The Arrow

In the Sallatha Sutta (Sutra), Buddha is asked to describe the difference between a Dharma practitioner and and one who is unfamiliar with the Dharma—specifically, one who has no awareness of the Four Noble Truths. Here is an edited rendition of a portion of Buddha’s response:

“Friends, listen and pay close attention. An ordinary uninformed person feels feelings of pleasure, feelings of pain, and neutral (ambiguous) feelings. One well-informed of the Four Noble Truths also feels feelings of pleasure, feelings of pain, and neutral feelings.”

“When, through the six senses, an uninformed person experiences a feeling of pain—they are sorrowful, they grieve, they become distraught and irate. The uninformed feels two pains: the physical pain of the experience and the mental pain caused by the reaction arising from attachment to views ignorant of the Four Noble Truths. This is like being hit with an arrow and then asking to be hit again with another arrow.”

“The Dharma practitioner experiences less resistance when they are stressed. With no resistance, no resistance-obsession is formed. They feel one pain – physical – but not mental. Just as if they were shot with one arrow but not another, they would feel only one pain – the physical pain.”

“With realization, no obsession occurs. The Dharma practitioner knows what is actually present and understands its origination, its allure, its drawbacks, and its passing away. They do not become sorrowful, regretful, or distraught. They remain nonattached to pleasure and pain. Since they understand the origin of an emotional response to stress, they do not not generate a mental reaction to pain, pleasure, or indifference.”

During this time in which we are asked to rearrange our lives, it is possible we are feeling shot with two arrows. One arrow is the actual situation and the other is our reaction. Buddhism never suggests we are immune to the sting of the first arrow, but the teachings offer a way to cease inviting the second shot.

If we take to heart the Four Noble Truths, we understand the nature of suffering, its cause, its cessation, and the path that leads to the cessation of suffering. If you have not studied the Four Noble Truths lately, it may be a good time to revisit them. Returning to the foundation of Buddhist teachings on a regular basis, we may experience a deeper appreciation while discovering a hidden truth.

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