Free yourself from pleasure and pain.
For in craving pleasure or in nursing pain
There is only sorrow.


I've heard it described recently that pleasure and pain are but opposite banks of the same river of life. That life keeps flowing between them, but the center channel between the two shores is where life runs deepest. If I can dig up the exact quote, I'll put it up here, but this passage from the Dhammapada reminded me of it. Pleasure and pain, in this context are both sources of attachment either in craving or avoidance. It's not that we should avoid pain and pleasure, as they are very much a part of our human condition, rather, that we should not let them rule our lives. I heard another quote recently that stated that pleasure occurs in life against a background of pain. The first noble truth says that life is suffering, not that life is pleasure, and so pleasure is merely a brief respite from suffering and ultimately the source of all attachment. This seems in conflict with the first quote. I've been wondering about this for a while and frankly, as much as I like the first notion, of pleasure and pain being banks of the same river of life, I think I agree mostly with the second thought. Life is suffering, it begins with joyful suffering, ends with suffering and is plagued with the messiness of human existence through the middle. It is punctuated with moments or times of great pleasure, but those are but aberrations. We should cultivate Joy, Loving-Kindness and Equanimity. Pleasure is different, though, as it comes with a subtext of attachment.

That said, I do find great pleasure in a nice hoppy beer now and then. ;-)