Feeling, in Pali vedana, is another cetasika among the seven 'universals'. Feeling accompanies every citta, there is no moment without feeling.
We may think that we all know what feeling is and we believe that it is easy to recognize pleasant feeling and unpleasant feeling. However, do we really know the characteristic of feeling when it appears or do we merely think of a concept of feeling? Throughout our life we have seen ourselves as a 'whole' of mind and body; also when we consider our feelings we think of this 'whole' which we take for 'self. when someone asks us: 'How do you feel?' and we answer, for example, 'I am happy', we do not know the characteristic of happy feeling, which is a mental phenomenon, a nama; we cling to the 'whole' of mind and body. Thus we only know concepts, not realities.
Is there feeling now? we think that we can recognize pleasant feeling or unpleasant feeling, but are we not mixing up feeling with bodily phenomena? Feeling is nama, quite different from rupa. So long as we do not distinguish nama from rupa we cannot know the characteristic of feeling as it is.
When we study the Abhidhamma we learn that 'vedana' is not the same as what we mean by feeling in conventional language. Feeling is nama, it experiences something. Feeling never arises alone; it accompanies citta and other cetasikas and it is conditioned by them. Thus, feeling is a conditioned nama. Citta does not feel, it cognizes the object and vedana feels.
Feeling accompanies all cittas of the four jatis: akusala citta, kusala citta, vipakacitta and kiriyacitta. Feeling is of the same jati as the citta it accompanies. The feeling which accompanies, for example, akusala citta is also akusala and entirely different from the feeling which accompanies vipakacitta. Since there are many different types of citta there is a great variety of feeling. Although there are many kinds of feeling, they have one characteristic in common: they all are the paramattha dhamma, non-self, which feels.
All feelings have the function of experiencing the taste, the flavour of an object (Atthasalini, I, Part IV, chapter I, 109). The Atthasalini 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.
Feelings are manifold and they can be classified in different ways, when they are classified as three feelings, they are:
- pleasant feeling (sukha)
- unpleasant feeling (dukkha)
- indifferent (or neutral) feeling (adukkhamasukha: neither painful nor pleasant)
There is no moment without feeling, When there is not pleasant feeling or unpleasant feeling, there is indifferent feeling. It is difficult to know what indifferent feeling is. So long as we cannot distinguish nama from rupa we cannot know precisely the characteristic of feeling and thus we cannot know indifferent feeling either. When mental feelings and bodily feelings are taken into account, feelings can be classified as fivefold:
- pleasant bodily feeling (sukha)
- painful bodily feeling (dukkha)
- happy feeling (somanassa)
- unhappy feeling (domanassa)
- indifferent feeling (upekkha).
Pleasant bodily feeling and painful bodily feeling are namas. We can call them 'bodily feeling' because they are conditioned by impact on the bodysense. When, for example, temperature which is just the right amount of heat or cold impinges on the bodysernse the body-consciousness (kaya-vinnana) which experiences it is accompanied by pleasant bodiIy feeling. Body-consciousness is vipakacitta and in this case kusala vipakacitta) When they experience a pleasant object, they are the result of kusala kamma, a wholesome deed, and when they experience an unpleasant object, they are the result of akusala kamma, an unwholesome deed.. The pleasant bodily feeling which accompanies this kusala vipakacitta is also kusala vipaka. Pleasant bodily feeling cannot accompany any other kind of citta but the body-consciousness, kaya-vinnana, which is kusala vipaka. Thus we see that not every kind of feeling can arise with aIl types of citta.
Painful bodily feeIing accompanies only the kaya-vinnana which is akusala vipaka. When, for example, temperature which is too hot or too cold impinges on the bodysense, kaya-vinnana which is akusala vipakacitta experiences this unpleasant object. This akusala vipakacitta is accompanied by painful bodily feeling. Painful bodily feeling cannot accompany any other kind of citta but the kaya-vinnana which is akusala vipaka.
