Vedana questions

  1. Is it the case that pleasant and unpleasant vedana only arise as a result of bodily contact, and that contact at the other five sense bases is always initially neutral?

  2. What exactly is mental vedana, and how is it different from emotion?


Mendicants, in one explanation Iā€™ve spoken of two feelings. In another explanation Iā€™ve spoken of three feelings, or five, six, eighteen, thirty-six, or a hundred and eight feelings.

This sutta shows how the three feelings can arise at any of the six sense doors.

Every conceptual thought or emotion would have a neutral, positive or negative feeling to it, as subtle as it might be. Feeling arises universally with every stimulus. Itā€™s actually possible to label every stimulus that arises as it arises, with its specific feeling. This would be what I see as Mindfulness of Feelings.

With metta


Pleasant, unpleasant and neutral all three are considered Vedana.

Relevant to the Abhidhamma, two other classifications of vedanā must be mentioned.
Five Kinds:

  1. bodily agreeable feelingā€”kāyikā sukhā vedanā (sukha)
  2. bodily disagreeable feelingā€”kāyikā dukkhā vedanā (dukkha)
  3. mentally agreeable feelingā€”cetasikā sukhā vedanā (somanassa)
  4. mentally disagreeable feelingā€”cetasikā dukkhā vedanā (domanassa)
  5. indifferent or neutral feelingā€”adukkham-asukhā vedanā (upekkhā)

I may be wrong, but I think of vedana as an ā€˜emotional responseā€™.

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Iā€™m inclined to think that most of what we would call the emotional response to an experience would, in the Buddhist framework, fall under the category of papaƱca. If the sense organ of your arm makes contact in a certain way with the form of someoneā€™s fist, there is first some kind of rudimentary and prior experiential response to that contact, but then all kinds of subsequent responses proliferate from that initial experience - shock, anger, outrage, the desire for vengeance, thoughts about other times people punched you, thoughts about what kind of person you are, thoughts about whether you are doomed to get punched again, etc. The emotional response will be somewhat long lasting, varied and variable, complex, and conditioned by earlier experiences.

But where the vedana ends and the papaƱca begins, or if there is even a sharp distinction between the two rather than only a rough and pragmatic one, I donā€™t know.


Yes- this is mentioned in the 108 types of vedana sutta, posted above as well.

with metta

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As Dan mentions an emotional response is a macro level incident which comes much later- more as a later development or fabrication - more starting as a sankhara, or even an object of awareness in its own right, sensed through the mind door. Obviously these are causes and effects so the same information in vedana would be further elaborated and embellished in an emotion.

with metta

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Good observation. Initial reaction ( vedana ) v. conditioned response ( emotion ).

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Good point. Possibly I am over-analyzing this, the important point is to actually notice what is happening.

Thinking of the distinction in the Arrow Sutta, is the goal of practice the cessation of #4.?

The purpose of noticing it is to see the impermanence of feelings, and it is worthwhile looking at the Vedanasamyutta to get the full flavour of this: hereā€™s an interesting sutta from it which describes how pleasant feelings are unsatisfactory. This can only be realized if someone is mindful of feelings, and is often a stumbling block:

ā€˜Three feeling have been spoken of by the Blessed One: pleasant feeling, painful feeling, neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling. These three feelings have been spoken of by the Blessed One. But the Blessed One has said: ā€œWhatever is felt is included in suffering.ā€ Now with reference to what was this stated by the Blessed One?ā€™ā€

SN 36.11: Alone (English) - Vedanā Saį¹ƒyutta - SuttaCentral

Some suttas connect this up with seeing Not-self as well. Seeing the tilakkhana in this way, can lead to cessation or realisation of Nibbana as mentioned in the suttas (ā€˜ending of all feelingsā€™), if practiced along with all the other factors of the N8FP.

with metta

I think #3,4 and 5

I donā€™t see it as different from emotion. It is that which is born from mental and physical contact within the feedback loop of (avijja) and which inturn feeds our esteem. For example, if my view is biased then this inturn influences my reaction to a situation. If my reaction is pleasant then that raises my esteem, if unpleasant then that lowers my esteem and if nuetral then nuetral esteem. To reiterate this is within the feedback loop of avijja and therefore it is all suffering according to Buddha. So I think the word for vedana needs to hold all these qualities including an underlying sense of suffering.

Metta ani