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Do Arahants experience non-neutral mental vedana?

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vedana
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#1

In terms of the effects of the attainment of arahantship over the arising of feelings (vedana):

Do Arahants experience the arising of non-neutral (pleasure or displeasure) mental feelings?

According to Sallatha Sutta, an Arahant will still experience physical feelings of pleasure and pain, but he will just see those feelings as feelings.

What does this mean?

If physical pleasure/pain arises, he will not experience a mental pleasure/pain?
Or he just feel it without the arising of aversion, craving and ignorance?

What happens in the case of the practice of Jhana?
Doesn’t that count as mental pleasure?

If mental pleasure and pain are eradicate, does this mean that every mental phenomena will be felt as a neutral phenomena?

For example:
If a non-arahant person feels an unpleasent feeling when seeing a corpse or when thinking about a corpse, will the presence of such phenomenon (the corpse, or the idea of a corpse) will still give rise to an unpleaseant feeling after attaining arahantship?
If the training under the Noble Eightfold Path helps to change the way the noble one feels the world, does this mean that everything feels neutrally after attaining Nibbana?

What do the suttas tell us about this?

Thanks in advance for your time!

Kind regards!


#2

I suggest you try to frame your questions in a way conducive of a discussion and discovery of what EBTs tell us or leave untold on the topic.

It’s not going to be a productive conversation if the conversation ends up being about speculating or debating what or not arahants experience in our opinions. :sweat_smile:


#3

Thanks, Gabriel!
I added a line in the end that indicates that I’d like to know the suttas’ position on this topic.

Kind regards!


#4

I think so. They just don’t “pick up” (to borrow an Ajahn Chah phrase) any thoughts connected with the unwholesome that might happen to arise in their mind, as the Buddha explained in the two kinds of thinking sutta. Whatever painful or pleasant thoughts might arise, they don’t give rise to aversion or grasping… they don’t enter the “heart” or “proliferate.” That shaking, wobbling, tremoring which the ordinary mind does when confronted with something frightening, exciting, etc: that kind of mental reaction doesn’t happen anymore. Their mind is “unshakeable.”

Hope that helps, and I look forward to hearing everyone else’s take :smile:


#5

Thanks, bhante, for your reply!

So, if an arahant-to-be felt something displeasurable as displeasurable, after attaining arahantship will that stay the same?

Kind regards!


#6

Can you give an example?


#7

Sure!

If a non-arahant person feels an unpleasent feeling when seeing a corpse or when thinking about a corpse, will the presence of such phenomenon (the corpse, or the idea of a corpse) will still give rise to an unpleaseant feeling after attaining arahantship?

Kind regards!


#8

Ah! Mostly no. Because they will know there’s nothing to be scared of. It’s just a corpse.

Now, that said, Arahants do retain some personality and preferences. For example, they still might still prefer some kinds of food or chew betel nut or whatever. BUT they won’t be averse to eating other kinds of food if their favorite isn’t around. They won’t suffer on account of not getting what they want.

So, to return to the corpse example, there are several things going on there. One “arrow” is the unpleasant, unpreferable sights and smells that arise on coming across a corpse. The second arrow (for the unenlightened person) is the gut-wrenching horror and aversion to those sights, smells, etc and to the thoughts which proliferate after said contact, “oh how horrible! how gross!” etc

Arahants still experience the first arrow. But not the second.


#9

Thanks, again!

If you don’t mind, I’d really appreciate if you can help me understand some of the implications of the above.

Do Arahants still have preferences?
Aren’t these preferences considered sensory attachment, or attachment to views?
Are preferences the same as tendencies?

Thank you so much, Bhante, for your time and patience.

Kind regards!


#10

Interesting question. Iti 44 only refers to Arahant feelings from the five physical sense faculties.

However, his five sense faculties remain unimpaired, by which he still experiences what is agreeable and disagreeable and feels pleasure and pain. It is the extinction of attachment, hate, and delusion in him that is called the Nibbāna-element with residue left. Iti 44

:grimacing:

Suttas such as MN 148 do not appear to distinguish between physical & mental feelings, as follows:

Mind consciousness arises dependent on the mind and thoughts. The meeting of the three is contact. Contact is a condition for what is felt as pleasant, painful, or neutral. When you experience a pleasant feeling, if you don’t approve, welcome, and keep clinging to it, the underlying tendency to greed does not underlie that. When you experience a painful feeling, if you don’t sorrow or wail or lament, beating your breast and falling into confusion, the underlying tendency to repulsion does not underlie that. When you experience a neutral feeling, if you truly understand that feeling’s origin, ending, gratification, drawback, and escape, the underlying tendency to ignorance does not underlie that. Mendicants, after giving up the underlying tendency to greed for pleasant feeling, after dispelling the underlying tendency to repulsion towards painful feeling, after eradicating ignorance in the case of neutral feeling, after giving up ignorance and giving rise to knowledge, it’s totally possible to make an end of suffering in the present life.

Similarly MN 37:

“Lord of Gods, it’s when a mendicant has heard: ‘Nothing is worth insisting on.’ When a mendicant has heard that nothing is worth insisting on, they directly know all things. Directly knowing all things, they completely understand all things. Having completely understood all things, when they experience any kind of feeling—pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral—they meditate observing impermanence, dispassion, cessation, and letting go in those feelings. Meditating in this way, they don’t grasp at anything in the world. Not grasping, they’re not anxious. Not being anxious, they personally become extinguished. They understand: ‘Rebirth is ended, the spiritual journey has been completed, what had to be done has been done, there is no return to any state of existence.’ That’s how I briefly define a mendicant who is freed through the ending of craving, who has reached the ultimate end, the ultimate sanctuary, the ultimate spiritual life, the ultimate goal, and is best among gods and humans.”

