Vipāka Vēdanā and “Samphassa jā Vēdanā” in a Sensory Event

September 29, 2019; revised November 15, 2019; August 28, 2022

We are discussing the “Worldview of the Buddha.” It may be a good idea to print out the posts for referral while reading subsequent posts. It is CRITICAL to understand the material discussed so far to follow future posts.

All Our Activities Start With a Sensory Trigger

1. We know that we are alive because we are aware of the external world. We can see an object, hear a sound, smell an odor, taste food, and feel the touch of something or someone. Furthermore, we can recall past events (part of dhammā).

  • All our sensory experiences start with a “trigger event” that comes through one of our six sense faculties. If we see, hear, smell, taste, or touch something that grabs our attention, we start thinking, speaking, and taking action on that particular sight, sound, odor, taste, and touch.
  • Also, a thought about a past event or a planned event (dhammā) may come to our mind, and we could get started that way too.

2. We usually go through our daily chores based on what we do routinely. We get up in the morning and prepare for work (school) on a working day. Those “to-do tasks” come to our minds automatically as dhammā.

  • Such a “planned or routine day of work” could be disrupted by an unexpected event. One may get a phone call from the boss asking to go to a meeting at a different location. A child may have a fever, and a hospital visit may be required. Again, a sensory trigger is there.
  • We may also set an alarm to get up at a particular time. When the alarm goes off in the morning, we wake and recall having to get ready for a specific task.
  • It is a good idea to think about what one goes through during the day. We can see that all activities start with “sensory triggers.”
A Sensory Trigger is an “Ārammana

3. Each activity starts with a “trigger,” a sensory event. That is a “ārammana” in Pāli. We consciously and deliberately start looking at an object when we become interested in that object. Then it becomes a new “ārammana.”  That may prompt us to take further action.

  • For example, short interaction with a person may trigger an interest in that person. Then that may lead to further contact.
  • We get exposed to many sensory inputs as we go through the day. But only specific sensory inputs catch our attention and make us think about them. A strong sensory input that gets our attention is a ārammana.
  • If X listens to the television in the background while eating, X focuses on the meal. However, if X hears on the TV that a terrorist attack just took place in a major city, X’s attention would focus on that news story. X may stop eating and go and watch the television to get more information. That is a new ārammana.

4. There is always an “ārammana” to initiate an action, and there are only six types of ārammana per  “Chachakka Sutta (MN 148).”Cakkhuñca paṭicca rūpe ca uppajjāti cakkhuviññāṇaṃ, sōtañca paṭicca sadde ca uppajjāti sotaviññāṇaṃ, ghānañca paṭicca gandhe ca uppajjāti ghānaviññāṇaṃ, jivhāñca paṭicca rase ca uppajjāti jivhāviññāṇaṃ, kāyañca paṭicca phoṭṭhabbe ca uppajjāti kāyaviññāṇaṃ, manañca paṭicca dhamme ca uppajjāti manoviññāṇaṃ.”

  • For example, the second on the list says that “ear-consciousness (sōta viññāna) happens when ears (more precisely sōta pasāda) come to contact with a sound (sadda).” In the above example, X heard about a terrorist attack.
  • That sensory event could then start a whole series of new actions. In the example of #3 above, X stopped eating and went to the television to watch it.
  • You should think about this basic idea of how a sensory event (seeing, hearing, etc. leads to a whole set of actions during a given day. This idea was first introduced in the post, “Contact Between Āyatana Leads to Vipāka Viññāna.”
Two Different Meanings of Paṭicca

5. We translated the verse, “cakkhuñca paṭicca rūpe ca uppajjāti cakkhuviññāṇaṃ” as “..cakkhu viññāna arises when a rūpa makes contact (Paṭicca) with cakkhu pasāda rūpā.” See, #7 of “Contact Between Āyatana Leads to Vipāka Viññāna.” That was further elaborated in the next post, “Indriya Make Phassa and Āyatana Make Samphassa.”

  • Some English translations state that as “dependent on the eye and forms, eye-consciousness arises.” They translate Paṭicca as “dependent on,” presumably because Paṭicca Samuppāda is translated as “Dependent Origination.”
  • But Paṭicca is a Pāli word with somewhat different meanings depending on the context. Let us clarify that first.

6. It is fine to translate Paṭicca Samuppāda as “Dependent Origination.” That is because the steps in Paṭicca Samuppāda are CONDITIONAL statements. For example, “with avijjā (ignorance) as conditionsaṅkhāra arise.” One could also state that the “arising of saṅkhāra is dependent on the presence of avijjā.” However, conditionality comes from the word “paccayā,” not from “Paṭicca.” See “What Does “Paccayā” Mean in Paṭicca Samuppāda?.”