Bodily feelings arise because of impingement of "a pleasant or unpleasant object on the bodysense. The kaya-vinnana cognizes the pleasant or unpleasant object which impinges on the bodysense, phassa 'contacts' the object and vedana experiences the "taste" of the object. The feeling which accompanies kaya-vinnana is either pleasant feeling or painful feeling, it cannot be indifferent feeling. In the case of the other panca-vinnanas (the five pairs of sense-cognitions, seeing, hearing, etc). One of each pair is kusala vipaka and one akusala vipaka. which are seeing, hearing smelling and tasting, the accompanying feeling is always indifferent feeling, no matter whether the vipakacitta which experiences the object is kusaIa vipakacitta or akusala vipakacitta.
The Paramattha Manjusa, a commentary to the Visuddhimagga (XIV, note 56) explains why kaya-vinnana is accompanied by either pleasant feeling or unpleasant feeling. This is because of the 'violence of the impact's blow '; there is the direct impact of tangible object on the bodysense. Tangible objects which are experienced through the rupa which is the bodysense are the following rupas: soIidity, appearing as hardness or softness, temperature, appearing as heat or cold, and motion, appearing as oscillation or pressure. By way of a simile the difference is explained between the impact of tangible object on the bodysense and the impact of the other sense objects on the relevant senses. When a man places cottonwool on an anvil and strikes it with an iron hammer, the hammer goes right through the cottonwool because of the violence of the impact. In the case, however, of the other panca-vinnanas, the impact is gentle, like the contact between two pieces of cottonwool. Thus, they are accompanied by indifferent feeling. The 'impact' of visible object on the eye-sense is gentle when compared with the direct physical contact of tangible object with the bodysense. We may believe that bodily feeling can be indifferent, but this is not so. The moment of body-consciousness (kaya-vinnana) is extremely short; it is only one moment of vipaka and after it has fallen away akusala cittas or kusala cittas arise. Body-consciousness Is accompanied either by pleasant bodily feeling or by painful bodily feeling. The akusala cittas or kusala cittas which arise shortly afterwards are accompanied by feelings which are different from bodily feeling. They can be accompanied by happy feeling, unhappy feeling or indifferent feeling.
Somannassa, happy feeling, can arise with cittas of all four jatis, with kusala citta, akusala citta, vipakacitta and kiriyacitta.
Somanassa is of the same jati as the citta it accompanies. It does not arise with every citta. Somanassa cannot accompany dosa-mula-citta which has aversion towards an object and it cannot accompany moha-mula-citta, citta rooted in ignorance. Somanassa can accompany lobha-muIa-citta but it does not always accompany lobha-mula-citta. Lobha-mula-citta can be accompanied by somanassa or by upekkha, indifferent feeling. When somanassa accompanies lobha-mula-citta, somanassa is also akusala. There can be pleasant feeling when one likes a pleasant visible object, a beautiful sound, a fragrant odour, a delicious taste, a soft touch or an agreeable thought. We would like to have pleasant feeling all the time, it often seems to be the goal of our life. However, pleasant feeling cannot last and when it is gone we are sad. We find it very important what kind of feeling we have, but feelings are beyond control, they arise because of conditions. Lobha accompanied by somanassa is more intense than lobha accompanied by upekkha.
Lobha-mula-citta accompanied by somanassa arises when there are the appropriate conditions; there is no self who can prevent this. If we study the different types of feeling and the cittas they accompany it will help us to recognize akusala cittas. If we would not know that somanassa may accompany lobha-mula-citta We would think that it is good to have happy feeling. One may see the disadvantage of unhappy feeling but does one recognize the disadvantage of all kinds of akusala, also when they are accompanied by somanassa? Somanassa does not stay. When We do not get the pleasant objects we are longing for our attachment conditions aversion which is always accompanied by unhappy feeling. If we realize the danger of all kinds of akusala, it can remind us to be aware of the reality which appears. This is the way leading to the eradication of akusala.
Somanassa can accompany kusala citta, but it does not accompany each kusala citta. When we perform dana (generosity), observe sila ( morality) or apply ourselves to mental development, there can be somanassa or upekkha, indifferent feeling, with the kusala citta. We would like to have kusala citta with somanassa, but for the arising of somanassa there have to be the right conditions. One of these is strong confidence in the benefit of kusala. Confidence (saddha) is a wholesome cetasika which accompanies each kusala citta, but there are many degrees of confidence. When one has strong confidence in kusala, one will perform it with joy. We read in the Atthasalini (I, Part II, chapter I, 75) that:
abundance of confidence (saddha), purity of views, seeing advantage in kusala, should be understood as factors of this consciousness in making it accompanied by joy.
