering of change (vipariṇāma-dukkha) -- the suffering implicit in pleasant experience because of its transience and our desire to hold onto it anyway
  • suffering of conditioned existence (saṃkhāra-dukkha) -- the suffering implicit in identifying with the aggregates, which are subject to impermanence, suffering, karma, etc, and not under our much-desired control

The last form is said to be implicit in neutral experience because it's always there, so even when we aren't having pain or pleasure, we are still subject to that level of suffering.

These are found in countless places in the Theravada and Tibetan teachings, They are not, as far as I can tell, in Zen. In fact, Thich Nhat Hanh even denies the last two are an authentic teaching of the Buddha, in Chapter 5 of The Heart of Buddha's Teaching.I think he is either missing the point -- this is not about "all is suffering" but simply explaining the pervasive suffering nature of samsara and motivating students to work to attain liberation to end it. Or maybe he has some students who get overly pessimistic upon hearing "all is suffering" and wants to emphasize that there is joy in life, especially if you can avoid attachment, and best of all, unconditioned joy in liberation.

I did find this in one book by a modern Pure Land Teacher, Master Miao Lien of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ling_Yen_Mountain_Temple -- https://goo.gl/ZRVg5q. But he might have picked it up from Theravada or Tibetan sources.

In any case, I am wondering if this teaching appears in traditional Pure Land scriptures anywhere and/or there is opposition to it like that of TNH. I have looked in The Three Pure Land Sutras translated by Hisao Inagaki and not found it.

Thanks. --David L.

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