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

Vedanā arises with a sensory input or an ārammaṇa. A sensory input may give rise to two types of vedanā: vipāka vedanā (unavoidable) and “samphassa-jā-vedanā” which may arise if the mind is attached to that sensory input.

September 29, 2019; revised August 28, 2022; September 22, 2023 

All Our Activities Start With a Sensory Trigger

1. We know we are alive because we experience 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 contemplate what one goes through during the day. We can see that all activities start with “sensory triggers.”
A Sensory Trigger is an “Ārammaṇa

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

  • For example, a 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 ārammaṇa.
  • 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 large 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 ārammaṇa.

4. There is always an “ārammaṇa” to initiate an action, and there are only six types of ārammaṇa 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; pronounced “patichcha”) 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” (pronounced “ichcha.”) 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).” The wick will burn out quickly if one does not add oil to the lamp. 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“). The brain processes an image the eyes receive and then sends it to thecakkhu.We discussed in the post, “Contact Between Āyatana Leads to Vipāka Viññāna,”

  • Cakkhu” could be taken as the cakkhu pasāda rūpa (or cakkhu indriya) that lies close to the hadaya vatthu (seat of the mind) and hadaya vatthu in some cases. However, the “eye faculty” or cakkhu indriya becomes cakkhāyatana when one is looking at a rupa with attachment to it.  Then, the “mental impression” of an external rupa (“cakkhuviññeyyā rūpā”) is not a true version of the external rupa; see #10 of “Contamination of the Human Mind Based on a Sensory Input.”

The “Cakkhu Sutta (SN 25.1)” says “Cakkhuṁ, bhikkhave, aniccaṁ vipariṇāmi aññathābhāvi” 

  • Here, cakkhu” is the “defiled eye faculty” is the “cakkhāyatana.” Both have “aniccaṁ vipariṇāmi aññathābhāvi” nature. See “Aniccaṁ Vipariṇāmi Aññathābhāvi – A Critical Verse” for details.
  • Furthermore, as pointed out above, the “rūpa” is a “mind-made version” of the external object (rupa āyatana). 
  • When that rūpa makes contact with the cakkhu, that contact gives rise to the cakkhu viññāṇa in mind: Cakkhuñca paṭicca rūpe ca uppajjāti cakkhuviññāṇaṃ.” 
  •  Therefore, that sensory experience arises in the mind close to the physical heart. It does not occur in the brain (or in 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 ārammaṇa 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.
  • All those entities (cakkhu, sota…, mano and rupa, sadda,..dhamma) are all defiled versions as discussed in “Contamination of the Human Mind Based on a Sensory Input.”
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, vedanā and saññā arise with each citta. Therefore, there are a vedanā and saññā associated with that sōta viññāṇa (which is a citta.) In other words, we know that we heard the sound (vedanā), and we recognize what the sound is (saññā). The vedanā that arises with that vipāka viññāna is a vipāka vedanā.
  • At this stage, the mind receives the sensory event. All vedanā associated with that initial sensory event (other than the physical body) is a neutral (upekkha) vedanā. However, some sōmanassa or dōmanassa vedanā arise due to kāma guna (even in an Arahant.). The following 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 vedanā due to an injury. It can lead to a sukha vedanā due to a body massage.
  • Below, we will discuss sukha, dukkha, sōmanassa, dōmanassa, and upekkha vedanā.
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 vedanā due to “phassa paccayā vedanā.” There we discussed how the second type of vedanā arises due to “samphassa.” It is a good idea to review that post.

  • That second type of vedanā 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-vedanā” is mind-made.
  • An Arahant would experience the first type of vedanā, the vipāka vedanā. The second type of vedanā would NOT arise in an Arahant because he/she does not have a defiled mind.
  • Now, we can categorize vedanā 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 vedanā (dōmanassa/sōmanassa) in the MIND.
Sārīrika Vēdanā Are Vipāka Vēdanā

11. As we saw above, ALL vedanā belong to those two types discussed above: vipāka vedanā and samphassa-jā-vedanā.

  • The painful or pleasurable vedanā felt by the physical body are sārīrika vedanā; they are vipāka vedanā, and Arahants also feel them. 
  •  On the other hand, samphassa-jā-vedanā are “mind-made” and arise when a mind attaches to an ārammaṇa with rāga, dosa, or moha.
  • Note (August 5, 2023): In the previous versions, I had used the term kāyika vedanā to represent vedanā felt by the physical body. However, “kāya” is used in other contexts, too, for example, as “an aggregate.” Furthermore, the following sutta used sārīrika vedanā to describe the physical pain felt by the Buddha with an injury: “Sakalika Sutta (SN 1.38).”
Three Types of Sārīrika Vēdanā

12. Then the sārīrika vedanā can be three types: dukkha vedanā, sukha vedanā, adukkhamasukha vedanā.

  • We can see that dukkha vedanā due to injuries, body aches, etc., are sārīrika vedanā.  Those vedanā are felt AT A LOCATION in the body. We feel a finger cut at the finger. Similarly, a back massage gives a sukha vedanā on the back.
  • We remember that vedanā means “becoming aware of.” So, those vedanās 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 Mind-MadeVēdanā” (Samphassa-jā-Vēdanā)

13. Samphassa-jā-vedanā similarly belong to three major types: dōmanassa vedanā, sōmanassa vedanā, and upekkha vedanā.

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

14. Therefore, vedanā can be either vipāka vedanā or “mind-made vedanā,” i.e., “samphassa-jā-vedanā.”

  • As we have discussed, samphassa-jā-vedanā 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-vedanā. A friend of X will generate a samphassa-jā-vedanā that is of sōmanassa type. An enemy of X will generate a samphassa-jā-vedanā that is of dōmanassa type. A third person who does not know X may only feel a samphassa-jā-vedanā of upekkha type.
  • Since there are six types of samphassa-jā-vedanā, we can see that 18 types of vedanā could be 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 vedanā. But for many situations, the above types of vedanā are sufficient for our discussions. 
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