When someone has right view of realities, right view of kusala and akusala, of kamma and its result, he will be firmly convinced of the benefit of kusala and this is a condition to perform it with somanassa.
The pleasant feeling which accompanies kusala citta is quite different from the pleasant feeling which accompanies lobha-mula-citta. When we give a present to someone else and there is pleasant feeling, we may think that there is one kind of feeling which lasts, but in reality there are different moments of feeling accompanying different cittas. There can be a moment of pure generosity accompanied by pleasant feeling, but there are bound to be many moments of attachment after the kusala cittas have fallen away. We may be attached to the person we give to or to the thing we give, or we may expect something in return; We want to be liked by the person who receives our gift. Such moments of attachment may be accompanied by somanassa. Somanassa which is kusala and somanassa which accompanies lobha are different kinds of somanassa arising closely one after the other, and it is difficult to distinguish one from the other. It seems that there is one kind of somanassa and that it lasts. Without right understanding we cannot tell whether the somanassa which arises is kusala or akusala. Since there are many more akusala cittas arising than kusala cittas, there are many more moments of somanassa which are akusala than moments of somanassa which are kusala. We cling to somanassa but we cannot choose our own feelings. Who can control which feeling arises at a particular moment? Feelings arise when there are the right conditions for their arising, they are anatta, non-self. When a certain feeling appears it can be known as only a kind of experience, no self in the feeling.
Somanassa can accompany kamavacara cittas, cittas of the sense-sphere, rupavacara cittas (rupa-jhanacittas) and lokuttara cittas. As regards rupa-jhanacittas, somanassa accompanies the cittas of four stages of jhana, it does not accompany the cittas of the fifth and highest stage of jhana. At this stage the citta is accompanied by upekkha, which is more refined and tranquil than somanassa.
Domanassa, unhappy feeling, arises only with cittas of the jati which is akusala; it always arises with dosa-mula-citta, it does not arise with lobha-mula-citta or with moha-mula-citta. It depends on one's accumulations whether dosa-mula-cittas arise or not. when an unpleasant object such as a disagreeable flavour presents itself, dosa-mula-cittas are likely to arise. If there is, however, wise attention to the unpleasant object, kusala citta arises instead of akusala citta.
Dosa-mula-citta can arise only in the sensuous planes of existence, it cannot arise in the higher planes of existence where those who cultivate jhana can be reborn. In the sensuous planes there is clinging to the sense objects and this conditions dosa. when one does not obtain pleasant sense objects dosa is likely to arise. Those who have cultivated rupa-jhana and arupa-jhana (See Abhidhamma in Daliy Life, Chapter 22). In the development of samatha, tranquil meditation, stages of rupa-jhana and arupa-jhana can be attained by those who have accumulated the right conditions. Rupa-jhana, fine-material jhana, is still dependent on materiality, whereas arupa-jhana, immaterial jhana, is not dependant on materiality and thus more tranquil. have suppressed attachment to sense objects. They can be reborn in higher planes of existence, in rupa-brahma-planes and in arupa-brahma planes and in these planes there are no conditions for dosa. However, when they are reborn in sensuous planes where there are conditions for dosa, dosa-mula-cittas accompanied by domanassa arise again so long as they have not been eradicated. We dislike domanassa and we would like to get rid of it, but we should understand that dosa can only be eradicated by the development of the wisdom which sees realities as they are. There is no other way. Only the ariyan, the noble person, who has attained the third stage of enlightenment which is the stage of the anagami (non-returner), has eradicated clinging to sense objects and thus he has no more conditions for dosa. The anagami and the arahat have eradicated dosa and thus they never have any more unpleasant feeling.
Dosa and domanassa always arise together. It is difficult to distinguish between these two realities, but they are different cetasikas. Domanassa is feeling, it experiences the taste of the undesirable object. Dosa is not feeling, it has a different characteristic. Dosa does not like the object which is experienced. There are many degrees of dosa, it can be a slight aversion, anger or hate. But in any case dosa does not want the object and domanassa feels unhappy. We know so little about the different realities which arise. We may have a backache. Is it painful bodily feeling which appears, or is it the characteristic of domanassa which accompanies dosa-mula-citta?
