Vedana (Feelings)

Revised November 6, 2018

In this and follow-up posts, we will discuss six types of vēdanā (feelings) and how they arise. There are other types of vēdanā, but these are the important ones to understand for the Sōtapanna stage. Three of these arise due to kamma vipāka and the other three arise due to sankhāra (defiled thoughts).

  • Vēdanā comes from (“” + “danā”) which means “වීම දැනවීම” in Sinhala. Basically, when we sense something via our six senses, we become aware of it; that is vēdanā.

Two Ways Vēdanā (Feelings) Can Arise

Vēdanā (feelings) can arise in two ways:

1. As a consequence of a previous kamma (i.e., a kamma vipāka). The kamma or sankhāra could have been done many lives ago. These cannot be avoided.

  • Vēdanā (feelings) that cannot be avoided are three kinds : Sukha vēdanā (pleasant or joyful feeling), dukha vēdanā (unpleasant or painful feeling), and adukkhama asukha (without being painful or joyful, just neutral), where we are just aware of it. This adukkhama asukha vēdanā is commonly called upekkha vēdanā.

2. As a direct consequence of a sankhāra (one could say an ongoing action or a way of thinking). These are absent in Arahants.

  • Then there are three types of other vēdanā that can be prevented from arising: somanassa (pleasant), domanassa (unpleasant), and upekkha (neutral) vēdanā. They are solely mind-made and are due to defiled thoughts (sankhāra). The details are discussed below.
Vēdanā Arising from Kamma Vipaka

Kamma vipāka can happen to everyone, including Arahants. While everyone can avoid some kamma vipāka, there are others that are too strong to be able to avoid.

  • For example, the Buddha himself had physical ailments later in his life as kamma vipāka. Moggallana Thero was beaten to death because of a bad kamma that he committed many lives before.
  • However, kamma vipāka are not certain to happen. Some can be reduced in power (we will discuss this under Vinaya and Metta Bhavana), all are reduced in power with time and some eventually die out if they did not get a chance to come to fruition within 91 Mahā kalpas. Many can be avoided by not providing conditions for them to arise (see, the discussion on kamma beeja in , “Sankhara, Kamma, Kamma Beeja, Kamma Vipaka“).
  • One could also feel sukha vēdanā (pleasant feelings) due to good kamma vipāka. These are also bodily feelings that arise due to “pleasant bodily contacts” like a getting a good massage, or lying on a luxurious bed.
  • These types of vēdanā are not DIRECTLY relevant in Paticca Samuppāda. For example, when the Buddha was injured by Devadatta, he did not generate “vēdanā paccayā tanhā” in Paticca Samuppāda.
Vēdanā Arising from Sankhāra

These are the vēdanā that Arahants do not feel. Since they do not commit any abhisankhāra (those sankhāra done with greed, hate, and ignorance), an Arahant avoids any kind of feeling arising from abhisankhāra. The easiest way to explain this kind of vēdanā is to give some examples:

  1. Three people are walking down the street. One has ultra-right political bias (A), the second has ultra-left bias (B), and the third is an Arahant who does not have special feelings for anyone (C). They all see a famous politician hated by the political right coming their way. It is a given that the sight of the politician causes A to have displeasure and B to have a pleasurable feeling. On the other hand, the sight does not cause the Arahant to generate any pleasure or displeasure. Even though all three see the same person, they generate different types of feelings.It is important to realize that the feelings were created by A and B by themselves.
  2. Two friends go looking for treasure and find a gem. They are both overjoyed. It looks quite valuable and one person kills the other so that he can get all the money. Yet when he tries to sell the “gem”, he finds out that it was not that valuable. His joy turns to sorrow in an instant. Nothing had changed in the object, the piece of stone. It was the same piece of colored rock. What has changed was the perception of it (saññā).
  3. A loving couple had lived for many years without any problems and were happy to be together. However, the husband slaps his wife during an argument. The physical pain from the slap itself did not last more than a few minutes. But for how long the wife would suffer mentally? Even the husband, who did not feel any physical pain, would suffer for days if he really loved his wife. In both cases, the real pain was associated with the attachment to each other. The wife could have dropped something on her foot and would have suffered about the same amount of physical pain. But she would not have had any lingering mental pain associated with that.

Thus all these second kind of feelings arise due to greed, hate, or ignorance; all these are due to (abhi)sankhāra. The feelings reside INSIDE oneself. It does not come from outside. We use external things to CAUSE happiness or suffering by our own volition.

  • These types of vēdanā (also called samphassa jā vēdanā” or “vēdanā generated via samphassa“) are the ones relevant in Paticca Samuppāda.

Deeper analyses can be found at: Vēdanā (Feelings) Arise in Two Ways

Next, “Vinnana (Consciousness)“, …………….

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