Contemplation of Feelings: Vedanānupassanā (Maṅgala Sutta – Protection with Blessing)

By Venerable Uttamo Thera(尊者 鄔達摩 長老)

Feelings arise in all minds. When the mind meets or contacts with an object & has experience. Mind exists with feeling. It feels the taste of the object. This experience is feeling. Perception (saññā) is noting the object & feeling (vedana) feel it. Feelings are three types; good, bad, neither good nor bad or neutral feelings.

Vedanānupassanā is contemplating the feeling or experience of the mind. Happy & unhappy are talking about vedana. In some meditation centers, talking about to contemplate until the feelings are expired or to overcome vedana. Could it be expired?

With the mind exists & vedana also exists. Even a very short period of mind (i.e., tadanga) has a feeling (vedana), e.g. – The Path Mind (magga-citta). It experiences Nibbāna as happiness. (Here to overcome vedana means to overcome dukkha vedana with the contemplation. It is possible by practice).

Mental factors (cetasika) are the movements of the mind. So as a function, they are one. Therefore we are using them as mind (citta). There are 52 types of mental factors (cetasikas). From there, the Buddha took out feelings (vedana) as a particular contemplation.

In the Dīgha Nikāya, Sakka-pañhā Sutta, the Buddha also taught Sakka – the deva king on vedana contemplation. There are also suttas in the Vedanasaṁyutta connection with vedana. The Buddha could not talk all about vedana in one sitting. He taught them accordingly with each person & necessity.

Why are we establishing mindfulness (sati)? The only sati takes the object that paññā can know it. Sati cannot know & paññā also cannot take the object. They are working together. In the contemplation of feelings;

[1] continuous contemplation
[2] to know about feelings rightly or correctly.
To know its intrinsic nature & universal three characteristics of anicca, dukkha & anatta.

About the five khandhas (mind & body), the Buddha taught two types; ordinary khandhas or natural khandhas & clinging khandhas (upādānakkhandhā). They are not the same. Clinging khandhas mean, viewing the natural khandhas with wrong view & craving (ditthi & tanhā). These upādānakkhandhās are objects of insight meditation. The Buddha taught them for vipassanā to cure wrong views & thinkings.

In the Bāhu-vedaniya Sutta, the Buddha taught about many feelings. Feelings can be analyzed into three kinds accordingly to their nature; pleasant (sukha), unpleasant (dukkha) & neutral (upekkha) feelings. Firstly, contemplating to see them in the khandha, observe with sati. Can be divided into five types with sense faculties; these are:

[1] pleasant bodily feeling (kayika-sukha),
[2] unpleasant bodily feeling (kayika-dukkha),
[3] pleasant mental feeling (cetasika-sukha),
[4] unpleasant mental feeling (cetasika-dukkha)
[5] neutral feeling.

Pleasant & unpleasant mental feelings are also called – somanassa vedana & domanassa vedana. Feelings arise in the body affect the mind, and vice versa. What are their differences? Both of them are connecting with the mind. Pleasant feeling (sukha vedana) arises in the body & pleasant mental feeling (somanassa vedana) arises in mind. It appears in the body & the mind.

It is body origin & effecting the mind. Mental feelings (cetasika vedana) only arise in mind & not relate to the body directly. It can appear by itself, e.g., smiling. But it can also affect the body. Worldlings (puthujjana) & noble beings (ariyas) are quite different in reaction to feelings. When the body pains & the mind of the worldling also pain. But noble beings are different if the body pains & the mind, not pains.

Without the awareness of feelings, the mind is affecting by greed (lobha) & anger (dosa). If these are happening a lot & it has acceleration and becoming strong & stable as a latent tendency (anusaya). It is latent in mind as defilements. If have these kinds of experience again, desire & lust arise (kāmarāga).

These things are happened because of latent defilements. Therefore anusaya can be said as future defilements. If the causes are there & it can arise. It means, someone has this kind of experience again, this mental state will arise again. If we see something become greedy or angry & if we see it again will arise.

Therefore we have to be mindful or aware of them. No awareness of feelings & not reflect or contemplate them; they are coming again & again. Greed & anger are becoming stronger. Then, we can not liberate from the round of existence (saṁsāra).

