Body pain and Enlightenment


Hi Ly, I’ve always wondered this. Body pain is suffering, isn’t it true? (That kind of illness since childhood, the disease cannot be cured. Except for the worry and fear, which is a virtual suffering). So the need to solve the pain and fatigue of the sick body is a practical need, right? From there, I’d find medicine, or to the healing practitioners, or the energy workers to see where my bio-energy map is stuck… But as I was cultivating this path, things turned out wrong, my energy got even more messed up, and then I get involved in the invisible realm and things… (although the energy helps me to be less painful and I don’t have to take medicine). Then it’s hard to go on any path, sister?

Should I simply be aware that I am in such pain (without worrying) day after day, year after month, until the day I die, sister?

Phan Y Ly:
Your question shows confusion, inability to distinguish between different kinds of sufferings, as well as the different purposes of different paths. If you can distinguish clearly, you will no longer be confused and conflicted. I based on the definition in wikipedia to explain more:

  1. Worldly Suffering (sa. duḥkha-duḥkha)

That is, suffering because of the sufferings of the mundane world, such as suffering from hunger and thirst, suffering from wars. This is the lowest level of suffering that anyone can feel. (Wikipedia)

👉 This suffering includes the pains in the body that you are talking about, this suffering is what everyone has to taste. No matter if one has attained enlightenment or not, one will still encounter birth, old age, illness, and death in the body.

When the body is sick, hungry and cold, it will need medical intervention or other forms to ensure the survival and health of the body. Even when Buddha tried to practice asceticism, he realized that he suffered better than all those who had tried asceticism and still did not attain enlightenment. Therefore, the misunderstanding of having to make the body miserable in order to realise Truth is a wrong view that the Buddha himself realized through his own experimentation. He himself saw clearly, if he continued to self-torture like this, the body lacked nutrients would be difficult to survive, if he died, he would still not realise Truth, the FINAL GOAL would still not be achieved. Because he realized that, he decided to change his attitude and method, he drank the milk bowl as an offering, he ate again .. to preserve his life, so that he could continue on the path of finding truth.

While practicing self observation/ awareness (also known as vipassana, insight, seeing reality as it is, etc.), one of the subject to observe and see how phenomena arise and pass away, is the contemplation of pain in the body. Knowing how one’s body and mind reacts when encountering unsatisfactory situations… are insights cultivated in this kind of observation. But this is also where many truth seekers feel confused and misunderstand that one has to leave the body to die in order to attain enlightenment. Actually, it’s not like that at all, one can just simply watch her body and mind reactions while waiting for the doctor to arrive, while taking the medicine, while in pain or numbness from surgery etc.

So, the intervention and treatment is the thing people do for survival, not for enlightenment. And observing the reactions of the body and mind is what is needed to become enlightened, which is to see the truth about how our body and mind work. Thus, two different interventions for two different purposes.

But many people mistakenly believe that healing, or energy work.. is part of the practice to enlightenment. Such is Mistake. That’s it, it’s not that no healing or treatment is allowed.

  1. Suffering due to changes (sa. vipariṇāma-duḥkha)

It means suffering because of change. At this level, even seemingly pleasurable experiences are suffering. The reason people feel such experiences as pleasurable is because they have compared them with painful experiences. That joy is relative. Meanwhile, things are always changing, so after a while, those seemingly happy experiences are just boring, unsatisfactory, the joy is gone. (Wikipedia)

👉 This is the suffering of most people, but when they clearly see the coming and going, birth and death, the continuous change of states and things.. then that person will also gradually “indifferent”, no longer depended psychologically into these changes.

  1. Self Inflicted Suffering (sa. saṃskāra-duḥkha)

That is, suffering covers the three worlds, the six realms (all beings in samsara). The illustration of this suffering is the afflicted aggregates of beings, and this afflicted aggregate is not only the basis for suffering in this life, but also the basis for suffering in the next life. This suffering continues to drag from one life to another as long as people are still in ignorance.The awareness of suffering on this level is the most profound (Wikipedia)

👉 this is the suffering that comes from the torments, worries, and judgments, more broadly, all planning and intentions that lead to the arising of actions in our thoughts, behaviors, and words.

The practice is to observe how these habits are controlling us, to see how it leads us into the wrong place. Seeing through it means we are no longer deceived and led by it anymore. Without being led by the mind programming, it is called “letting go” or “no longer going back to this state”, or “liberation (from the mind programming)”

That way, when you’re sick or in pain, you can still see any reactions and changes in your mind and body. You can do treatment and take care of your body, at the same time see how the pain is rising or falling, and what inhibitions are emerging.. etc..

