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Chapter 19 - Feelings

Cittas are variegated because of different sampayutta Dhammas, accompanying cetasikas.

Cittas can be classified by way of the different accompanying feelings:

  • cittas which are accompanied by pleasant feeling, somanassa sahagata [1]
  • cittas which are accompanied by unpleasant feeling, domanassa sahagata
  • cittas which are accompanied by indifferent feeling (neither pleasant nor unpleasant), upekkhā sahagata
  • citta which is accompanied by bodily pleasant feeling, sukha sahagata
  • citta which is accompanied by (bodily) painful feeling, dukkha sahagata

Each citta which arises is accompanied by the cetasika which is feeling, vedanā. The different cittas are accompanied by specific feelings, depending on the type of citta. Citta is the "leader" in knowing the different characteristics of objects and cetasika is the Dhamma which feels on account of the object which is experienced; it can be happy feeling, unhappy feeling, pleasant bodily feeling, painful feeling or indifferent feeling.

Citta is different according as it is of the jāti which is kusala, akusala, vipāka or kiriya, and the accompanying cetasikas are of the same jāti as the citta. Akusala cetasikas cannot accompany kusala citta, vipākacitta or kiriyacitta. Kusala cetasikas cannot accompany akusala citta, vipākacitta or kiriyacitta. Vipāka cetasikas cannot accompany akusala citta, kusala citta or kiriyacitta.

Feeling is, just as in the case of the other cetasikas, different, as it is kusala, akusala, vipāka or kiriya. If the Buddha had not explained in detail the characteristics of all kinds of Dhammas, people would continue to have wrong understanding about vedanā cetasika, feeling. For example, painful feeling which is experienced when one has discomfort, sickness or pain, arises together with body-consciousness, the vipākacitta which experiences tangible object through the body-sense just for one short moment. This feeling is not the same as (mental) unpleasant feeling, domanassa, arising when one is annoyed about the unpleasant object which impinges on the body-sense. Cittas are varied as they are accompanied by different feelings. The Buddha taught in detail which kind of feeling accompanies each kind of akusala citta, kusala citta, vipākacitta and kiriyacitta, and this is a most intricate subject.

Whenever we feel pain there is bodily painful feeling and this is akusala vipāka. However, when we are unhappy, disturbed and anxious because of that painful feeling, it is not vipāka. At that moment akusala feeling accompanies akusala citta which is displeased.

When we study the Abhidhamma in detail we can have right understanding of vedanā cetasika which accompanies citta. If one does not study realities one does not know whether feeling at a particular moment is kusala, akusala, vipāka or kiriya, and therefore, one is bound to be infatuated with pleasant mental feeling, pleasant bodily feeling or indifferent feeling.

We read in the "Gradual Sayings" (I, Book of the Twos, Ch VIII, On Characteristics, § 7) that the Buddha said:

"Along with feeling, monks, arise evil, unprofitable Dhammas, not without them. By abandoning just those feelings, those evil, unprofitable Dhammas do not exist."

Then the same is said about the other nama-khandhas, apart from vedanākkhandha, namely: saññākkhandha, saṅkhārakkhandha and viññāṇakkhandha.

Vedanā cetasika, feeling, is the basis of clinging and clinging is very persistent. If one does not know the truth about vedanā cetasika one cannot abandon the view that feeling is self.

The understanding of the nature of vedanā cetasika is a supporting condition for sati to begin to be aware of the characteristic of feeling. If one does not understand what feeling is, one will not notice that feeling is reality; that it arises time and again in our daily life, just as the other Dhammas which appear through the sense-doors and the mind-door. These Dhammas can only appear because citta arises and experiences them, and each citta is accompanied by feeling. We should remember that if there were no feeling on account of what is seen, heard, smelt, tasted and experienced through the body-sense, there would not be anxiety, akusala Dhamma would not arise. However, since feeling arises, there is clinging to feeling, holding on to it. One wants to obtain for oneself things which can condition pleasant feeling. Thus, akusala Dhammas continue to arise, but one does not notice this. All Dhammas are anattā, nobody can prevent feeling cetasika from arising. No matter what type of citta arises, it must be accompanied by feeling cetasika which feels on account of the object which is experienced at that moment. Now, at this very moment, there must be some kind of feeling, be it indifferent feeling, bodily pleasant feeling, painful feeling, (mental) pleasant feeling or unpleasant feeling. The study of the Dhamma is not merely knowledge of names and numbers, the aim of the study is knowing the characteristics of realities, thus also of feeling which arises now. There may not yet be awareness of the characteristic of the feeling of this moment, but we should remember that the feeling of this moment is a reality which has arisen and fallen away already. If one does not know the true characteristic of feeling, one is bound to take pleasant and painful bodily feeling, mental pleasant and unpleasant feeling and indifferent feeling for self.