It was like a ball rolling among with feelings. Human beings are kicking by dukkha vedana & fall into hell, by sukha vedana become ghosts & by upekkha vedana become animals. Therefore, the Buddha said that the frequent homes of beings were the four woeful planes. In the teaching of Dependent Arising (paticcasamupada), the Buddha taught that feeling (vedana) conditions craving (tanhā).

Why the Buddha not said or mentioned it as anger? Because craving or desire is happening more than anger. E.g., poor people want to be rich & rich people wanting more & more. Only tanhās are coming. Not knowing about neutral feelings (upekkha vedana) & ignorance (avijjā) or delusion (moha) comes in.

It is very important to understand the five khandhas thoroughly by contemplation. The physical body & feelings (kāya & vedana) are very interesting subjects. For human beings, the five khandhas are working together in daily life & cannot separate. Human beings are looking after the body the whole time like a slave. These all are conditioned dukkha & without end.

We are even wasting our precious times with sleep also for the body. We are busy every day for the survival of the body. Even we are treating him like a loyal slave; it has no sympathy & gratitude to us. It is oppressing & tormenting us with old age, sickness & death.

Conditioned dukkha which connecting to the body is very great indeed. If we understand the conditioned dukkha which binds to the physical body; can be dispassionate & easily let go of it. Feelings are too important in human life, and it can be said that we are busy for feelings. It is very closely related to the body & the mind. It affects both. We try to get what we like with any cost — and then getting rid of anything that we do not like.

Feelings have a lot of influence on human beings is cannot be denied. Look at what is happening in today world. Many problems & sufferings are going on in the world through feelings. For pleasant feeling or sensual pleasures, human beings try with any mean to make money without any control.

All sorts of pollutions problems going on in societies, natural environments & the earth. For unpleasant feeling or ill-will or hatred that killing & harming a lot of innocent human beings by wars & terrorism. Human life is not secure anymore. There are dangers always waiting for us. If men can control feelings or become the masters of feeling and the world will be a better place to live.

In the contemplation of feeling; when someone feels a pleasant feeling, he knows “I feel a pleasant feeling” with mindfulness (sati) that he knows about it. With unpleasant & neutral feelings also in the same way to know them when they are arising as; “I feel an unpleasant feeling & a neutral feeling, etc.”

In the first part of the instruction, the Buddha taught the three basic kinds of feelings; pleasant, unpleasant & neutral. Because by themselves can lead to realization. In the satipatthāna sutta, after mentioned these 3 basic feelings were followed by an additional subdivision of feeling into worldly (sāmisa) & unworldly (nirāmisa).

Therefore totally nine kinds of feelings have to be contemplated, whenever & whatever type of feeling arising. If we ask the question; “Who is feeling the vedana?” The answer is vedana feels it. Except vedana and no feeler is there. It is just only natural phenomena or natural process. Sense object (ārammana) contacts (phassa) with sense base (vatthu) that we have the feeling to feel or mind arises.

There are only causes & effects phenomena exist. Only natural phenomena are arising. This is the right view. Vedana arises & vedana feels it. Vedana is very important for us because it leads to craving (tanhā). And then, tanhā leads to suffering (dukkha). With tanhā arises & dukkha will arise. If we cannot deal with feelings & cannot escape dukkha.

Because human beings have a strong attachment to vedana that there are a lot of human problems & sufferings exist in the world. It was like a fish craving for the bait & swallowed it that & died painfully. Also, it was like a drop of honey on the edge of a razor blade whoever licking it would suffer painfully.

Even we can say human beings are fighting each other for vedana. After knowing about the intrinsic nature of feelings; come; “He abides contemplating feelings internally, externally, & both.” Vedana in oneself & others are the same kinds of vedana.

With continued practice & discerning the three universal characteristics of vedana; inconstant, dukkha & not-self. First, knowing the arising & passing away of feelings, mindfulness (sati) is always keeping up with feelings that knowledge (ñānam) develops. With the insight knowledges wrong view & craving (ditthi/tanhā) not arise. After sometimes clinging to feelings fall away. And then the mind becomes free (vimokkha).

cited from (posted on 2019-11-22)

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