Observe feelings or let go of feelings?

Dear sagha, thank you for the opportunity to ask a question

How to reconcile vipassana meditation related to the perception of feelings:
( “And how does a monk remain focused on feelings in & of themselves? There is the case where a monk, when feeling a painful feeling, discerns, ‘I am feeling a painful feeling.’ When feeling a pleasant feeling, he discerns, ‘I am feeling a pleasant feeling.’ When feeling a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling, he discerns, ‘I am feeling a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling‘.) Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta (MN 10)

(“The first absorption is a basis for ending the defilements.’ That’s what I said, but why did I say it? Take a mendicant who, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskillful qualities, enters and remains in the first absorption. They contemplate the phenomena there—included in form, feeling, perception, choices, and consciousness—as impermanent, as suffering, as diseased, as a boil, as a dart, as misery, as an affliction, as alien, as falling apart, as empty, as not-self. They turn their mind away from those things, and apply it to the deathless: ‘This is peaceful; this is sublime—that is, the stilling of all activities, the letting go of all attachments, the ending of craving, fading away, cessation, extinguishment.”) * Numbered Discourses 9.36 Depending on Absorption.

According to the Buddha, I should try to give up observing pleasure or should I observe it?


Hi @Adkurumides,

Welcome to the D&D forum!

Enjoy the multiple resources here available: may these be of assistance along the path.

Should you have any questions about the forum, feel free to contact the @moderators.

With Metta,
On behalf of the moderators

Without intending to be pithy:

One before the other. You cannot let go of that which you cannot observe.

If you are properly directed in your practice, as you develop your skill in observing your actions, your speech, your thoughts, your vedanās — each layer more subtle than the other — you can then begin to recognise the danger in each of them. Doing so, when properly directed, cultivates the energy, motivation, and determination to be free of the dukkha that is caused by them, which, when properly directed, leads to your focus on un-attaching from them: letting them go, or letting go of your attaching to them, per se.


Thank you. Useful truth in these words.

1 Like

In line with @AnapanaMichael 's post…

Ajahn Sona uses this refrain in the Mahasatipatthana Sutta to link Right Mindfulness to Right Effort.

Mindfulness first needs to be established to the “extent necessary.” To continue to pursue Mindfulness for its own sake at this point is not Right Mindfulness. At this point Right Mindfulness works with Right Effort.

Not only in the Satipatthana sutta second foundation, but also in the second tetrad of the Anapanasati sutta the instruction is to selectively cultivate feelings.

" “[5] He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in sensitive to rapture.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out sensitive to rapture.’ [6] He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in sensitive to pleasure.’ He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to pleasure.”—Majhima Nikaya 118

Then in the fourth tetrad the instruction is to observe impermanence and cultivate dispassion. The Anapanasati sutta is a precursor to the Satipatthana in that it develops skills applicable later. So it is necessary to develop both cultivation and abandonment of feelings, but at the earlier stages of the path first the development of piti connected with the breath, and of pleasurable feelings not of the flesh are of prime concern as they are an essential replacement for sensuality:

"“I myself, before my Awakening, when I was still an unawakened bodhisatta, saw as it actually was with right discernment that sensuality is of much stress, much despair, & greater drawbacks, but as long as I had not attained a rapture & pleasure apart from sensuality, apart from unskillful mental qualities, or something more peaceful than that, I did not claim that I could not be tempted by sensuality. (1) But when I saw as it actually was with right discernment that sensuality is of much stress, much despair, & greater drawbacks, (2) and I had attained a rapture & pleasure apart from sensuality, apart from unskillful mental qualities, or something more peaceful than that, that was when I claimed that I could not be tempted by sensuality.”—Majhima Nikaya 14

This strategy includes both insight (1) and tranquillity (2), and the development of recognition of impermanence is an insight attainment, and instructs both are necessary in the removal of defilements in a pincer movement (used in reference to a situation involving pressure from two different sides or forces).

1 Like

Hi. For me, the above does not inherently involve ceasing to be conscious of feelings. Instead, the above simply refers to the mind giving its primary attention to non-attachment. Consciousness of feelings will remain until they naturally subside. This principle is well noted by Ajahn Brahm in his jhana book which gives emphasis to SN 48.9, which says:

And what is the faculty of immersion? It’s when a noble disciple, relying on letting go, gains immersion, gains unification of mind.

SN 48.9

Or MN 10 says:

Or mindfulness is established that feelings exist, to the extent necessary for knowledge and mindfulness. They meditate independent, not grasping at anything in the world (na ca kiñci loke upādiyati).

MN 10

Regards. :slightly_smiling_face:

Note: Your question to me is most excellent because your question demonstrates what for me is the common error in the teachings of Satipatthana. Most teachings of Satipatthana, to me, transform breathing, feelings, cittas & dhammas into ‘sacred’ objects of spiritual craving.

1 Like

Thank you for sharing your knowledge. I am pleased with these responses. Great Sadhu!

1 Like

Interestingly I recently read a scientific paper trying to tease apart the effects of awareness versus “Un-clinging” …

They suggest that each operates on a different time scale…


There are also two kinds of feeling, bodily feeling (pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral feeling) and mental feeling (desire, repulsion, and ignorance), according to SN 36.6 (= SA 470). One should let go of mental feeling, but not bodily feeling (pp. 110-1):
Pages 109-111 from The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism Choong Mun-keat 2000.pdf (231.4 KB)

Nevertheless, I think one should also pay attention to bodily health. This is because bodily health is closely connected with mental health.

Could you please elaborate on : what you mean by “properly directed”?

Did anyone provide the Samanupassanāsutta (SN 22.47)

Struck by feelings born of contact with ignorance, an unlearned ordinary person thinks ‘I am’, Avijjāsamphassajena, bhikkhave, vedayitena phuṭṭhassa assutavato puthujjanassa ‘asmī’tipissa hoti; ‘I am this’, ‘ayamahamasmī’tipissa hoti; ‘I will be’, ‘bhavissan’tipissa hoti; ‘I will not be’, ‘na bhavissan’tipissa hoti; ‘I will have form’, ‘rūpī bhavissan’tipissa hoti; ‘I will be formless’, ‘arūpī bhavissan’tipissa hoti; ‘I will be percipient’, ‘saññī bhavissan’tipissa hoti; ‘I will not be percipient’, ‘asaññī bhavissan’tipissa hoti; ‘I will be neither percipient nor non-percipient’. ‘nevasaññīnāsaññī bhavissan’tipissa hoti.

The five faculties stay right where they are. Tiṭṭhanteva kho, bhikkhave, tattheva pañcindriyāni. But a learned noble disciple gives up ignorance about them and gives rise to knowledge. Athettha sutavato ariyasāvakassa avijjā pahīyati, vijjā uppajjati. With the fading away of ignorance and the arising of knowledge, they don’t think ‘I am’, Tassa avijjāvirāgā vijjuppādā ‘asmī’tipissa na hoti; ‘I am this’, ‘ayamahamasmī’tipissa na hoti; ‘I will be’, ‘bhavissan’ti … ‘I will not be’, ‘na bhavissan’ti … ‘I will have form’, rūpī … ‘I will be formless’, arūpī … ‘I will be percipient’, saññī … ‘I will be non-percipient’, asaññī … ‘I will be neither percipient nor non-percipient’.” ‘nevasaññīnāsaññī bhavissan’tipissa na hotī”ti.

To put this plainly, I think maybe there’s a problem in your question Adkurumides. At least, I look at it and don’t feel I can give an honest answer.