Pleasures of Life

This is how Buddha describes how he enjoyed his princely life (abridged):

"I enjoyed myself, provided and endowed with the five cords of sensual pleasures (associated with all five senses) that are wished for, desired, agreeable, likeable and attractive. I had three palaces, one for the rainy season, one for the winter, and one for the summer. I lived in the rains' palace for the four months of the rainy season, enjoying myself with musicians, none male, and I did not go down to the lower palace."

Yet he let go of all these comforts and pleasures.

We are all engaged in the pursuit of pleasure – physically and mentally – in some form or other: sensual, achievement, artistic, intellectual, spiritual and meditative pleasures. Pleasure is a basic demand of life and without it existence becomes dull, stupid and meaningless. Enjoying pleasure is not a sin, but we had better understand it clearly as it shapes our lives and determines our happiness and suffering.

In general, our pleasures and entertainments are based on creating drama – building excitement, tension and sometimes even pain, and then releasing it to feel pleasure. We tend to like movies, novels, sports, etc. with this pattern. This is a "hot" form of pleasure. Music also plays with our emotions, moving ups and downs to create a sense of pleasure. There are also "warm" and "cool" (not cold) forms of pleasures. The “warm” form of pleasure is joyful and we feel the warmth of it. The "cool" form of pleasure is refreshingly cool and blissful; it comes from deep letting go. There is no need to build up first in order to release it to feel pleasure, because we already have enough deep rooted tightness, tension, stress, worry, anxiety, greed, expectation, jealousy, fear, anger and aggression to release them.

Hot-pleasure is highly fleeting, as it always has to come down from the build up, excited energy. Whereas cool-pleasure tends to grow deep steadily over time. Hot-pleasure is highly addictive, and it makes us slaves of craving without lasting satisfaction. Hot-pleasure is a coarse form of pleasure, while the cool-pleasure is highly refined, subtle and sublime. When we are heavily addicted to hot-pleasures, we lose the capacity to enjoy the subtle cool-pleasures.

Simile: When we enjoy the flashy and glamorous lights of Las Vegas, we cannot see and appreciate the sublime beauty of the stars in the dark night – some of which travelled millions of years to reach our retina!

This is not about degrading or suppressing any pleasures – that only leads to more suffering. This is about expanding our awareness and understanding, so we can enjoy all forms of pleasures. Pleasure is wonderful when we don't cling to it. When we properly and fully enjoy it with total awareness, it doesn’t enslave us, and we gain capacity to go deeper.

We go through so much effort, pain and struggle to seek, indulge and maintain pleasures that are so fleeting. Yet it takes a tiny fraction of that effort to go to realms of bliss. But it does take a total shift in our perspective and understanding.

Our mind is clouded with past and future issues and anxiety, dreams and fears. We're just passing through life with minimum wakefulness and aliveness. So life feels so dull and heavy. Then we indulge in all sorts of unskillful addictive behaviors and patterns (including harmful drugs) to feel alive.

Practicing mindfulness/meditation perks us up – naturally bringing joyful and refreshing energy. We feel alive and taste the present moment fully and wholeheartedly. We gain clarity and insight to see through our unskillful egoic games. We learn to accept the reality instead of being depressive or fighting a losing battle. This brings deep peace and relaxation. As we let go of all our stress, anxiety, greed, fear, anger, aggression, etc., life tastes blissful.

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CK. Kamaraj

06 December 2020


  • Hot-Warm-Cool (Pleasure-Joy-Bliss) is just an over simplified model of our pleasures and happiness for a simple understanding.

  • Neuroscience shows how our pleasures are associated with different hormones and neurotransmitters such as: dopamine, norepinephrine, oxytocin, serotonin and GABA. Many drugs that people consume mimic those neurotransmitters to give similar effects.