  • Therefore, “cakkhuñca paṭicca rūpe ca uppajjāti cakkhuviññāṇaṃ” should not be translated as “dependent on the eye and forms, eye-consciousness arises.” It is more than just dependence. It is “coming together” or “coming to contact” of cakkhu and rūpa that gives rise to cakkhu viññāna. Paṭicca” happens with only those events that grab our attention.
  • There is also a deeper meaning of Paṭicca in Paṭicca Samuppāda, where it combines the two words “pati” + “icca.” When one attaches willingly to moral (or immoral) deeds, one ends up with corresponding “births” (“sama” + “uppada.”) See, “Paṭicca Samuppāda – “Pati+ichcha”+” Sama+uppāda.” That is why I do not translate Paṭicca Samuppāda as “Dependent Origination.” There is more than “just dependence” in Paṭicca Samuppāda.
  • However, in verse “cakkhuñca paṭicca rūpe ca uppajjāti cakkhuviññāṇaṃ,” Paṭicca means “coming together” or “contact.” Here there is no “intention.” It is cakkhu and rūpa making contact. That is very clear in SN 12.53 and SN 12.54, in verse, “telañca paṭicca vaṭṭiñca paṭicca telappadīpo jhāyeyya.” OR, “an oil lamp (telappadīpo) burns while the wick (vaṭṭiñca) is together with oil (telañca).” If one does not add oil to the lamp, the wick will burn out quickly. There is no involvement of the mind there. Thus, the “pati” + “icca” etymology does not apply here.
Where Does Paṭicca Happen?

7. It is essential to remember that “cakkhu” (or cakkhāyatana) is not physical eyes (the Pāli word for the physical eye is “nayana“). “Cakkhu” is the cakkhu pasāda rūpa that lies close to the hadaya vatthu (seat of the mind), and hadaya vatthu overlaps the physical heart. That is far away from the brain.

  • This cakkhu pasāda rūpa is the “internal ayatana.” It is commonly referred to as “cakkhu.”
  • The brain processes an image the eyes receive and then sends it to the “cakkhu.We discussed in the post, “Contact Between Āyatana Leads to Vipāka Viññāna,”
  • Furthermore, the “rūpa” is the image of the external object (external ayatana). To be precise, it is a “vaṇṇa rūpa” (or “rūpa rūpa“) in this case.
  • When that rūpa makes contact with the cakkhu, the cakkhu in turn “hits” the hadaya vatthu (seat of the mind) and transfers that rūpa to the mind, that is the eventCakkhuñca paṭicca rūpe ca uppajjāti cakkhuviññāṇaṃ.” 
  • That contact gives rise to the cakkhuviññāṇa in mind. Therefore, that sensory experience arises in the mind close to the physical heart. It does not occur in the brain (or at the eyes)! You may want to refresh your memory by reading #12 of the post, “Buddhist Worldview – Introduction.”

8. The example discussed in #3 involves an ārammana coming through as a sound (sadda rūpa). Here the “sound rūpa” received by the sōta pasāda rūpa (shortened to just “sōta“) is the “sadda” in “sōtañca paṭicca sadde ca uppajjāti sōtaviññāṇaṃ.” 

  • Any external sensory input is a form of energy. That is why they are all rūpa. There is some confusion because most times, a “rūpa rūpa” or a “vaṇṇa rūpa” is just written as a “rūpa.”
  • A sound is a sadda rūpa. You can figure out the other three: rasa rūpa, gandha rūpa, and photthabba rūpa.
  • A thought coming directly to the mind is a “dhammā” or a “dhamma rūpa.” There is no separate “pasāda rūpa” for dhammā, which directly contacts the hadaya vatthu.
Vipāka Vēdanā Arise With That Initial Vipāka Viññāna

9. Let us consider “hearing a sound.” That is “sōtañca paṭicca sadde ca uppajjāti sōtaviññāṇaṃ.” This sōtaviññāṇa is a vipāka viññāna, as we discussed in “Contact Between Āyatana Leads to Vipāka Viññāna.”

  • As we have discussed, vēdanā and saññā arise with each citta. Therefore, there are a vēdanā and saññā associated with that sōta viññāṇa (which is a citta.) In other words, we know that we heard the sound (vēdanā), and we recognize what the sound is (saññā). The vēdanā that arises with that vipāka viññāna is a vipāka vēdanā.
  • At this stage, the mind receives the sensory event. All vēdanā associated with that initial sensory event is a neutral (upekkha) vēdanā. However, some sōmanassa or dōmanassa vedanā arise due to kāma guna (even in an Arahant.). The next post, “Kāma Guṇa – Origin of Attachment (Tanhā),” will discuss this issue. However, no dukkha/sukha vedanā arise in this step of, “sōtañca paṭicca sadde ca uppajjāti sōtaviññāṇaṃ.” That also holds for other sensory faculties, except for the physical touch (kāya.)
  • Therefore, the only exception is “kāyañca paṭicca phoṭṭhabbe ca uppajjāti kāyaviññāṇaṃ.” The sensory contact through the physical body can generate a dukkha vēdanā due to an injury. It can lead to a sukha vēdanā due to a body massage.
  • We will discuss sukha, dukkha, sōmanassa, dōmanassa, and upekkha vēdanā below.
The Second Type of Vedanā is “Samphassa jā Vedanā