Upekkha indifferent feeling, is different from somanassa and from domanassa; it is neither happy nor unhappy. Upekkha can arise with cittas of all four jatis, but it does not arise with every citta. When there is no awareness many moments of feeling pass unnoticed. There is feeling with every citta and when we do not notice any feeling there is still feeling: at such moments there is indifferent feeling. We may not feel either glad or unhappy while we are busy with our work or while we are thinking. Then there is indifferent feeling. Indifferent feeling accompanies vipakacittas such as seeing or hearing. It can accompany lobha-mula-citta; this type of citta can be accompanied either by pleasant feeling by indifferent feeling. Do we notice clinging which is accompanied by upekkha? when we walk or when we get hold of different things we use in our daily life, such as a pen or a book, there is bound to be clinging even when we do not feel particularly glad. We cling to life and we want to go on living and receiving sense-impressions.
We are attached to sense-impressions such as seeing and hearing. There are many moments of seeing and hearing and shortly after they have fallen away there are bound to be lobha-mula-cittas even when we do not have happy feeling. After seeing has fallen away there is a mind-door process of cittas which experience visible object through the mind-door and then there can be other mind-door processes of cittas which think of concepts. We may think of a person, a car or a tree. We like to notice a person, a car or a tree, these are concepts we are familiar with. We like to think and even when we do not feel glad there can be clinging with indifferent feeling, but we do not notice this. It is useful to know that lobha can be accompanied by upekkha. Through the Abhidhamma we can come to know our many defilements. It is better to know realities than to mislead ourselves with regard to them. Upekkha can accompany maha-kusala cittas, kusala cittas of the sense-sphere. We may help others, observe sila or study Dhamma with upekkha. Feeling is a conditioned reality, we cannot force ourselves to have pleasant feeling while we apply ourselves to kusala. Upekkha arises with kamavacara cittas (cittas of the sense-sphere), rupavacara cittas (rupa-jhanacittas), arupavacara cittas (arupa-jhanacittas) and lokuttara cittas. As regards rupa-jhanacittas, onIy the cittas of the fifth and highest stage of rupa-jhana are accompanied by upekkha. At that stage there is a higher degree of calm than at the lower stages; the upekkha which accompanies that type of jhanacitta is very subtle. All the arupa-jhanacittas are accompanied by upekkha.
There are many different kinds of feeIing and therefore we should not imagine that it is easy to recognize feelings. When we study the Abhidhamma we realize better what we do not know. It is difficult to distinguish painful bodily feeling from rupa, or from domanassa. When we have pain, we 'feel' that something is hurting and we may think that it is easy to discern bodily painful feeling. However, we may not be able to distinguish the painful feeling which is nama from the rupa which is impinging on the body-sense. We are usually thinking of the spot which is hurt and then we are thinking of a concept. The thinking is a reality which can be known when it appears, the concept is not a reality. It is important to know the difference between ultimate realities and concepts. A precise knowledge of the different namas and rupas which arise each because of their own conditions will help us to be less deluded about our life.
When hardness impinges on the body-sense, the kaya-vinnana cognizes the hardness and the accompanying feeling experiences the 'taste' of the hardness. Time and again vipakacittas arise which experience pleasant or unpleasant objects through the bodysense. There are hardness or softness, heat or cold impinging on the bodysense, no matter whether we are walking, standing, sitting or lying down. There is the experience of hardness or softness time and again when we touch things or take hoId of them, but we are so absorbed in what we want to get or want to do that we are unaware of the different experiences through the senses. The feeling which is vipaka is different from feeling which is associated with attachment or aversion. Pleasant bodiIy feeling which is vipaka is not associated with attachment, and painful bodily feeling is not associated with aversion. At the moment of pleasant bodily feeling there is no attachment to the object; pleasant bodily feeling merely experiences the pleasant object. At the moment of painful bodily feeIing there is no dislike of the object; painful bodily feeling merely experiences the unpleasant object. After the vipakacittas which experience pleasant or unpleasant objects have fallen away, akusala cittas which are rooted in lobha (attachment), dosa (aversion) or moha (ignorance) are bound to arise.
