The king asked: “Does someone who is no more reborn feel any unpleasant feelings?”

The elder replied: “Some he feels, and others not.”

“Which one does he feel, and which one not?”

“He feels physical, but not any mental pain.”

“How is that?”

“The causes and conditions which produce feelings of physical pain have not ceased to operate, whereas those which produce feelings of mental pain have. And so it has been said by the Lord Buddha: Only one kind of feelings he feels, physical, and not mental.”

“And when he feels a physical pain, why does he not escape into Final Nirvana, by dying quickly?”

“An Arhat has no more likes or dislikes. Arhats do not shake down the unripe fruit, the wise wait for it to mature. And so it has been said by the elder Sariputra, the Dharma’s General:

“It is not death, it is not life I cherish.
I bide my time, as a servant waiting for his wage.
It is not death, it is not life I cherish.
I bide my time, in mindfulness and wisdom steeped.”
“Well put, Nagasena!”

The king asked: “Is the body dear to you recluses?”

“No, it is not.”

“But then, why do you look after it, and cherish it so?”

“Has Your Majesty somewhere and at some time in the course of a battle been wounded by an arrow?”

“Yes, that has happened.”

“In such cases, is not the wound anointed with salve, smeared with oil, and bandaged with fine linen?”

“Yes, so it is.”

“Then, is this treatment a sign that the wound is dear to Your Majesty?”

“No, it is not dear to me, but all this is done to it so that the flesh may grow again.”

“Just so the body is not dear to the recluses. Without being attached to the body they take care of it for the purpose of making a holy life possible. The Lord Buddha has compared the body to a wound, and so the recluses take care for the body as for a wound, without being attached to it. For the Lord Buddha said:

“A damp skin hides it,
But it is a wound,
Large with nine openings.
All around it ozzes impure
And evil smelling matter.”

“Well answered, Nagasena!”

The king asked: “What is the difference between someone with greed and someone without greed?”

“The one is attached, the other unattached.”

“What does that mean?”

“The one covets, the other does not.”

“As I see it, the greedy person and the one who is free from greed both wish for agreeable food, and neither of them wishes for bad food.”

“But the one who is not free from greed eats his food while experiencing both its taste and some greed for tastes; the one who is free from greed eats his food while experiencing its taste, but without having any greed for it.”

“Very good, Nagasena!”

The king asked: “For what reason does the common worlding suffer both physical and mental pain?”

“Because his thought is so undeveloped. He is like a hungry and excited ox, who has been tied up with a weak, fragile and short piece of straw or creeper, and who, when agitated, rushes off, taking his tender with him. So, someone whose thought is undeveloped, gets agitated in his mind when a pain arises in him, and his agitated mind bends and contorts his body, and makes it writhe. Undeveloped in his mind, he trembles, shrieks, and cries with terror. This is reason why the common worlding suffers both physical and mental pain.”

“And what is the reason why Arhats feel only one kind of feelings, physical and not mental?”

“The thought of the Arhats is developed, well developed, it is tamed, well tamed, it is obedient and disciplined. When invaded by a painful feeling, the Arhat firmly grasps at the idea of its impermanence, and ties his thought to the post of contemplation. And his thought, tied to the post of contemplation, does not tremble or shake, remains steadfast and undisturbed. But the disturbing influence of the pain, nevertheless, makes his body bend, contorts it, makes it writhe.”

“That Nagasena, is indeed a most wonderful thing in this world, that someone’s mind should remain unshaken when his body is shaken. Tell me the reason for that!”

“Suppose, Your Majesty, that there is a gigantic tree, with trunk, branches, and leaves. If it were hit by the force of the wind, its branches would shake, but would the trunk also shake?”

“No, Venerable Sir!”

“Just so the thought of the Arhat does not tremble or shake, like the trunk of the gigantic tree.”

“Wonderful, Nagasena, most admireable, Nagasena!”

The Questions of King Milinda