If sati is not aware of the characteristic of feeling, it will not be possible to abandon the wrong view that Dhammas are living beings, persons or self. We all consider feeling as something very important in life. We all want pleasant feeling, nobody wants to have unpleasant feeling. Therefore, we strive with all means to have bodily pleasant feeling or mental pleasant feeling. However, one may not know that there is at such moments clinging, that one tries to hold on to feeling which arises because of its own conditions and then falls away again.

The Buddha classified feeling cetasika as a separate khandha, vedanākkhandha, because people attach great importance to feeling and cling to it. It is a reality people take for self, as a living being or a person, as being of the greatest value. It is necessary to listen to the Dhamma and study it evermore in detail, to consider what one has learnt and to investigate the truth of Dhammas in daily life, so that sati can arise and be aware of the characteristics of the Dhammas which appear.

Vedanā cetasika can be of the four jātis of kusala, akusala, vipāka and kiriya. Feeling is a conditioned Dhamma. saṅkhāra Dhamma, it arises because of its appropriate conditions. Feeling which is vipāka arises because of kamma-condition, kamma-paccaya. Feeling which is kusala, akusala or kiriya is not vipāka, it cannot arise because of kamma-condition, but it arises because of other conditions. There are different ways of classifying feelings, but when it is classified as fivefold [2] , pleasant bodily feeling and painful feeling are of the jāti which is vipāka, they are the results of kamma. Kamma which has been performed in the past conditions accordingly the arising of the feelings which are vipāka, which feel on account of the objects impinging on the sense-doors and the mind-door.

Seeing-consciousness which is vipākacitta is accompanied by indifferent feeling, which is vipāka cetasika, and also by other cetasikas. It is the same in the case of hearing-consciousness, smelling-consciousness and tasting-consciousness. However, it is different in the case of body-consciousness. Body-consciousness which is akusala vipāka and which experiences a characteristic of tangible object impinging on the body-sense, is accompanied by painful feeling. Body-consciousness which is kusala vipāka is accompanied by pleasant bodily feeling. Nobody can change the conditions for the arising of the feelings which accompany these different types of citta. Body-consciousness arises because of kamma-condition. When the "great Elements" (hardness, softness, heat, cold, motion or pressure) which are pleasant objects (iṭṭhārammaṇa) impinge on the rupa which is body-sense (kāya pasāda rupa), pleasant bodily feeling arises. When the "great Elements" which are unpleasant objects (aniṭṭhārammaṇa) impinge on the body-sense, painful bodily feeling arises. The feeling which arises at the body-sense can only be painful feeling or pleasant bodily feeling, not indifferent feeling, pleasant (mental) feeling or unpleasant feeling. The bodily feelings and the mental feelings should be distinguished from each other. When body-consciousness arises, the accompanying feelings, pleasant bodily feeling and painful feeling, are of the jāti which is vipāka, they are results of past kamma. However, when one is disturbed or anxious, there is unhappy feeling and this is not the result of past kamma. It arises because it is conditioned by accumulated akusala Dhamma.

Apart from painful and pleasant bodily feeling which can only be of the jāti which is vipāka, and unpleasant feeling, which can only be of the jāti which is akusala, there are other kinds of feelings, namely pleasant (mental) feeling and indifferent feeling, and these can be kusala, akusala, vipāka or kiriya. The fact that there is such variety of feelings makes it clear to us that realities can only arise because of their appropriate conditions.

Have we ever been aware of the characteristics of different feelings? At this moment feeling arises and falls away. Some people may have begun to be aware of the characteristics of rupas appearing through the eyes, the ears, the nose, the tongue or the body-sense. Others may be inclined to consider and be aware of characteristics of namas, elements which experience objects, when there is seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, body-consciousness or thinking. However, this is not enough. Sati should be aware of the characteristics of Dhammas which are classified as the five khandhas: rupakkhandha, vedanākkhandha, saññākkhandha, saṅkhārakkhandha (formations or activities, the cetasikas other than vedanā and saññā, remembrance) and viññāṇakkhandha. If sati is not yet aware of these Dhammas defilements cannot be eradicated. Defilements cannot be eradicated if there is ignorance of realities, thus, if sati is not aware of the characteristics of all realities which are appearing.

Is there feeling while we are asleep? Dhamma is a subject which we should reflect on time and again. The more we investigate the Dhamma the more shall we gain clear understanding of it. Therefore, we should consider whether there is feeling cetasika, also while we are asleep. When we are fast asleep we do not experience any object of this world. There are no objects appearing through the six doors. At such moments we do not think, nor do we dream. What we saw or heard before, what we liked or thought about does not appear. However, also when we are fast asleep, there must be cittas arising and falling away, so long as our life term has not come to an end. These are bhavanga-cittas, life-continuum, which preserve the continuity in one’s life as this particular individual. As soon as we wake up the objects of this world appear, until it is time to go to sleep again.

