Reply To: Post on “Vipāka Vēdanā and “Samphassa jā Vēdanā” in a Sensory Event”


y not has sent me the following comment to publish. Apparently, he ran into a problem getting it published at the forum. If anyone else has that problem, please let me know ([email protected]).

y not’s comment:
The Great Discourse on Causation
4. Regarding a Self

The whole section (as well as the whole sutta, for that matter) is worth reading and reflecting upon. With regard to Vedana, the highlight comes just past the half-way point:

“So those who say ‘feeling is my self’ regard as self that which is evidently impermanent, a mixture of pleasure and pain, and liable to rise and fall.”
(Iti so diṭṭheva dhamme aniccasukhadukkhavokiṇṇaṃ uppādavayadhammaṃ attānaṃ samanupassamāno samanupassati, yo so evamāha: ‘vedanā me attā’ti)

Here ‘vedanā me attā’ti’ is translated ‘feeling is my self’ in the sense of asmi mana’, I take it: ‘I’ cannot be other than these feelings; and not in the sense ‘these feelings are anatta’. Is that how it is?

“That’s why it’s not acceptable to regard feeling as self.”
(Tasmātihānanda, etena petaṃ nakkhamati: ‘vedanā me attā’ti samanupassituṃ).
Again, the same question here.

“Now, as to those who say:
‘Feeling is definitely not my self. My self does not experience feeling.’ You should say this to them
“But reverend, where there is nothing felt at all, would the thought “I am” occur there?’”
“No, sir.”
“That’s why it’s not acceptable to regard self as that which does not experience feeling.” *
(‘na heva kho me vedanā attā, appaṭisaṃvedano me attā’ti, so evamassa vacanīyo:
‘yattha panāvuso, sabbaso vedayitaṃ natthi api nu kho, tattha “ayamahamasmī”ti siyā’”ti?
“No hetaṃ, bhante”)

*This verse needs some clarification. It appears to say: that which does NOT experience feeling is anatta.(??)
So, does it follow that which experiences feeling be atta? That cannot be so either, as per the next verse:

“Now, as to those who say:
Feeling is definitely not my self. But it’s not that my self does not experience feeling. My self feels, for my self is liable to feel.’
You should say this to them,
‘Suppose feelings were to totally and utterly cease without anything left over
When there’s no feeling at all, with the cessation of feeling, would the thought “I AM THIS” occur there?’” (my capitals)
“No, sir.”
“That’s why it’s not acceptable to regard self as that which is liable to feel.”
(na heva kho me vedanā ATTA, nopi appaṭisaṃvedano me ATTA, ATTA me vediyati, vedanādhammo hi me ATTA’ti.
So evamassa vacanīyo—
vedanā ca hi, āvuso, sabbena sabbaṃ sabbathā sabbaṃ aparisesā nirujjheyyuṃ.
Sabbaso vedanāya asati vedanānirodhā api nu kho tattha ‘ayamahamasmī’ti siyā”ti?
“No hetaṃ, bhante”.
“Tasmātihānanda, etena petaṃ nakkhamati: ‘na heva kho me vedanā attā, nopi appaṭisaṃvedano me attā, attā me vediyati, vedanādhammo hi me attā’ti samanupassituṃ

…then follows the hurdle to surmount:
“Not regarding anything in this way, they don’t grasp at anything in the world.(So evaṃ na samanupassanto na ca kiñci loke upādiyati)
Not grasping, they’re not anxious. Not being anxious, they personally become extinguished.(anupādiyaṃ na paritassati, aparitassaṃ paccattaññeva parinibbāyati)

It is clear that vedana are of anatta nature, but in what sense is ‘atta’ intended here? For a person thinks:
‘if I am not my feelings, what else can I be (made of), what else is it worthwhile being made of’? ‘(vedanā me attā’ti samanupassituṃ)’

The hurdle is this: for all but Anagamis and Arahants, it is impossible to conceive of a state of being where sukkha can be (made of) anything else but somanassa vedana. One knows that this is not so in actual fact (for one sees that vedana are anicca), yet one still cannot help perceiving it otherwise. Or, it can be said, the ditthi about dukkha is correct but not the sanna: one still hopes for an existence where to experience those pleasant feelings, even taking occasional unpleasant feelings and the risk of upheaval due to unexpected change (viparinama dukkha) in the bargain, taking even the inevitability of the end of that existence, death, in the bargain.

I would be very grateful if Lal would provide the correct translations of ‘atta’ as the word occurs above, IF they be other than ‘atta’ in the sense of ‘beyond our control’ or ‘beyond our power to influence’, as well as anything that may have escaped my notice, for the full import of at least this section 4 of the sutta.