Possibly you can study MN 152, which might also be helpful (but I am too lazy to read).

The above said, since the 3rd Noble Truth says the end of craving is the end of suffering, why such concern about feelings?

:slightly_smiling_face:


#11

Thank you so much, dear D!

I was concerned by this question because I’m trying to understand more deeply the underlying mechanics of the Noble Eightfold Path in its transformative effects on the mind.

Kind regards!


#12

I fear I’ve said too much already! If you’re interested in further study, perhaps instead I can simply point out some material on the Noble Eightfold Path which might be useful to you.

Best


#13

I’ve heard the five aggregates including feeling arises in an arahanth. You’re going to have to ask an arahanth directly, for the answer.


#14

Please, excuse my insistence, but I’m trying to fit what has been said above with what I read and interpret from Sallatha Sutta.

On one side, I see that physical painful stimuli does not give rise to mental feeling.
On the other hand, in MN 152, we see that a noble one seem to have some tendencies and inclinations toward some preferences over others, but he reacts with equanimity to the arising of liking and disliking.

So, does the training changes all non-neutral feeling to neutral feelings, or changes the way the noble one responds to non-neutral feelings?

If an arahant-to-be had a preference for pizza over tacos, will that remain the same after Nibbāna?

Again, in order to not break any rule or to make excessive assumptions, I’m only asking about the suttas’ position in this matter.

Thanks again to everyone for your awesome answers!

Kind regards!


#15

I thought the Arrow Sutta would clarify this question, but having reread it, I’m not sure that it does.
One the one hand, if the Noble disciple has an unpleasant bodily feeling (first arrow), it doesn’t lead to unpleasant mental feeling (second arrow). This is due to the cessation of craving and aversion.

But on the other hand, the Noble disciple is said to be “detached” from both pleasant and painful feeling. I’m not clear whether this refers to both bodily and mental feeling, or just to bodily feeling. So I’m unsure whether the Arahant still experiences mental vedana.


#16

Another thing to consider here is DO in cessation mode, as described in SN12 suttas.
So with the cessation of contact (phassa) there is the cessation of feeling (vedana), and then the cessation of craving (tanha).
The difficult bit is working out what this means in practical terms. In what sense do phassa and vedana cease for the Arahant?


#17

To me the unwinding sequence is about how once avijja is replaced with vijja the subsequent links of dependent origination loose momentum and then, with the end of the last birth no further perpetuation of suffering takes place.

In essence, avijja (or non-wisdom) is only fully eradicated with the direct knowledge and insight of the four Noble truths, marked with the full development of the path factors of right insight (samma ñana) and right liberation (samma vimmuti).

This is for a necessary consequence of right insight is the very destruction of the āsava responsible for the impersonal origination of rebirth and suffering it entails:

"A stock passage in the suttas indicates the term’s real significance independently of etymology when it describes the āsavas as states “that defile, bring renewal of existence, give trouble, ripen in suffering, and lead to future birth, aging and death” (MN 36.47; I 250).
Thus other translators, bypassing the literal meaning, have rendered it “cankers,” “corruptions,” or “taints.”[3]

A more relevant and practical framework for dependent origination is the one found at Upanisa Sutta (SN12.23) which shows how the mundane and suffering-perpetuating links (lokiya) are mirrored by a set of supramundaane suffering-cessating links (lokuttara).

There is a very inspiring and detailed explanation of this precious sutta by Bhilkhu Bodhi which I believe will be helpful to make sense of the above.

https://www.dhammatalks.net/Books2/Bhikkhu_Bodhi_Transcendental_Dependent_Arising.htm

:anjal:


#18

Actually, careful there with neutral feelings:

When neutral feeling ceases, spiritual bliss arises; and when spiritual bliss ceases, neutral feelings arises. –MN102

Indeed, don’t get stuck on feelings. Here is AN6.61, which explores the precursor to feelings:

“Contact, mendicants, is one end. The origin of contact is the second end. The cessation of contact is the middle. And craving is the seamstress, for craving weaves one to rebirth in this or that state of existence.

Contact precedes feelings SN12.23:

Contact is a vital condition for feeling.

From the above suttas, we realize that arahants (i.e., sages) dial it back a bit before contact.

In the pizza example, an arahant would see food and not proliferate to pizza, which is simply a more elaborate name/form of food. If one is hungry and it is time to eat, then one eats food. Whether it is pizza or not is an extraneous contact. When the senses are unrestrained, contacts and feelings arise and proliferate into suffering. Arahants are completely done with that mess.


#19

Thanks, everyone, for your wonderful and insightful answers. My view has changed thanks to them.

And thanks, karl_lew, because I’ve never thought about the relation between proliferation and contact. This has opened a whole new perspective for me. I’m really thankful.

May all of you have wonderful days!

Kind regards!


#20

Arahaths experience pleasant, unpleasant and neutral feeling, as their faculties are still working. Whether they retain a memory, of their previous inclinations doesn’t look as if it is mentioned in the suttas. They might not retain the inclination, but might retain a pure memory…! If so I don’t think their previous pizza preference is going to influence, current feelings that an arahanth would have.

Preference is predicted, on ignorance. When we are hungry, some food taste better than when we aren’t. This shows that feeling can be ‘manipulated’, an not an inherent quality of the object of experience. When delight or nandi is present, everything to a degree, will feel more pleasant. Equally, with cravings.

I think the Arahanth would treat the rice and the pudding in his bowl, in the same manner :stew:.