10. In the post, “Indriya Make Phassa and Āyatana Make Samphassa,” we looked further into the “Chachakka Sutta (MN 148): “Cakkhuñca paṭicca rūpe ca uppajjāti cakkhu viññāṇaṃ, tiṇṇaṃ saṅgati phasso, phassa paccayā vedanā.” There we discussed the second type of vēdanā due to “phassa paccayā vedanā.” There we discussed how the second type of vēdanā arises due to “samphassa.” It is a good idea to review that post.

  • That second type of vēdanā is due to “contact with defilements in mind” or “san” or “anusaya.” And that depends on each person, i.e., how strong a taṇhā is generated via greed, anger, or ignorance. Therefore, this “samphassa-jā-vēdanā” is mind-made.
  • An Arahant would experience the first type of vēdanā, the vipāka vēdanā. The second type of vēdanā would NOT arise in an Arahant because he/she does not have a defiled mind.
  • Now we can categorize vēdanā using a different scheme. That will show that dukkha/sukha vedanā arises ONLY due to the physical body. Other types of sensory contacts lead to unpleasant/pleasant vēdanā (dōmanassa/sōmanassa) in the MIND.
Two Types of Vēdanā (Kayika and Cetasika)

11. As we saw above, ALL vēdanā belong to those two types discussed above: vipāka vēdanā and samphassa-jā-vēdanā. However, there are other ways to categorize vēdanā. The Buddha has taught us how to examine a given entity or a concept in many different ways. Once one understands them, it is easy to see which analysis is appropriate for a given situation.

  • The Buddha categorized vēdanā up to 108 types. However, we do not need to discuss all of them. We will consider only those that are relevant to common situations.
  • First, ALL vedanā belong to two categories of kāyika vēdanā (those felt on the body) and cetasika vēdanā (those arising in the mind.) Of course, all of the vipāka vēdanā and samphassa-jā-vēdanā are in these two new categories. It is just a different way to look at them.
  • Those vēdanā felt in the physical body (kāya) are kāyika vēdanā. All other vēdanā are cetasika vēdanā; they arise in mind.
Three Types of Kāyika Vēdanā

12. Then the kāyika vēdanā can be three types: dukkha vēdanā, sukha vēdanā, adukkhamasukha vēdanā.

  • We can see that dukkha vēdanā due to injuries, body aches, etc. are kāyika vēdanā.  Those vēdanā are felt AT A LOCATION in the body. We feel a finger cut at the finger. Similarly, a back massage gives a sukha vēdanā on the back.
  • We remember that vēdanā means “becoming aware of.” So, those vēdanā due to bodily contacts that do not generate dukkha or sukha (i.e., neutral) are “adukkhama asukha” (neither painful nor pleasant), and that rhymes with “adukkhamasukha.”
Three Types of Cetasika Vēdanā

13. Those cetasika vedanā similarly belong to three major types: dōmanassa vēdanā, sōmanassa vēdanā, and upekkha vēdanā.

  • The word “dōmanassa” comes from “ + manasa” or “a depressed mind.” Similarly, “sōmanassa” comes from “ + manasa” or “a pleasant mind.” Of course, upekkha vēdanā is neither dōmanassa nor sōmanassa. It is neutral, and we feel that sensory input.
  • Note that while the adukkhamasukha vēdanā is associated with body touches, upekkha vēdanā is associated with all other sensory inputs.
Relationship to Vipāka Vēdanā and “Samphassa-jā-Vēdanā

14. Now, these cetasika vedanā can be either vipāka vēdanā or “samphassa-jā-vēdanā.”

  • As we have discussed, samphassa-jā-vēdanā depends on the person’s mindset (more precisely, on one’s anusaya or gati.) Three people looking at the same person X may generate different types of samphassa-jā-vēdanā. A friend of X will generate a samphassa-jā-vēdanā that is of sōmanassa type. An enemy of X will generate a samphassa-jā-vēdanā that is of dōmanassa type. A third person who does not know X may only feel a samphassa-jā-vēdanā of upekkha type.
  • Since there are six types of samphassa-jā-vēdanā, we can see that there could be 18 types of vēdanā associated with them. Each one could be dōmanassa, sōmanassa, or upekkha.
  • In the “Aṭṭhasata Sutta (SN 36.22),” the Buddha has discussed 108 types of vēdanā. But for many situations, the above types of vēdanā are sufficient for our discussions. 
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