The 3 States of Discontent

Being parted from what you want, having to put up with what you don’t want and not fulfilling your wishes are the three states of discontent. Together these states describe samsara. Contemplating this misfortune allows you to realise that, moment by moment, throughout your life you have been deceived.  You are unable to get what you want nor to keep hold of it.  At first this realisation is bitter, but later turns into the knowledge that you have found samsara.  Samsara cannot be felt nor tasted and has been hidden from you your whole life. This realisation is subtle renunciation. The final stage, very subtle renunciation, is to come face to face with the mara of samsara itself – the utterly worthless, sunya!

4 Comments on “The 3 States of Discontent”

  1. beginner says:


    I am a relative beginner to Buddhist practice but my approach to points raised in this section –
    3 States of Discontent – is 1. Sunya is not worthless because realising it is the door to liberation and 2. the Mara of Samsara is not Sunya but the appearance of an inherently existent self.

    • andydharma says:

      With regard to your first point, I would say that the realisation of sunya is not worthless precisely because it is, as you say, a door to liberation. But, in my opinion, we approach the really deep meaning, the very subtle realisation, of sunya (ie. the lack of inherent existence), through an appreciation of how phenomena lack the power of being able to satisfy us, that they are empty of an essence that can satisfy whatever lack we perceive in ourselves; in this respect, phenomena are ‘worthless’ to us, and this renunciation of any inherent worth in phenomena is what encourages us to look deeper into the true nature of phenomena. If we realise existentially that phenomena have no essential ‘satisfactoriness’ from their own side, then we refuse to accept whatever apparent momentary satisfactoriness we get from them as being what is actually the case about phenomena. We then start to look for why phenomena appear to look satisfactory sometimes, a search that inevitably leads to discovering that phenomena’s lack of inherent existence prevents them having any ‘satisfaction-power’ within them.

      Renunciation is itself the beginnings of a glimpse into the ultimate emptiness of phenomena, by glimpsing first their emptiness of a power of satisfaction and then advancing towards understanding that they have this emptiness because they are empty of existing as ‘apparently satisfying objects’ in the first place, empty of inherent existence. Renunciation is therefore a door to liberation precisely because its initial realisation of sunya as being ‘worthless’ at a gross experiential level leads eventually to the very subtle realisation that the mara of samsara is this ontological ‘worthlessness’ of phenomena; ie. that phenomena are not ‘worthy’ of existing as phenomena in their own right (even though they might appear that way) because reality does not actually work that way.

  2. […] The 3 States of Discontent ( Share this:SharePrintDiggLinkedInRedditTumblrStumbleUponEmailFacebookTwitterLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted in Dharma, Impermanence and tagged Dharma, Four Immeasurables, Four Noble Truths, Impermanence, Liberation, Reality, Suffering. Bookmark the permalink. ← MiNdFuLnEsS MoMeNt […]

  3. […] with our wishes. Because Buddha teaches that the world will always conflict our wishes, in the three states of discontent, so anger will always arise. When we have conquered the three states then the world will not […]

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