While we are fast asleep the bhavanga-cittas which are arising and falling away in succession are vipākacittas, result of past kamma; kamma is the condition for the bhavanga-cittas to arise in succession and to preserve the continuity in the life of a person. Therefore, the person who sleeps does not die yet. The four nama-kkhandhas, citta and cetasikas, have to arise together, they cannot be separated from each other. Each time citta arises there must be cetasikas which accompany the citta. Feeling arises with each citta. The feeling cetasika which accompanies bhavanga-citta is vipāka cetasika and it feels on account of the object which is experienced by the bhavanga-citta. All the accompanying cetasikas share the same object with the citta. The function of feeling cetasika is feeling on account of the object which is experienced by the citta. The object of the bhavanga-citta is not an object of this world, it is the same object as experienced shortly before the dying-consciousness of the preceding life. We do not know this object. Neither do we know the characteristic of the feeling accompanying the bhavanga-citta.

When we compare the situation of being asleep with the situation of being awake, it helps us to see more clearly the conditions for the experience of objects. The objects of this world can only appear because there are processes of cittas which experience them through the six doorways.

We should investigate further what exactly wakes up when we wake up and what exactly is asleep when we are asleep. Rupa is the Dhamma which does not know anything, thus, rupa does not wake up nor does it sleep. Nama is the Dhamma which experiences an object. When nama does not know an object appearing in this world, this state is called "being asleep". Also while we are asleep there are cittas arising and falling away in succession, preserving the continuity in one’s life, so long as one does not pass away.

When we wake up, what is it that wakes up? Citta and cetasikas wake up, because they arise and experience an object through the eyes, the ears, the nose, the tongue, the body-sense or the mind-door. Thus, when we experience an object of this world we are awake. If we reflect on this fact in a more detailed way, it will be a supporting condition for the development of satipaṭṭhāna. The aim of the teaching of Dhamma is awareness of the characteristics of realities in order to know them as they are. The Buddha’s words can encourage us to have right effort (viriya) for satipaṭṭhāna, the development of right understanding of the realities of this moment.

As we have seen, when we wake up citta and cetasikas know the objects of this world. We have to consider more deeply what actually wakes up: citta and cetasikas wake up together. Vipākacitta arises and sees what appears through the eyes, or it experiences what appears through the ears, the nose, the tongue or the body-sense. Nobody could prevent this, it is beyond control. Vipākacitta which is the result of kamma arises, experiences an object and then falls away. It would be impossible to sleep continuously; kamma causes one’s birth into this life and it does not condition a person to be asleep his whole life until he dies. It is kamma which produces eyes, ears, nose, tongue and body-sense so that there are conditions for the arising of citta which sees a pleasant object, and this is the result of kusala kamma, or citta which sees an unpleasant object, and this is the result of akusala kamma. Citta which hears a pleasant sound is the result of kusala kamma, and citta which hears an unpleasant sound is the result of akusala kamma. It is the same with regard to the other doorways.

Thus, vipākacitta and cetasikas which arise wake up and experience objects through each of the doorways in daily life. Apart from these types of cittas what else is there? When one has woken up there are also akusala Dhammas, all kinds of defilements which begin to wake up. When one is asleep there are no akusala cittas, but there are the latent tendencies of defilements (anusaya kilesas), which lie dormant in the citta. The defilements which have not been eradicated are accumulated from one citta to the next citta, since cittas arise and fall away in succession. Thus, also when one is asleep the accumulated defilements are carried on from one moment of bhavangacitta to the next moment of bhavangacitta. At these moments defilements do not arise and there cannot be like or dislike of an object, since one does not see yet, one does not hear, smell, taste or experience tangible object yet, one does not experience any object of this world. When we are asleep all the defilements are also asleep. However, when we wake up also the defilements wake up. After seeing, hearing and the experience of the other sense objects, all kinds of defilements arise with the akusala citta, depending on the conditions which cause the arising of particular akusala Dhammas.

As we have seen, cittas can be classified by way of four planes, bhūmis, of citta, namely, kāmāvacara bhūmi, rūpāvacara bhūmi, arūpāvacara bhūmi and lokuttara bhūmi. As cittas are of higher planes, they are more refined. The cittas of people are mostly of the kāmāvacara bhūmi, of the sense sphere; thus, they experience visible object, sound, odor, flavor or tangible object. Kāmāvacara citta is of the plane which is of the lowest grade. As soon as we wake up we see and hear. Citta turns towards the objects appearing through the eyes, the ears, the nose, the tongue, the body-sense and the mind-door. Citta frequents these sense objects. The cittas which arise in a day are of the lowest plane and moreover, they are usually of the most inferior jāti, that is, akusala. Usually it is akusala citta which wakes up, unless there are conditions for kusala. When we see, clinging follows seeing most of the time. We hear and then we are attached to the sound which was heard, and this is natural. Citta rooted in attachment arises more often than citta rooted in aversion, the citta which is annoyed, which is coarse.