Akusala cittas arise very often, because we have accumulated many defilements. On the other hand, when there are conditions for 'Wise attention' to the object, kusala cittas arise instead of akusala cittas. There may be, for example, after the experience of tangible object, mindfulness of nama or rupa. We have considered the characteristics of pleasant bodily feeling, painful bodily feeling, happy feeling (somanassa), unhappy feeling (domanassa) and indifferent feeling (upekkha) 2 For details about the different feelings which accompany different cittas, see visuddhimagga XIV, 127-128, and my Appendix 1.. Although all of them are the cetasika which is feeling (vedana), they are different kinds of feeling with different characteristics. At every moment feeling is different, because at every moment there is a different citta. For example, upekkha (indifferent feeling) which accompanies vipakacitta is different from upekkha which accompanies akusala citta or upekkha which accompanies kusala citta. Upekkha which accompanies the jhanacitta of the fifth stage is different again. AlI these feelings are upekkha, but they are conditioned by different cittas and accompanying cetasikas.
Since there is such a variety of feelings, it is usefuI to know more classifications of feeling. Feelings can be classified by way of contact through the six doors of the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body-sense and mind. Cittas experience objects through six doors and through these doors pleasant and unpleasant objects are experienced. On account of a pleasant object there is often lobha-mula-citta which can be accompanied by somanassa or upekkha, and on account of an unpleasant object there is often dosa-mula-citta which is accompanied by domanassa. If we understand that the experience of pleasant and unpleasant objects and the different feelings which arise on account of them are conditioned we will attach less importance to the kind of feeling which arises at a particular moment.
The experience of pleasant or unpleasant objects through the senses is vipaka conditioned by kamma, and the kusala cittas or akusala cittas arising on account of the objects which are experienced are conditioned by our accumulated tendencies . There is no self who can exercise power over any reality which arises, there are only nama and rupa which arise because of conditions. Sometimes there are conditions for indifferent feeling, sometimes for pleasant feeling, sometimes for unpleasant feeling (Feelings can be classified in several more ways. See Kindred Sayings IV, Salayatana-vagga, Kindred Sayings about Feeling, 22, where feelings are classified as hundred and eight.).
Cittas arise and fall away very rapidly, succeeding one another; there never is a moment without citta and never a moment without feeling. We cling to happy feeling, somanassa, but we know so little about ourselves and thus we may not recognize the different kinds of happy feeling. When we are laughing there is happy feeling with lobha-mula-citta, but we may not realize that there is happy feeling which is akusala. We should not try to suppress laughing, but it is useful to know the different types of realities which arise. When we see someone else there can be happy feeling arising with attachment or happy feeling arising with kusala citta. The cittas which think of the person we meet are akusala cittas when there is no dana (generosity), sila (good moral conduct), or bhavana (mental development).
Feeling is sankhara dhamma, a conditioned dhamma. Feeling is conditioned by the citta and the other cetasikas it accompanies. Feeling which arises, falls away immediately, it does not stay. Feeling is a khandha, it is one among the five khandhas, namely, vedanakkhandha  Conditioned realities can be classified as five aggregates or khandhas: the khandha of rupas, of feelings, of perceptions (sanna), of "formations" or "activities" (all cetasikas other than feeling and sanna) and of consciousness.. We cling to feeling and we take it for self. If our knowledge of feeling is merely theoretical we will not know feeling as it is. When there is awareness of feeling when it appears it can be known as only a type of nama and not self.
- Through how many doors can pleasant mental feeling experience an object?
- There is a great variety of feelings, but all feelings have something in common. What is the characteristic they have in common?
- Feeling accompanies every citta. Can any kind of feeling accompany all cittas?
- Can everybody know the reality of pleasant feeling or of unpleasant feeling? ' ,
- Why is body-consciousness (kaya-vinnana) never accompanied by indifferent feeling?
- Which jati is painful bodily feeling?
- Which jati is unhappy feeling (domanassa)?
- When an unpleasant tangible object impinges on the body-sense, can kusala cittas accompanied by somanassa arise which cognize that unpleasant object?
June 17, 2001
Footnotes and references:
the five sense-cognitions are vipakacittas, results of kamma.
Abhidhamma in Daily Life, Chapter 9
See Abhidhamma in Daily Life, Chapter 2.