My first dharma teacher, Shinzen Young, presented a teaching that has helped me to differentiate pleasure from satisfaction and to better understand the relationship between the two. This teaching was presented in the form of a mathematical equation. The equation is: Sa=P/A2 or Sa = P ¸ (A x A)
Sa symbolizes the word Satisfaction; P represents the word Pleasure; and A stands for Attachment. “Satisfaction is equal to Pleasure divided by Attachment squared.”
This is being provided as a teaching point and is not intended to be an objective scientific formula. Satisfaction, Pleasure and Attachment might be measured subjectively, however at the present time I know of no objective measurement for these qualities.
From this formula we see that Satisfaction and Pleasure are not identical; they are represented by two different symbols. One can experience a great deal of pleasure and very little satisfaction. This is very common in our culture today.
Second, we see that Satisfaction will increase when either Pleasure increases or Attachment decreases. To feel more satisfied we can seek more pleasure or we can reduce our level of attachment.
Third, we see that decreasing Attachment contributes more to increasing Satisfaction than does increasing Pleasure. Reducing Attachment increases Satisfaction exponentially. For example, if A is reduced by 50% (i.e. by 1/2) then Sa is increased by 400%; Sa is quadrupled.
Another word for Attachment could be Addiction. Addiction is a strong attachment to some form of pleasure; but addicts are rarely satisfied by the pleasure derived from their addictive substance or behavior. It is the search for the missing satisfaction that compels them to repeat their addictive behavior; and yet the attachment to that pleasure diminishes the very satisfaction which they seek from the pleasant experience.
We can enjoy pleasure without being attached to it—in fact, we enjoy it much more when we are not attached! This idea is portrayed beautifully in William Blake’s poem Eternity:
He who binds to himself a joy Does the winged life destroy He who kisses the joy as it flies Lives in eternity’s sunrise