We should face the truth that there are in a day more often akusala cittas than kusala cittas. If we do not realize this we cannot develop kusala in order to be free from cittas which are inferior and mean. Then there will continue to be innumerable akusala cittas, just as usual. When we do not see the danger and disadvantage of akusala, we may even enjoy our akusala. Thus, we should remember that it is usually defilement, kilesa, which wakes up. Defilements arise in the processes of the eye-door, the ear-door, the nose-door, the tongue-door, the door of the body-sense and the mind-door.

It depends on the individual to what extent defilements will cause suffering of mind and body. When we realize the confusion and suffering caused by defilements, we shall apply ourselves to the development of kusala, be it dāna, sīla, samatha or satipaṭṭhāna. When one develops satipaṭṭhāna, there is awareness of the characteristics of the realities which are appearing.

Some people believe that they should try to eradicate lobha first, so that they are able to develop the paññā which leads to the stage of enlightenment of the sotāpanna. However, this is impossible. Lobha, attachment, arises, it is a type of reality which arises because of the appropriate conditions. It is not a being, person or self. However, paññā should consider the characteristic of lobha so that it can be known as it is: a type of reality which arises and then falls away.

The types of feeling arising with different cittas can be classified as fivefold in the following way:

  • pleasant bodily feeling, accompanying body-consciousness which is kusala vipāka
  • painful feeling, accompanying body-consciousness which is akusala vipāka
  • unpleasant feeling, accompanying the two types of dosa-mūla-citta
  • pleasant (mental) feeling and which can accompany cittas which indifferent feeling } are kusala, akusala, vipāka and kiriya

Unpleasant feeling cannot accompany cittas which are kusala, vipāka and kiriya. It can accompany only akusala citta, namely, the two types of dosa-mūla-citta, citta rooted in aversion [3] . If one does not know this, one may take for kusala what is in fact akusala. This may happen, for example, when one feels sorry for people who suffer and who are in trouble. One wants to help them so that they are relieved from their distress. There may be conditions for kusala citta with true compassion, karuṇa cetasika. However, one should know the characteristic of the feeling which accompanies the citta, one should know whether one has unpleasant feeling or not. If one has unpleasant feeling, if one is sad, there is akusala citta. Akusala citta is completely different from kusala citta which is accompanied by compassion, karuṇa cetasika. If one truly understands this, one can abandon the sad, unhappy feeling which is akusala. Then one will be able to help someone else to be free from suffering with feeling which is happy, not unpleasant or sad. Therefore one should know precisely when the citta is akusala, so that akusala can be eliminated. People usually believe, when they have compassion for someone who suffers, that they should also take part in his sadness and unhappiness. They do not realize that this is not true compassion.

People are usually ignorant of their feelings. If someone is asked what feeling he has at this moment, he may only know vaguely whether he feels indifferent, happy or unhappy. Feeling arises with each citta, but it is not easy to realize its true nature, even when there is awareness of feeling. Feeling is only a reality which experiences, a kind of nama. When sound appears the citta which is hearing-consciousness hears sound. At that moment there is feeling, vedanā cetasika, which accompanies hearing-consciousness. When the cetasika which is contact, phassa, contacts the object, vedanā cetasika must also arise. If sati can begin to be aware of the characteristic of citta or of feeling, supporting conditions are accumulated for being less forgetful of realities when we have indifferent feeling, happy feeling, bodily pleasant feeling, painful feeling or unhappy feeling. We may be sad, but instead of giving in to unhappy feeling, there can be sati which is aware of it and then it can be known as only feeling cetasika arising because of conditions. Thus we see that satipaṭṭhāna is beneficial, that right understanding can relieve suffering when one is distressed and feels unhappy.


  1. Of which jātis can indifferent feeling and pleasant feeling be?
  2. Of which jāti are painful feeling and bodily pleasant feeling?
  3. Of which jāti is unpleasant feeling?
  4. Of which jāti is the feeling when one is fast asleep?
  5. Can rupa wake up or be asleep? Explain the reason.
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Footnotes and references:


Sahagata means accompanied.


Feeling can also be classified as threefold: pleasant feeling, unpleasant feeling and indifferent feeling. It can be classified by way of contact through the six doorways, and by other ways.


One type is not induced and one type is induced. This will be explained later on.

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