Another reason why contemplating pain, or suffering in the body, is quite effective in recognizing suffering (pain, dissatisfaction), impermanence (continuous change), and non-self (body is not our own or accords to our own will) .. is because one of the greatest programming of human mind is the thought of clinging to this body as one’s own, that it must follow one’s will.. But when we are sick and can’t intervene, that’s when it’s clear whether our bodies is in our will or not.

As you can see, if you just stop at healing the body with interventions (medicine, energy, etc.), it will only TEMPORARYLY reverse 1 of the 3 sufferings of sentient beings. But even when that suffering is thought to be very miserable, the fact it is still only a superficial suffering compared to the other two sufferings, that is, not accepting changes, and self-inflicted pains.

Meanwhile, if you practice contemplating the body and mind when possible, you can be liberated, your mind is no longer being dragged by the pain of the body or get stuck in psychological tortures. More over, even though the pain in the body is still there, it is already scientifically proven that calmly accepting it is an effective pain reliever, compared to fighting with it.

So you can totally practice both: having therapeutic interventions within your ability, at the same time observing your body and mind.

This way, your mind is tranquil, while your body is still taken care of

Those who realize this truth through physical suffering, as far as I knows, are not those who deliberately do not receive treatment and would rather lie down and wait for death to attain enlightenment.

I had spent 17hrs of labor of my 2nd child, in observing body and mind, not because I chose to delay his birth in order to attain enlightenment, but because of the circumstances made me suffer 17 hours of pain, instead of fighting back, she observed and accepted it.

Another monk, suffering from a painful festering infection, with no doctor in the forest, has struggled to fight the pain for a while, and finally he gave up and be diligent in mindfulness, awareness, contemplation. As he observed the pain, he could see how nature operates.

Hope my answer helps you to clear the confusion.


Thank you very much, Ms. Ly, you explain very conscientiously. ❤️ I have read it over and over again. I feel like this.

  1. It is true that the suffering caused by the body’s pain has nothing to do with the suffering for the mind that I created, sister. The pain can be endured, but the mind panics, worries, fears the pain, even though the pain has passed, it is still afraid that it will come back at some point (following the self-created suffering that is multiplied many times over), my mind starts to find ways to prevent me from falling into such a situation again, and even though the feared situation has not happened yet, I have scared myself.
  2. I don’t misunderstand that the healing energy meditation methods are cultivating enlightenment. I also don’t misunderstand that one have to let the body suffer until death to seek enlightenment. But as you said, I confused the purpose of two different interventions. The problem I am having is that when I try to cure myself, I will be led to see this person, that method, but it will start causing other pain in the body, I would be compelled to follow mandatory regulations, or forced to be involved with invisible realm… All this makes me start to feel tired and miserable again. And then I wouldn’t know what to do. I keep thinking that doing anything that adds to the suffering in the body, to the unsatisfactory thing of my life, is going the wrong way. While I was suffering, I did not know how to observe clearly this suffering, how my mind fights back. Am I realising the right thing, sister? I should still look for ways to cure the body, and whatever happens next causes suffering, I should just observe the body and mind, so that I don’t get dragged by it. What is no longer suitable, I will be led to another one. The important thing is to always observe the body and mind no matter what happens. I understand that, is it correct?
  3. Can you share more about Self-inflicted Suffering for me?

Phan Y Ly:
Self inflicted Suffering is the suffering that you just listed: “the mind panics, worries and fears, should find ways to prevent it..v.v.” All that suffering is self pain, self fear, finding ways to struggle, finding yourself stuck.. and then putting yourself in the wrong situation.. Finding treatment must also be in moderation, because excessive anxiety also conceal your wisdom, sometimes even leading to more serious consequences. Therefore, observing the body and mind, i.e having wisdom, should be put first. In that sobriety and composure, it is possible to evaluate or encounter the right methods that are good for you.

If you really let go of the mind, accept anything even the worst, in a calm and clear insight, then that is freedom.


Thank you so much, I understand now.

Phan Y Ly:

As I have said, the realisation of the truth that this body is not your own, due to you, in your control.. is one of the most difficult. If you find yourself having to learn this lesson over and over again, maybe try changing your attitude and take an honest observation?

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