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Majjhima Nikaya

Majjhima Nikāya
87 Piyajātika Sutta
Suffering Born from the Ones We Love

Do the ones we love always bring us happiness?

So I have heard. At one time the Buddha was staying near Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Park, Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery.

Now at that time a certain father’s dear and loved only-child died. After the child’s death he didn’t feel like working or eating. He would go to the cemetery and cry out, “Where are you, my only child? Where are you, my only child?”

Then he went to the Buddha, bowed, and sat down to one side. The Buddha said to him, “Dear householder, you look very worried; your face is pale.” 

“And how, sir, could I not look worried and how could my face not be pale? For my dear and loved only-child has died. Since his death I haven’t felt like working or eating. I go to the cemetery and cry out: ‘Where are you, my only child? Where are you, my only child?’”

“That’s so true, dear householder! That’s so true! For our loved ones bring us sorrow, crying, pain, sadness, and worry.”

“Sir, who on earth could ever think such a thing! For our loved ones bring us joy and happiness.” Disagreeing with what the Buddha said, rejecting it, he got up from his seat and left.

Now at that time several gamblers were playing dice not far from the Buddha. That father went up to them and told them what had happened.

“That’s so true, man! That’s so true, man! Our loved ones bring us joy and happiness.”

Thinking, “The gamblers and I agree with each other,” the father left.

Eventually that topic of discussion reached the royal palace. Then King Pasenadi said to Queen Mallikā, “Mallikā, the Buddha said this: ‘Our loved ones bring us sorrow, crying, pain, sadness, and worry.’”

“If that’s what the Buddha said, great king, then that’s how it is.”

“No matter what the Buddha says, Mallikā agrees with him: ‘If that’s what the Buddha said, great king, then that’s how it is.’ You’re just like a student who agrees with everything his teacher says. Go away, Mallikā, get out of here!”

Then Queen Mallikā addressed the brahmin Nāḷijaṅgha, “Please, brahmin, go to the Buddha, and in my name bow with your head to his feet. Ask him if he is healthy and well, living easily, strong, and living comfortably. And then say: ‘Bhante, did the Buddha say this: “Our loved ones bring us  sorrow, crying, pain, sadness, and worry?”’ Remember well how the Buddha answers and tell me. For Tathāgatas say nothing that is not true.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he replied. He went to the Buddha and exchanged greetings with him. When the greetings and polite conversation were over, he sat down to one side and said to the Buddha, “Master Gotama, Queen Mallikā bows with her head to your feet. She asks if you are healthy and well, living easily, strong, and living comfortably. And she asks whether the Buddha said this: ‘Our loved ones bring us sorrow, crying, pain, sadness, and worry.’”

“That’s right, brahmin, that’s right! For our loved ones bring us sorrow, crying, pain, sadness, and worry.

“And here’s a way to understand how our loved ones bring us sorrow, crying, pain, sadness, and worry. Once upon a time right here in Sāvatthī a certain woman’s mother passed away. And because of that she went mad and lost her mind. She went from street to street and from square to square saying, ‘Has anyone seen my mother? Has anyone seen my mother?’

“And here’s another way to understand how our loved ones bring us sorrow, crying, pain, sadness, and worry.

“Once upon a time right here in Sāvatthī a certain woman’s father … brother … sister … son … daughter … husband passed away. And because of that she went mad and lost her mind. She went from street to street and from square to square saying, ‘Has anyone seen my husband? Has anyone seen my husband?’

“And here’s another way to understand how our loved ones bring us sorrow, crying, pain, sadness, and worry.

“Once upon a time right here in Sāvatthī a certain man’s mother … father … brother … sister … son … daughter … wife passed away. And because of that he went mad and lost his mind. He went from street to street and from square to square saying, ‘Has anyone seen my wife? Has anyone seen my wife?’

“And here’s another way to understand how our loved ones bring us sorrow, crying, pain, sadness, and worry.

“Once upon a time right here in Sāvatthī a certain woman went to live with her relative’s family. But her relatives wanted to divorce her from her husband and give her to another, who she didn’t want. So she told her husband about this. Then he killed her and committed suicide, thinking, ‘We shall be together after death.’ That’s another way to understand how our loved ones bring us  sorrow, crying, pain, sadness, and worry.”

Then Nāḷijaṅgha the brahmin, having approved and agreed with what the Buddha said, got up from his seat, went to Queen Mallikā, and told her about his conversation with the Buddha. Then Queen Mallikā went to King Pasenadi and said to him, “What do you think, great king? Do you love Princess Vajirī?”

“Indeed I do, Mallikā.”

“What do you think, great king? If she were to meet with some danger or die, would sorrow, crying, pain, sadness, and worry arise in you?”

“If she were to meet with some danger or die, my life would fall apart. How could sorrow, crying, pain, sadness, and worry not arise in me?” 

“Great king, this is what the Buddha who knows and sees the truth was referring to when he said: ‘Our loved ones are a source of sorrow, crying, pain, sadness, and worry.’

“What do you think, great king? Do you love Lady Vāsabhā khattiā? …

“Do you love your son, General Viḍūḍabha? …

“Do you love me?”

“Indeed I do love you, Mallikā.”

“What do you think, great king? If I were to meet with some danger or die, would sorrow, crying, pain, sadness, and worry arise in you?”

“Dear Mallikā, if you were to meet with some danger or die, my life would fall apart. How could sorrow, crying, pain, sadness, and worry not arise in me?”

“Great king, this is what the Buddha who knows and sees the truth was referring to when he said: ‘Our loved ones are a source of sorrow, crying, pain, sadness, and worry.’

“What do you think, great king? Do you love the kingdoms of Kāsi and Kosala?”

“Indeed I do, Mallikā. It’s due to the wealth of Kāsi and Kosala that we use sandalwood imported from Kāsi and wear stings of flowers, perfumes, and makeup.”

“What do you think, great king? If these kingdoms were to break down and come to an end, would sorrow, sorrow, crying, pain, sadness, and worry in you?”

“If they were to break down and come to an end, my life would fall apart. How could sorrow, crying, pain, sadness, and worry not arise in me?”

“Great king, this is what the Buddha who knows and sees the truth was referring to when he said: ‘Our loved ones are a source of sorrow, crying, pain, sadness, and worry.’”

“It’s incredible, Mallikā, it’s amazing how far the Buddha sees with deep wisdom. Go, Mallikā, bring some water to wash my face.”

Then King Pasenadi got up from his seat, arranged his robe over one shoulder, got down on his right knee, raised his joined palms toward the Buddha, and was inspired to call out three times:

“Homage to the Blessed One, the Liberated One, the fully Enlightened Buddha!
Homage to the Blessed One, the Liberated One, the fully Enlightened Buddha!
Homage to the Blessed One, the Liberated One, the fully Enlightened Buddha!”

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Majjhima Nikāya 87 Piyajātika Sutta: Suffering Born from the Ones We Love

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Questions for Reflection:

Can you think of a time when you were sad because of the people you love?

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