A Better Understanding of Feeling (Vedanā)

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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samseva
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Re: A Better Understanding of Feeling (Vedanā)

Post by samseva » Mon Feb 18, 2019 3:57 am

I think the Abhidhamma model is fairly conclusive. For the Sutta model of vedanā, with SN 48.36, and similarly with SN 36.7, it would seem that neutral feeling is both bodily and mental:
SN 48.36 (transl., Bhikkhu Bodhi) wrote:And what, bhikkhus, is the equanimity faculty? Whatever feeling there is, whether bodily or mental [...]
SN 36.7 (transl., Bhikkhu Bodhi; Pāḷi, VRI edition) wrote:Bhikkhus, while a bhikkhu dwells thus, mindful and clearly comprehending, diligent, ardent, and resolute, if there arises in him a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling, he understands thus: ‘There has arisen in me a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling. Now that is dependent, not independent. Dependent on what? Dependent on just this body. But this body is impermanent [...]
Although, I don't believe this to be fully conclusive.

The only thing uncertain is, in the Sutta model, if sights, sounds, odours, and tastes have a specificity like in the Abhidhamma classification, or if they are simply classed in the same way as the other mental impressions (which could be likely).

Therefore, the classications of vedanā would mostly be:

Abhidhamma
Bodily impressions/touch = Only agreeable, or disagreeable*
Mental impressions = Agreeable, disagreeable or neutral*
- Except: Sights, sounds, odours, tastes = Always neutral*
*Initial feeling from sense-impression (phassa).
Suttas
Bodily impressions/touch = Agreeable, disagreeable or neutral
Mental impressions = Agreeable, disagreeable or neutral
- Sights, sounds, odours, tastes = Agreeable, disagreeable or neutral (?)
*Initial feeling from sense-impression (phassa).

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samseva
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Re: A Better Understanding of Feeling (Vedanā)

Post by samseva » Tue Feb 19, 2019 11:05 pm

I would just like to say that, with closer examination, the Abhidhamma model makes much more sense. With sights, sounds, odours and tastes—which based on the Abhidhamma classification are always neutral at the initial contact (phassa)—these are basically just sensorial information with no inherent meaning. Sight for example, is merely a composition of light. With touch, the impression/contact (phassa) is significant and direct, compared with the other four external senses, therefore being understandable why neutral feeling would not be possible. Also, while the bodily painful feeling of faint pressure might not be discernable most of the time, like common with many hospital patients, simply lying in bed for too long results in bedsores/pressure ulcers.

While the Suttas are fairly authoritative, with sights, sounds, odours and tastes—being just bare sensorial information—these having an inherent predetermined feeling, I find, doesn't make much sense.

A better and simpler way to see it would be that, with pain from the skin, and with mental formations originating from the mind, we are in a way pre-programmed to react a certain way (i.e., resulting in a pleasant, painful or neutral feeling). With sights, sounds, odours and tastes, however, this is not the case.

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