SuttaCentral

Discernment challenge 😎

feelings
middle-way
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#1

We, here are most likely quite familiar with the suttas. We read stock phrases over and over again or listen to them( thanks Karl).
We have loads of sutta information, and experience in various applications of trying to overcome dukkha or reach Nibbana.
So we can simply ask ourselves " after everything that I have practised so far, after all the information I have gathered, am I free from the POSSIBILITY of suffering ever again?"

If someone had to insult me, would I suffer?
If I lost a friend, would I suffer?

If we are honest enough to admit that we still are in the realm of the POSSIBILITY of suffering, then we can continue to strive for freedom, we can choose to investigate deeper.
But if we believe that we are free when we are not, then we will not strive further, this belief is clearly a dangerous obstacle.
If however one is free to a degree but notices that there is still some work to be done or is unsure if there is work, then, if one continues to strive, one cannot lose anyway.

One might consider that oneself is an ariyasavaka due to certain descriptions of ariyasavakas in the suttas, or through certain mystical meditation experiences. There might be contentment even in labelling oneself a sotapanna etc but if you still know that you have the possibility of suffering, then considering yourself an ariyasavakya is of no real consequence and it will not get the job done.

Am I free from dukkha or not? Do I still have work to do?

I mention this because I see quite often in our Buddhist circles a major concern over defining ones status, which I believe misses the point of practice.

Maybe I can prove through various sutta descriptions my ariyan status, but if I am still a victim of suffering, then who cares what I call myself, and why do I care?
The Buddha encouraged sotapannas not to rest, even though in 7 life times at most they will finish the job quite naturally, but why wait? Why rest content with an identity label?

Again, we are familiar with the suttas and if we knew what they meant, it would result in freedom from suffering forever.
We might have read: SN.22.99
"But the instructed noble disciple … does not regard form as self … nor feeling as self … nor perception as self … nor determinations as self … nor consciousness as self…. He no longer keeps running and revolving around form, around feeling, around perception, around determinations, around consciousness. As he no longer keeps running and revolving around them, he is freed from form, freed from feeling, freed from perception, freed from determinations, freed from consciousness. He is freed from birth, ageing, and death; freed from sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair; freed from suffering, I say.”

So if we know what ‘feeling’ is, for example, we would be free, we would see what it is. Yet when we read the word ‘feeling’ in the sutta we take it for granted that we DO NOT understand what feeling is; we most likely, casually move on to the next sentence etc and then try and focus on some cool sounding meditation technique.

However, If we truly discerned the thing that the Buddha was designating, we would be free.

We could try to understand feelings through the scholarly approach by gathering information or consulting dictionarys, reading various scientific reports etc
Or we could go all mystical by just intuitively conjuring up ideas about feeling, or write poems and songs about it, or just intuitively go along practising this or that thinking that ‘feeling’ will be magically understood through our good intentions etc

I suggest that both the scholarly and mystical approaches are both inadequate to discern the aggregates.

We can speak about the aggregates from a third person point of view, providing sutta references etc or like a mystic just say what ever we feel is right to say about them. Both ways are divorced from the actual direct discernment of the aggregates, which would free you from suffering forever.

The way to discern and know ‘feeling’ for what it is, is to discern it in your present experience from a 'first person’point of view.

You can read about feeling/vedana all you want, but to know it directly, so to speak, is the only way to discern it. To discern it, one must try and discern it.
This might sound quite obvious, but let me challenge you to a Vipassana experiment:
Try to write down, from a first-person point of view, a first-hand DESCRIPTION of what it is that you presently designate as a PRESENTLY-ARISEN-FEELING( or whichever aggregate). Use your own words, try as much as you can not to use Buddhist terminology. Try not to speak from a third person point of view and do not provide any sutta references.

I encourage you to write your descriptions down on this thread also, so that I ( and anyone who is interested) can see if it’s a 1st or 3rd person description, or can then maybe see what I am pointing to by the creation of this thread.
Hopefully, no claims to higher attainments or condemnations of ignorance will be made?

By seeing and knowing the aggregates as they are, presently, you will undo all wrong notions in regard to them. By discerning them correctly, repeatedly, ignorance of what they are will fall away.


#2

There’s a lot in this OP. Thanks.

For the purpose of proposed exercise, these thoughts rose.

When I perceive I am “wearing cranky pants”, it’s good to recognize it; to avoid it having uncontrolled impact on experiences or perception; to know, it’s just “cranky pants”.

Not very sophisticated a response, but kindness in the effort. Just ordinary kindness!


#4

There is a lot, sorry, it got out of hand.
What does OP stand for?

If I may just point out something with your ‘try’?
You could try to describe perception base rather than what is perceived. Because ,I suggest, in understanding/discerning the base, nothing that you perceive because of that perception base will ever disturb you again.

By overcoming ignorance in regard to PERCEPTION, so to speak, there will be no need to do anything on account of cranky pants…or any other clothing material that may arise in the future.
Cranky pants of the past, cranky pants of the present and cranky pants to come, will all just be cranky pants.

I will post an example of a first hand/first person description of the eye, which I posted in another OP(?)


#5

A first person description of the eye?:


#6

What I sometimes find challenging is being open to unpleasant feelings - I just want them to go away! But of course accepting unpleasant feelings is a necessary first step in understanding them. Metta really helps with this in my experience.


#7

Just to also mention,
The way to DESCRIBE a phenomenon or discern it rightly, is to have that phenomenon in ‘front of you’, so to speak.
The thing must ‘be there’ discerned, and if one resorts to EXPLAINING the phenomenon through scholastic ponderings then that phenomenon becomes obscured,one 'drifts’off away from the direct discernment.


