Sutta Study Discussion Theme 5-7-16

From Craving to Liberation, From Grasping to Emptiness: Excursions into the Thought-World of the Pali Discourses by Bhikkhu Analayo, Chapters 12, Feeling/Vedana, pages 132 – 142

Sections to be read outloud:
12.1 The Nature of Feelings; 2nd paragraph on page 133 through to ending of continuing paragraph at top of page 135.
12.3 Feelings and Karmic Retribution; entire section.
12.4 Feelings and Views; last two paragraphs on page 142.

Discussion Theme:
Venerable Analayo begins chapter 12 by expressing the dictum, “All phenomena converge on feeling” (p. 132). This month we turn our attention to better understanding the nature of the experience of feeling and its central role in the arising of suffering and the releasing of suffering. Venerable Analayo writes that vedana is intimately related to the cognitive input provided through perception, (sanna). “What one feels, one perceives”, (MN I 293) We commonly assume that it is I who feels, but from a more honest mindful point of view we could say, as Venerable Analayo suggests, ‘that feelings feel’. What do feelings feel? Feelings feel the affective tones of pleasure, displeasure and the feelings of neutrality (p. 133).

The Buddha is encouraging us to train the mind to see the connection between the arising of suffering & stress and the mind’s conditioned reaction to feelings. Why does the mind react in predictable ways to feeling, for example the feeling of unpleasantness? Because, the mind imagines that the unpleasant feeling is substantial and personally meaningful. In other words, the experience of feeling is being misperceived and misunderstood. To counter this, the Buddha teaches us to open to feeling as it actually is, without perceptual distortion based in habit. The Buddha asks us to specifically notice the insubstantial and changing nature of feeling (see pages 133-135). We can aspire to be in this world where feeling necessarily arises with every sense contact, but to remain clearly aware, calm, unmoved, and not attached to feelings that come and go with the unfolding of experience.

This month we are learning to discern and abandon commonplace self views in that relate to the experience of feeling: “To identify feelings as the self, to consider the self as being without feelings, or to assume that it is the self that feels.” (Page 141) Our practice is designed to liberate the heart from the controlling power of feelings and the self views that arise dependent on feelings until we become, “One who has reached the destruction of craving through full liberation.” (See page 142) Wishing us all a good month of practice.

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