Feelings, desire - a linguistic difference only

Claim: ‘feelings’ and ‘desire’ are essentially the same thing. If I feel thirst; I desire a drink. The two phrases are interchangable except for, perhaps, some high end philosophical acedamia. Perhaps you feel anger; you desire a change of some kind. Sure, we use different words but they seem to be pointing to the same actual phenomena if we’re going to be honest about it.

You can see where I’m heading I presume. The trained disciple, it says in many suttas, regards all feeling as “I am not this, these feelings are not mine (in the long run)”. Why would desire be any different? Alternative question: what is it, according to Buddhist teaching, which makes desire personal but not feelings?

I feel bad but I don’t desire bad. Perhaps there are desires associated with feeling bad, like the desire to feel good. But perhaps for the extinguished, feeling bad gives ample room to let go of desiring things to be that way or this way, and one may wait it out.

Otherwise, perhaps consider heat or cold being felt, and the desire or lack of it, entering into the scenario to pass the time.

You’re using feelings to mean emotions, which is volitional formations already.

Feelings in Buddhism is just pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral.

Emotions already carries desire or craving and volition. Anger, loving kindness, fear, sadness etc. The emotions you see in the movie series of inside out. These are part of volitional formations as are craving.

Arahants still have feelings, but no craving. Their desire (ability to act) is actually chanda, or wish, neutral desire which doesn’t lead to suffering when not fulfilled.

Feelings are not self, same with cravings. The better reflection is feelings are not self, so that craving doesn’t need to arise in the first place. But if someone is very fixed on craving, eg. having the identity of being a glutton (see so many people who eat large meals in social media as their special show), then those people should also do disidentification with respect to craving so as to dismantle their identification on it.


What do you mean by this?

I think feelings go like this: you feel pleasure with something and so you desire it, you feel dissatisfaction with something and so you are averse to it, you feel neither pleasure nor dissatisfaction with something, so you don’t notice it and pay it no mind.

Water is a physiological need to survive. It is a fuel (ahara) and so the dynamics of feelings need to be considered from within that framework.

As far as I can tell there is nothing like Freudian drives in Buddha’s teachings, although I do believe he has to recognize kama (desire) as something, possibly an aggregate. The Sixth Grasping Aggregate. For right now I find Buddha’s teaching has repressive tendencies.

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This is under volitional formations, no need to introduce another aggregate.

MN20 shows how to be moral without going to brute force as first resort.

Feeling, being categorised as pleasant, unpleasant or neutral, provides the stepping stone for desire: pleasant => I want, unpleasant => I don’t want, neutral = I neither want nor don’t want.

Suppose you meditate and end up in a very pleasant state.
The mind afterwards desires this experience (feeling), which is immediately known by the mind as well.
The wish/desire “I want to experience (feel) this again” is countered by investigating the experience (feeling), as how it came to be, how it sustained, how it ended.

The reason that the teaching aims at “feeling” and not desire is that it’s the judgement (perception, sanna) that it’s pleasant which colours the actual experience and starts the desire/craving for the experience.
The experience is just what it is. Pleasant for sure. Yet once desire kicks in it turns into a source of stress, because right now the world is not experienced with the same amount of pleasure as the meditative state.

Feeling and desire are seen as two very distinct things once you get to this point of the practice.

Perhaps feelings are the same thing as desire, perhaps they are a prerequisite for desire, it matters little to the point I’m getting at. There are suttas which iterate through the 5 aggregates, and for each one states “I am not this, these are not mine”. With the breakup of the body, no feelings, no desire. If feelings are not mine, then ultimately neither is desire (and the things which it brings). This applies for you, for me, for Donald Trump and Rachel Maddow - I’m not claiming personal attainment as was misunderstood in the sister thread to this one which was almost instantly shut down (no problem, your treehouse, your rules, although I am clueless as to exactly which part of it was deemed unacceptable). In that I explained that I am not denying re(peat)ed birth, simply that I believe the desire leading to rebirth is what we see in a family tree.

I realize now that it was an error to begin the conversation; I’ll see myself out.

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The part when you said that there’s no more rebirth for you or that you will at most be reborn again for 1000 years and then no more. This is a statement claiming attainments. Only arahants do not get reborn again and only once returner / or stream winner with one life left can know claim only one life remaining for them.

Can you say what are you railing against here? Anyone you know say that craving is a self or that craving belongs to a self?

Family tree is not relevant to rebirth. Personal rebirth is one dies, and get reborn. A person Alice, can die and get reborn as her own grandson. Or she can be reborn halfway around the world as unrelated to her previous life by genetics, or as a being of another realm.

To your point, I’ve found that context and terminology matter. (And thank you for this discussion.)

For example, in DN 4 (With Soṇadaṇḍa):

…he couldn’t satisfy his mind with his explanation of the philosopher Gotama’s

nāsakkhi samaṇassa Gotamassa pañhassa veyyākaraṇena cittaṃ
ārādhetun ti.

Here’s a conventional expression of “satisfying someone’s mind” or convincing them. We could haggle over whether feeling satisfied with someone’s response is a feeling or a mental reaction; in any case, I could imagine “feeling satisfied” or confident with someone else’s response (i.e., they were convincing).

If mindfulness is present, I might notice how this gives rise to pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral vedanā as kind of background notes. If the background notes become the main music, then I’m probably going somewhere in my mind that fixates on greed, hatred, or delusion (or some combination therein). There’s not necessarily anything sensual going on here but I think any of the three are sticky and draw energy from desire – the chanda variety.

If I keep simmering in the music, it can develop into a mood. At that point, it seems wholly personal.

I do think that when the Buddha talks over and over again about developing wholesome mental states – and learning how to loosen our deep loyalty to sorrowful mental states and dispositions – he is speaking to this entire gestalt of feelings, emotions, and moods. I find the personalizing of it – this tendency – corresponds to the concentration or degree of the feeling (or mood).

Studying pāli over the past year with Bhante Sujato, John Kelly, and Stephen – using two different books which, together, offer plenty of examples across MN, SN, AN, KN, and DN – puts it all together in an interesting way.

This requires some refinement when it comes to “feelings are not mine”:

  1. This might be stated based on teachings
  2. This might be based on practice (sanna)
  3. This might be based on insight (panna)

To start with (1), it’s taking the teaching of Buddha as truthful, without direct knowledge.
Given this teaching, someone picks up the practice and uses the perception (sanna) of not-self as tool to remove I-making (2).
One might based on the practice experience how things come to be, and how the I-making process is involved in that. When that’s experienced there is no doubt on non-self/not-self of the aggregates (so called stream entry).

Yet even someone who is beyond stream entry is not entirely free of the notion “feelings are mine”. For example, one might compare herself now with herself experiencing a meditative state. Or projecting a future liberated state which is not yet achieved.
Right here at this spot “good desire” (Chanda) turns into “bad desire” (Tanha) giving rise to stress (Dukkha).
Not knowing (ignorance) how Chanda (desire for what’s good) turns to Tanha (desire resulting in what’s stressful) is the source of stress.
With this the liberating insight can be understood:
When Chanda turns to Tanha it’s impermanent. Since it’s impermanent it gives rise to stress. Whatever gives rise to stress should be abandoned, discarded, put aside, ended right there.
That goes for the tool {perception/sanna) of not-self as well.
What remains is knowledge of the end of stress, liberation.

Chanda isn’t “good”, it’s useful, because it can lead to the end of chando as well. It’s always impermanent.


“Mister Ānanda, what’s the purpose of leading the spiritual life under the ascetic Gotama?”

“The purpose of leading the spiritual life under the Buddha, brahmin, is to give up desire.”
Chandappahānatthaṁ kho, brāhmaṇa, bhagavati brahmacariyaṁ vussatī”ti.


“This being the case, Mister Ānanda, the path is endless, not finite.
“Evaṁ sante, bho ānanda, santakaṁ hoti no asantakaṁ.
For it’s not possible to give up desire by means of desire.”
Chandeneva chandaṁ pajahissatīti—netaṁ ṭhānaṁ vijjati”.


“In the same way, take a mendicant who is perfected—with defilements ended, who has completed the spiritual journey, done what had to be done, laid down the burden, achieved their own true goal, utterly ended the fetters of rebirth, and is rightly freed through enlightenment. They formerly had the desire to attain perfection, but when they attained perfection the corresponding desire faded away.
“Evameva kho, brāhmaṇa, yo so bhikkhu arahaṁ khīṇāsavo vusitavā katakaraṇīyo ohitabhāro anuppattasadattho parikkhīṇabhavasaṁyojano sammadaññāvimutto, tassa yo pubbe chando ahosi arahattappattiyā, arahattappatte yo tajjo chando so paṭippassaddho;

Using chanda to remove chanda. :slight_smile:

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I can see how feelings (vedana) and desire (tanha) are very closely related in Buddhism, but I don’t think they’re merely linguistically different. They are separate but concomitant links in Dependent Origination. With phassa, vedana arises. With Vendana, tanha arises.

Vedanas, those feeling tones that arise upon contact with sense experience, either pleasant, unpleasant or neutral, condition the reactions of the mind, the actions we take and the resultant kamma.

If I hear a sound and the feeling tone is unpleasant, aversion or anger may arise. If I smell an odor and it’s pleasant, desire might arise. But these reactions are conditioned and can be further conditioned to lead to liberation from them by following the instructions of the Buddha. Anything that is conditioned is not self.

Yep, no longer a need for desire to go home when you have arrived at home.

I have heard that when it comes down to the step vedana-tanha this especially refers to the nice mental feelings of somanassa vedana we want to repeat again. You can also see this as the happy atmosphere in the mind that can arise eating, going to concert, seeing trees blosseming, having intimate sex, the warmth of friendship etc.

I think there is some truth in that. It is not only the direct sensation of a pleasant smell, taste, tactile sensation etc. that we crave, but often more the atmo-sphere of somanassa in the mind, the sphere of enjoyment, feeling light/happy for a moment, relieved for a moment from suffering. From stress. That feeling we really crave.

For example: eating with others can be intimate, one can have warm feelings, and such things one craves because suffering is gone for a moment. Likewise sex. It not really about sukha vedana that one craves but one craves the mental nice atmosphere, the somanassa vedana that arise.
Often one wants to repeat that somanassa atmophere again but often that does not work. Adults even buy toys they had in their youth. Try to re-live that nice atmosphere they once lived in. It are these sentiments we crave more then really the direct sense contacts that things provide. The real gratification is not really in the sukha vedana.

I think that if there were not somanassa vedana (light/pleasant mind-made feelings/sentiments) involved with sukha vedana, we probably would not even crave them.

Tanha as desire, i believe, refers to the desire to engage and repeat something that was once experienced as relief of suffering or is seen as a relief (such as seeing ones end of existence as the solution to ones suffering). All such is never conducive. There is not really something like wholesome tanha because tanha is rooted in delusion and is cause of suffering, never a solution. Tanha is accomponied by wrong view about the Path to end suffering.

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