#8

Learning how to feel , or feeling while one is discerning a feeling is not easy, for sure.
The Buddha said somewhere “my teaching is for one who feels”, which is usually an overlooked statement, I believe.

The challenge , I would say, is to try not get involved at all with any kind of feeling, or to allow feeling to endure without resorting to a method to get rid of your suffering in regard to feeling, to get rid of the craving through various methods, or to change the feeling into another etc

Any attempt an intervention results in obscuration.

Being aware of feeling, ones acceptance becomes obsolete, because feeling is there regardless of ones acceptance.
No matter how badly one craves for it,a feeling is there.
Once it is discerned rightly, one overcomes feeling, one is not overcome by feeling.
The sending of Metta or trying to accept it is a result of being overwhelmed,overcome, or overpowered by feeling already.
Once discerned rightly sufficiently, it doesn’t matter what feeling is there, and thus no need to do anything about it.

Doing something about feeling, other than discerning it as it is, is being overwhelmed by it.

Thus also my "vipassana’ challenge, ridiculous as it may sound, at least is stressing the importance of DISCERNMENT without ‘involvement’, discerning so as to remove preconceived notions ,so to speak.


#9

Accepting a painful feeling does work, to some degree, because it emulates the right attitude of discerning without interfering.


#10

:slight_smile: But I did describe perception base. It’s what recognizes cranky pants as cranky pants, just a non graspable fabrication of a POV which also is impermanent.

Gratitude for uncomfortable cranky pant-ness, which leads to this insight. xD

?

edit: OP is Original post.


#11

It’s for one who feels that I declare: ‘This is suffering’ … ‘This is the origin of suffering’ … ‘This is the cessation of suffering’ … ‘This is the practice that leads to the cessation of suffering’ –AN3.61

Having once sought to harm, I long to feel free from the restraints I’ve imposed on myself to avoid harming. Perhaps one day I might earn back that very freedom I tossed so carelessly away.


#12

That sounds rather like the practice of bare attention, which IMO is essentially what the second frame of Satipatthana involves ( MN10 ).
I don’t usually find myself being overwhelmed by unpleasant feeling, it’s more like an aversion, wanting to push it away. Though I find the acceptance of feeling can sometimes get confused with the practice of Right Effort and inappropriate attention.


#13

I will do my best to keep this in line with the OP.
There has been much debate about ‘bare attention’, which I have not taken part in, so instead of getting into what such and such a person said ‘B.A’ is;
Could you _describe_what you mean by B.A?
How are you ‘bare attending’ feeling?
(These questions above are in keeping with the OP i.e can you describe what you are discerning from a first-person point of view?)

Also, do you have a Pali word which corresponds to your meaning of B.A?

Yes, that is actually what I mean by overwhelmed. If there is craving in regard to unpleasant feeling, then to that extent I am effected by feeling. The effect of feeling effects me when I appropriate it with notions that I can effect it.

The ‘pushing it away’ is a sign that I am already effected.


#14

Well, as long as we admit we aren’t arahanths we will be overcome by feelings from time to time, however when I had more time and I was practicing deep states of meditation I was able to not be affected by whatever feeling (pleasant or unpleasant) that arose. This was even more so when I was in a retreat setting. As for the neutral sensations I was able to overcome the ignorance in them, when doing insight practice so able to see tilakkahana in all the 3 types of feelings. More recently I have been working on individual cravings and aversions. I find my response patterns have altered when I compare them with how I was 6-9 months ago so I can see the progression. I don’t know why this is called a ‘challenge’ rather than a straightforward inquiry.


#15

It’s just the word I used as a friendly ‘call to participate’ in this thread. In the sense of a healthy competition.
It is indeed a type of inquiry but not so straightforward.

The OP is an invitation to try and write down a presently arisen-first-person-experiential-description of an aggregate, for example ‘feeling’.
This can only be done by a person who is able to discern feeling presently.
For example a presently arisen description of craving :
" There is a subtle unwanting in regard to the pressure of the background unpleasant feeling, to that extent I am effected by feeling. The effect of feeling effects me as I appropriate it with notions that I can effect it."_

Let me just use your previous statement also as an example, I am not, however, addressing the specific content of your statement as such.

Your statement, for example, is not a description of a presently arisen thing, it’s just something that you are saying happened to you in the past.


#16

To put it as simple as I can…
Try to describe a presently arisen feeling.

If you try this, you will then see why I used the word ‘challenge’.


#17

Well, I was giving some context to my responses to ‘presently arisen feeling’. Some feelings I have overcome, others overcome me, I am a work in progress. Aren’t we all…?


#18

:meditation:


#19

Okay, my description of what I designate feeling is as follows. Feeling is my overall or general mood, whether being pleasant or unpleasant, and seems to fill my whole experience. When I have a generally pleasant feeling/mood it colours the whole of my particular experience to a point where people and things seem more agreeable, and vice versa with an unpleasant feeling. I may or may not be mixing up what Buddhists would define as feeling here.


#20

Yes, I understand that you were explaining what you experienced in the past. But The ‘presently arisen feeling’ can only be described in the present.
What you were explaining was the ‘past feeling which at the time of its arising was present’.
But can you describe a presently arisen feeling in the present? That’s the challenge.

Also, not everyone is a work in progress, some are not in any progress and some are finished all progression.


#21

Hello DCM,
If I may point out a few things in what you said. The bold highlighted sections in your quote are the only descriptions of the present feeling.
The rest of what you wrote is a explanation of feeling i.e its is sometimes pleasant sometimes unpleasant, when its like this or that then other things are like this or that.

You said " when I have…" it would be presently-descriptive if you said " I am having…or there is a general pleasant feeling etc"

You could also try to describe where feeling is because then you would have to discern it presently as it is arisen.

Or even what is feeling not?