Pleasure and Pain – A Saga of the Human Mind

Leonardo Da Vinci Allegory of Pain and Pleasure

“Pleasure is regarded as pain because of it’s being mixed up with pain; and pleasure (accompanied by pain) is called pain in the same manner as honey mixed with poison is called poison.” – Nyaya Bhasya (Nyaya Sutras written by Aksapada Gautama in the 2nd century CE.)

Pleasure and Pain are the two existential qualities of the soul. Human life, for most of us, is reminisced in terms of pleasure and pain, but what triggers these emotions will differ from human to human.

Naiyayika, a non-Buddhist school of eternalism, states that pain is, actually, positive in nature. One can feel its strength in the experience of pain. The desiring and craving nature of human beings is the sole reason for the felt pain. When the wants are satisfied, a feeling of pleasure is experienced.

In Nyaya Darsana, the Hindu school of thought, the definition of pain is given, as Bhadhana laksanam duhkam, that means the characteristic of the pain is to obstruct. In other words, disagreeability causes pain. We seek comfort in agreeableness. Everything that opposes the mind is pain, and everything that is opposite of this is pleasure. The motivation behind any action is directly connected to it being pleasant or painful.

Pleasure and pain, says Prasastapada, can be with reference to the past as well as to the future objects. Past objects are remembered as objects of pleasure and this brings about present-day pleasure. The pleasure here is in remembrance, so also the pain.

With regard to the future objects, pleasure is produced by reflection. Even when there is neither object of pleasure nor memory of such an object, the Nyaya Bhasya says, wise men feel pleasure, “Because of their knowledge, the peaceful nature of their minds.” Knowledge here means the knowledge of the self, and peaceful nature of the mind means the control of the senses and the consequent tranquility.

Carl Jung on painIccha (desire) and dvesa (loathing) are the psychological states of mind directly influenced by pleasure and pain. Humans affinity with fulfillment of desire always holds a priority in the mind. The failure in achieving that state of mind leads to Krodha (anger). One has to keep in mind that anger is the first reaction to aversion. Jung gives the pain pleasure scheme as the basis for all emotive activity.

The one that leads to peace is Prayatna (attempt). Attempt to understand the circumstances instead of reassuring the mind with temporary reasons. The facilitator of the attempting mind is Dhairya (patience) that comes with peace. Without being in peace, you cannot be patient. Patience comes with understanding your own emotions in the larger scheme of the universe.

If you are experiencing anger today, ask yourself, will you continue to be angry tomorrow or two years later?

Will you be mourning in pain in the subsequent years? All the answers lie within you and to get in touch with thyself one needs to be still. One needs to recognize that spiritual pleasures are eternal and valuable than worldly pleasures. After a considerable amount of time, in fact, the pleasures of this world become painful in the light of higher spiritual pleasures. We all with time learn to demolish the temporariness related to materialistic happiness by replacing the need to possess with the need to experience.

Spiritual pleasure is a self-inculcating journey. As you unfold the layers of pain and pleasure and reach that point where everything is governed by the plan of your own thoughts rather than external provocations, you begin to walk on the path of spiritual happiness.

Spiritual happiness is looking at ever-changing waves of the ocean yet knowing that the ocean deep down is always calm and poised. Realize the power of the self to connect with the cosmic energies that lies within you.

The idea is not to be ecstatic and joyful always but to learn to seek growth and strength in the pain experienced.

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Garima Roy
Garima Roy
Garima Roy, as a sentient being, loves to explore the world with her mind, heart, and soul. Joy is her natural state. You can get in touch with her on: