Vedana

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Translations of
vedana
English sensation, feeling, feeling-tone
Pali वेदना (vedanā)
Sanskrit वेदना (vedanā)
Burmese ဝေဒနာ
(IPA: [wèdənà])
Chinese 受 (shòu)
Japanese 受 (ju)
Khmer វេទនា
(Vaetenea)
Korean 수 (su)
Shan ဝူၺ်ႇတၼႃႇ
([woj2 ta1 naa2])
Tibetan ཚོར་བ།
(Wylie: tshor ba;
THL: tsorwa
)
Vietnamese 受 (thụ, thọ)
Vedana
is one of the

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Vedana (Pāli; Sanskrit) is translated as "sensation", "feeling",[1] "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

Theravada

Bhikkhu Bodhi states:

Feeling (vedana) is the mental factor which feels the object. It is the effective 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....[2]

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.[3]

Mahayana

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.[4]

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.
In terms of support, there are six sensations resulting from contact, involving the meeting of [sense object, faculty and consciousness of] either eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, or mind. When divided [dividing those six in terms of pleasure, pain, and indifference], there are eighteen types of sensation accompanying a cognitive act...[5]

Alexander Berzin describes vedana as "feeling...some level of happiness". He states:

When we hear the word “feeling” in a Buddhist context, it’s only referring to this: feeling some level of happy or unhappy, somewhere on the spectrum. So, on the basis of pleasant contacting awareness—it comes easily to mind—we feel happy. Happiness is: we would like it to continue. And, on the basis of unpleasant contacting awareness—it doesn’t come easily to the mind, we basically want to get rid of it—we feel unhappiness. “Unhappiness” is the same word as “suffering” (mi-bde-ba, Skt. duhkha). Unhappiness is: I don’t want to continue this; I want to be parted from this.
And neutral contacting awareness. We feel neutral about it—neither want to continue it nor to discontinue it...[6]

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."[7]

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)."[8]

Attributes

Editor's note: this section needs attention. Review-icon.png


Three modes

Traditional texts (both Theravada and Mahayana) identify three modes of vedana:

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

Six classes

There are six classes of vedanā, corresponding to sensations arising from contact (Skt: sparśa; Pali: phassa) between an internal sense organ (eye base, ear base, etc.), an external sense object and the associated consciousness (Skt.: vijnana; Pali: viññāna). 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, thoughts (dhamma) and mind-consciousness[9]

Two, three, five, six, 18, 36, 108 kinds

In some Pali discourses, a multitude of kinds of vedana are alluded to ranging from two to 108, as follows:

  • two kinds of feeling: physical and mental
  • three kinds: pleasant, painful, neutral
  • five kinds: physical pleasant, physical painful, mental pleasant, mental painful, equanimous
  • six kinds: one for each sense faculty (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind)
  • 18 kinds: explorations of the aforementioned three mental kinds of feelings (mental pleasant, mental painful, equanimous) each in terms of each of the aforementioned six sense faculties
  • 36 kinds: the aforementioned 18 kinds of feeling for the householder and the aforementioned 18 kinds for the renunciate
  • 108 kinds: the aforementioned 36 kinds for the past, for the present and for the future[10]

The Visuddhimagga highlights the five types of vedanā: physical pleasure (sukha); physical displeasure (dukkha); mental happiness (somanassa); mental unhappiness (domanassa); and, equanimity (upekkhā).[11]

Frameworks

Five skandhas

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.

Twelve links

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)

Four foundations of mindfulness

Within the Theravada tradition, vedana is identified as one of the objects of focus within the four foundations of mindfulness practice.

In this context, meditating with concentration (samādhi) on vedanā can lead to deep mindfulness (sati) and clear comprehension (sampajañña).[12] With this development, one can experience directly within oneself the reality of impermanence (anicca) and the nature of attachment (upādāna). This in turn can ultimately lead to liberation of the mind (nibbana).

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)

See also

Notes

  1. Generally, vedanā is considered to not include full-blown "emotions."
  2. Bhikkhu Bodhi (2003), p. 80
  3. Gorkom (2010), Cetasikas: Feeling
  4. Guenther (1975), Kindle Locations 329-331.
  5. Kunsang (2004), p. 21.
  6. Developing the Mind Based on Buddha-Nature, Session Two: Primary Consciousness and Mental Factors, Alexander Berzin
  7. Bodhi (2000), p. 80.
  8. Trungpa (2001), p. 32.
  9. See, for example, the Chachakka Sutta (MN 148) which ascribes to the Buddha the following words:
    "'The six classes of feeling should be known.' Thus was it said. In reference to what was it said? Dependent on the eye & forms there arises consciousness at the eye. The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as a requisite condition there is feeling. Dependent on the ear & sounds there arises consciousness at the ear. The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as a requisite condition there is feeling. Dependent on the nose & aromas there arises consciousness at the nose. The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as a requisite condition there is feeling. Dependent on the tongue & flavors there arises consciousness at the tongue. The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as a requisite condition there is feeling. Dependent on the body & tactile sensations there arises consciousness at the body. The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as a requisite condition there is feeling. Dependent on the intellect & ideas there arises consciousness at the intellect. The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as a requisite condition there is feeling. 'The six classes of feeling should be known.' Thus was it said...." (Thanissaro, 1998.)
    For other references to the "six classes of feeling/sensation," see the Sattaṭṭhāna Sutta (SN 22.57) (Thanissaro, 1997b), and the Vedanā Sutta (SN 25.5) (Thanissaro, 2004).
  10. Two virtually identical discourses that simply allude to the various number of vedana are MN 59 (Thanissaro, 2005b) and SN 26.19 (Thanissaro, 2005c). These different kinds of vedana are spelled out in SN 26.22 (Thanissaro, 2005a). See also Hamilton (2001), pp. 43-6.
  11. Vism. 461 (Rhys Davids & Stede, 1921-25, p. 648, entry for "Vedanā."; see this entry also regarding the distinction between "modes" and "types."
  12. AN 4.41: for Pali, see SLTP (n.d); for English translations, see Nyanaponika & Bodhi (1999), pp. 88-89, Thanissaro (1997a), Upalavanna (n.d.).

Sources

  • Bodhi, Bhikkhu (ed.) (2000). A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma: The Abhidhammattha Sangaha of Ācariya Anuruddha. Seattle, WA: BPS Pariyatti Editions. ISBN 1-928706-02-9.
  • Bhikkhu Bodhi (2003), A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma, Pariyatti Publishing
  • Dalai Lama (1992). The Meaning of Life, translated and edited by Jeffrey Hopkins, Boston: Wisdom.
  • Guenther, Herbert V. & Leslie S. Kawamura (1975), Mind in Buddhist Psychology: A Translation of Ye-shes rgyal-mtshan's "The Necklace of Clear Understanding" Dharma Publishing. Kindle Edition.
  • Kunsang, Erik Pema (translator) (2004). Gateway to Knowledge, Vol. 1. North Atlantic Books.
  • Abhidhamma Vipassana icon.png Cetasikas by Nina van Gorkom

External links

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