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Vedanā

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Vedanā (T. tshor ba ཚོར་བ་; C. shou; J. ju; K. su 受) is translated as "sensation", "feeling", "feeling-tone", etc. In general, vedanā refers to the pleasant, unpleasant and neutral sensations that occur when our internal sense organs come into contact with external sense objects and the associated consciousness.

Vedanā is identified within the Buddhist teaching as follows:

Definitions

Pali tradition

A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma states:

Feeling (vedana) is the mental factor which feels the object. It is the affective mode in which the object is experienced. The Pali word vedanā does not signify emotion (which appears to be a complex phenomenon involving a variety of concomitant mental factors), but the bare affective quality of an experience, which may be either pleasant, painful or neutral.[1]

Nina van Gorkom states:

When we study the Abhidhamma we learn that 'vedanā' is not the same as what we mean by feeling in conventional language. Feeling is nāma, it experiences something. Feeling never arises alone; it accompanies citta and other cetasikas and it is conditioned by them. Thus, feeling is a conditioned nāma. Citta does not feel, it cognizes the object and vedanā feels...
All feelings have the function of experiencing the taste, the flavour of an object (Atthasālinī, I, Part IV, Chapter I, 109). The Atthasālinī uses a simile in order to illustrate that feeling experiences the taste of an object and that citta and the other cetasikas which arise together with feeling experience the taste only partially. A cook who has prepared a meal for the king merely tests the food and then offers it to the king who enjoys the taste of it:
...and the king, being lord, expert, and master, eats whatever he likes, even so the mere testing of the food by the cook is like the partial enjoyment of the object by the remaining dhammas (the citta and the other cetasikas), and as the cook tests a portion of the food, so the remaining dhammas enjoy a portion of the object, and as the king, being lord, expert and master, eats the meal according to his pleasure, so feeling, being lord, expert and master, enjoys the taste of the object, and therefore it is said that enjoyment or experience is its function.
Thus, all feelings have in common that they experience the 'taste' of an object. Citta and the other accompanying cetasikas also experience the object, but feeling experiences it in its own characteristic way.[2]

Sanskrit tradition

The Pañcaskandhaprakaraṇa states:

What is vedana? It is three ways of experiencing-pleasantly, unpleasantly, and indifferently. "Pleasant" is that which one would like to feel again (when the original feeling is over). "Unpleasant" is what one would like to get rid of when it is present. "Indifferent" is where neither of these two desires occur.[3]

The Khenjuk states:

Sensations are defined as impressions.
The aggregate of sensations can be divided into three: pleasant, painful, and neutral. Alternatively, there are five: pleasure and mental pleasure, pain and mental pain, and neutral sensation.[4]

The Abhidharma-samuccaya states:

What is the absolutely specific characteristic of vedana? It is to experience. That is to say, in any experience, what we experience is the individual maturation of any positive or negative action as its final result.[3]

Classifications

Vedanā is divided into the following classifications in both the Sanskrit and Pali Abhidharma traditions.

By nature

If classified by nature, there are three, five, six or more divisions.

At the most basic level, the nature of vedana is divided into three types:

  • pleasant sensation
  • unpleasant sensation
  • neither pleasant nor unpleasant (adukkham-asukhā, sometimes referred to as "neutral")

The nature of vedana is also divided in five types:

  • pleasant physical sensation
  • pleasant mental sensation
  • unpleasant physical sensation
  • unpleasant mental sensation
  • neither pleasant nor unpleasant

If divided into six types:

  • pleasant physical sensation
  • pleasant mental sensation
  • unpleasant physical sensation
  • unpleasant mental sensation
  • neither pleasant nor unpleasant physical sensation
  • neither pleasant nor unpleasant mental sensation

If divided into 18 types:

  • the three types mental sensations (pleasant, unpleasant, neither)
  • in terms of each of the six types of consciousness

If divided into 36 types:

  • the aforementioned 18 types of sensation for the lay person and the aforementioned 18 types for the renunciate

If divided into 108 types:

  • the aforementioned 36 types for the past, for the present and for the future

By support

If classified by support, there are six classes of vedanā, corresponding to sensations arising from contact between an internal sense organ, an external sense object and the associated consciousness (Skt.: vijnana). In other words:

  • sensation arising from the contact of eye base, visible form and eye-consciousness
  • sensation arising from the contact of ear base, sound and ear-consciousness
  • sensation arising from the contact of nose base, smell and nose-consciousness
  • sensation arising from the contact of tongue base, taste and tongue-consciousness
  • sensation arising from the contact of body base, touch and body-consciousness
  • sensation arising from the contact of mind base, mental object and mind-consciousness

Vedanā-skandha

Vedanā is identified as one of the five skandhas. In this context, vedana arises from the contact of a sense organ, sense object and consciousness.

Within the twelve links

Vedanā
is one of the

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In the twelve links of dependent origination:

  • vedanā arises with contact (phassa) as its condition
  • vedanā acts as a condition for craving (Pali: tanha; Skt.: tṛṣṇā)

Within the four foundations of mindfulness

The four foundations of mindfulness is a practice for establishing mindfulness (sati) that is presented in the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta.

One of the "foundations of mindfulness" in the practice is to attend closely to the sensations (vedana) that arise in the body and mind.

Alternate translations

Alternate translations for the term vedana are:

  • Feeling (Nina van Gorkom, Bhikkhu Bodhi, Alexander Berzin)
  • Feeling some level of happiness (Alexander Berzin)
  • Feeling-tone (Herbert Guenther)
  • Sensation (Erik Kunsang)

Distinction between vedana and "emotions"

The following contemporary teachers clarify the difference between vedana and Western concept of "emotions" as follows:

Bhikkhu Bodhi writes:

"The Pali word vedanā does not signify emotion (which appears to be a complex phenomenon involving a variety of concomitant mental factors), but the bare affective quality of an experience, which may be either pleasant, painful or neutral."[1]

Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche writes:

"In this case [i.e. within the Buddhist teachings] 'feeling' is not quite our ordinary notion of feeling. It is not the feeling we take so seriously as, for instance, when we say, 'He hurt my feelings.' This kind of feeling that we take so seriously belongs to the fourth and fifth skandhas of samskara (concept) and vijñāna (consciousness)."[5]

See also

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 Bhikkhu Bodhi 2000, s.v. Feeling (vedana).
  2. van Gorkom 1999, Cetasikas, Cetasikas: Feeling
  3. 3.0 3.1 Yeshe Gyeltsen 1975, s.v. Feeling-tone [tshor ba].
  4. Mipham Rinpoche 2004, s.v. Sesations.
  5. Trungpa (2001), p. 32.

Sources

External links

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