For the last 100 years vedanā – a key Buddhist term referring to a process instrumental in the arising of desire (tanhā), grasping and identification (upādāna) – has been mostly translated as ‘feeling’ or as ‘sensation’. But is it really either? Informed by a review of the concept’s use in the Pali Suttas, the paper attempts to re-trace the term’s meaning in early Buddhist Psychology. The established renditions of ‘sensation’ or ‘feeling’ for vedanā are deemed misleading; it is suggested that they be replaced by the unwieldy but more appropriate notion of ‘hedonic tone’. After a brief appraisal of occidental attempts to chart hedonic territory, beginning with the Greeks, the work of early psychologists up to recent neuropsychological research, the insights of an ancient contemplative tradition are found to look remarkably fresh and to be particularly pertinent for a deeper understanding of aspects as different as attentional governance, mindfulness training, addiction and ultimately a vision of happiness beyond gratification or avoidance.
What do you all think? Clearly this term is a bit more descriptive, but it is kind of clunky and lesser known than “feeling” or “sensation”. It’s an issue of simplicity vs correctness it seems.