hello, I have a doubt in the “dependent origination” it is mentioned that vedana originates tanha, but does this mean that any type of sensation (whether pleasant, unpleasant or neutral) gives rise to tanha or only the pleasant ones? if you have suttas where this topic is treated, please send them to … thanks in advance for everything
According to SN 36.6 = SA 470, the Buddha teaches two kinds of feeling (dve vedanā), bodily feeling (kāyikā vedanā) and mental feeling (cetasikā vedanā). Only mental feeling, which is negative feeling or emotion, will give rise to taṇhā. See:
Pages 109-111 from The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism Choong Mun-keat 2000.pdf (231.4 KB)
It is fine and normal to have bodily feeling (unpleasant, pleasant, and neutral feelings), but not the mental feeling (repulsion, desire, and ignorance).
not all feeling produce tanha.
Although, tanha can be conditioned upon unpleasant feeling or neutral feeling too.
Desire to get rid of unpleasant feeling or seeking feeling upon neutral feeling.
This is where kāyikā vedanā can condition cetasikā vedanā.
Ajahn Brahm has a good explanation of Dependent Origination available. Here he described vedanā as a sufficient condition for tanha. Meaning vedanā can produce tanha but does not always cause tanha.
Ajahn Brahm, Dependent Origination (2002).pdf (160.4 KB)
Vedanā is not a sucient condition for taṇha. Vedana are certainly experienced by arahants, but they never generate taṇha. Moreover, for
ordinary people, not every vedanā produces craving. (p. 11)
Some Western Buddhists have proposed that the ‘forward’ order of paṭiccasamuppāda
can be halted by ‘cutting’ the process between vedanā and taṇha. Often I
have heard some suggest that rebirth can be avoided through using sati
(mindfulness) on vedanā to stop it generating taṇha and the following factors of
paṭicca-samuppāda. This is, in my understanding, misconceived on two grounds.
First, the ‘forward’ order of paṭicca-samuppāda was never intended to demonstrate
how the process should be ‘cut’. The ‘forward’ order is only meant to show how the
process continues. The teaching on how the process is ‘cut’, or rather ceases, is the
purpose reserved for the ‘reverse’ order of paṭicca-samuppāda or ‘dependent
Secondly, even though vedanā does not inevitably produce taṇha, because it is not
a sucient condition, it is well stated by the Buddha that only when avijjā ceases
once and for all does vedanā never generate taṇha ! This means that one doesn’t
‘cut’ the process using sati on vedanā. Sati is not enough. The process stops from the
cessation of avijjā, as dependent cessation makes abundantly clear. The cessation of
avijjā is much more than the practice of sati. (p. 11)
Although he does not cite any suttas for this observation. I’ve gotten this understanding from suttas that cite the types of kamma that can result from deciding to commit to an action such as the Ariyamagga Sutta that says the best kamma is one that has neither ‘bright nor dark’ result because it leads to awakening.
Feeling doesn’t produce tanha. In the dependent origination formula, one thing does not make another thing happen. One thing arises “in dependence upon” another.
The mind can respond to feelings with or without craving.
Without mindfulness and acceptance/equanimity, craving will almost certainly arise. Aversion (which is just inverted desire — the desire to get rid of something we don’t like) is also likely to arise.
Being mindfully present with a feeling, whether it’s pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral, can prevent craving and aversion from arising.
Thank you for posting this excellent explanation by Ajahn Brahm.
If I understand correctly, while vedanā is a necessary condition for taṇhā, it is not a sufficient one.
Or perhaps in other words, the presence of taṇhā is due to a fundamental misunderstanding of the true nature of things, avijjā.
Certainly, the presence of sati and sampajañña will help to improve paññā and vijjā.
With wisdom and true knowledge we can know and see things yathābhūta, the way they really are.
Yathāpi mūle anupaddave daḷhe, chinnopi rukkho punareva rūhati;
Evampi taṇhānusaye anūhate, nibbattatī dukkhamidaṃ punappunaṃ.
Just as a tree, though cut down, sprouts up again if its roots remain uncut and firm,
even so, until the craving that lies dormant is rooted out, suffering springs up again and again.
(Ven. Buddharakkhita trans.)
Yes, that’s exactly how I understand it too.
Avijjā is essential part of cetasikā vedanā (desire, repulsion, and ignorance).
The focus of most western practitioners should not be on the arahant level, but on the conditioned path. There feelings must be dealt with skillfully and that means differentiating between feelings of the flesh and not of the flesh as instructed in the second foundation of mindfulness:
“When feeling a pleasant feeling of the flesh, he discerns, ‘I am feeling a pleasant feeling of the flesh.’ When feeling a pleasant feeling not of the flesh, he discerns, ‘I am feeling a pleasant feeling not of the flesh.’”—MN 10, DN 22
Discerning feelings not of the flesh presupposes the skill development required by the Anapanasati sutta has already been accomplished. That involves investigating the energies in the entire body as a result of breathing and activating the feelings arising from that. That’s opposed to other feelings which may have been socialized as a default, such as sex or eating. That activation leads on to the second tetrad where pleasant feelings connected with the breath are trained. Developing joy connected with the breath as instructed in the first and second tetrads is a pleasant feeling not of the flesh, and is a basis for the broader investigation of what feelings the body is subject to in the second foundation of mindfulness.
For overcoming cetasikā vedanā one needs to see and know the five aggregates/sense spheres as anicca, dukkha, anatta, according to the SN/SA suttas:
Page 53 from The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism Choong Mun-keat 2000.pdf (87.8 KB)
Feeling (vedana) in Sutta Pitaka is not mental condition. A more correct translation for vedana is sensation. There are physical sensations and there are mental sensations. Mental sensations are not mental, but sensations that accompany mental arising (citta).
In understanding the arising of lust (tanha), one must understand two things: there is a conditioning and there is a source. Sensation (vedana) is the conditioning for the arising of lust (tanha), while the source of lust (tanha) is incomprehension (avijja). Sensation (vedana) can condition the arising of lust (tanha) as long as incomprehension (avijja) still remains latently. If incomprehension (avijja) ceases to at all then the arising of sensation (vedana) will not condition the arising of lust (tanha).
When unpleasant sensations (dukkha-vedana) arise, then lust (tanha) can still be conditioned to arise, i.e. lust for the opposite of unpleasant, i.e. pleasant states. So when experiencing an unpleasant state, lust arises wanting a pleasant state, then when it doesn’t come true anger or disappointment arises.