2021-07-05-Vedanā (1 of 5) Introduction to Feeling Tones
9:39PM Jul 5, 2021
So on this Monday, we have a new topic for the week and in some ways is a continuation from a couple of weeks ago, when we did the first foundation of mindfulness, the mindfulness of the body. This week, I'd like to talk about the subject of the second foundation of mindfulness, feelings, to the usual English translation, of feeling tones. The Pali word is vedanā, and it's sometimes thought to be really one of these central practice topics for the teachings of the Buddha, that it's phenomenally important. It's kind of like the linchpin or the, or the, the foundation for so much of the Buddha Dharma for practice. So it's a very important topic. And this one, of the four foundations, gets a whole foundation to itself. Now the word in Pali is vedanā. And it's, I believe it's a cognate, related to the way indo European languages relate to each other, to the English word of witness. Or maybe say wit, sometimes someone who's clever something, they have wit. And in Norwegian, the word 'vite', probably similar, means to know. And so the Pali version is vid. The root word is vid, which means to know, or it could also mean in Pali to experience. So vedanā refers to what is known, what is experienced, what is felt, but felt and, you know, as sensations as feelings, and we're focusing here on sensations in the body. And so the sensations that are known, and that are felt, and exactly where the line is, between knowing something and feeling sensations, is not very clear, because these arise together, closely connected. But we are talking about a way of knowing, and as a way of knowing, it's a subjective way of knowing is what we know subjectively.
And so I want to give a analogy that maybe can highlight or point out at the way in which this is so important. So maybe you're responsible for place of a workplace, maybe a factory, maybe a warehouse, maybe a corporate building is someplace where many people come to work. And many visitors come to this place as well. And people come actually from all over the world. And it's COVID times. So you want to make sure that you keep people at your workplace healthy. And people are coming from all over. They're flying in and, and, and there's no way of controlling who shows up. So how are you going to keep your, your employees people working with you safe. And, and so then you realize that the only way into the workplace is through the front door. And so no matter where everyone's coming from, everyone has to go through that front door. And, and so what you need to do is set up a welcoming station where you take people's temperature, give them a COVID test, whatever it takes, and to make sure that they're safe to come into the building. And if they're safe and good for you, then you allow them in if they're not safe, then they come in, and that's where you keep all the people COVID safe in your building. So, so there's this kind of commonplace, it's like a funnel like a neck or a doorway, a passageway through which everything goes and the wide range of human experience, all the different things we can experience in the world and things are gonna happen to us. There's that they go through the passage as they come into our experience.
Everything goes through the doorway of feeling or feeling tones, affective tone. And that is a particular tone of tone or quality of the things that are known as we know things as we experience things. They can be either pleasant, painful, or neutral, pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. Sometimes we say, and, but the middle word is literally means pain, but it's, there's anything from the mildest. You know, discomfort to intense pain, anything from the mildest of pleasantness to intense pleasure are the first two. And then neutral is that which is neither pleasant or not pleasant. In fact, that's the way it's worded in Pali, neither pleasant nor unpleasant. And for the uninitiated, it can seem kind of like what's the big deal is it kind of dull and boring just to talk to things to focus on things being pleasant or unpleasant or neither. But it turns out, it's a common denominator or it's the door, it's the everything goes through that everything, every experience we have, has one of those three qualities in it. So if you can have if you can, station yourself at the door, and you watch everything that comes in, then you can only you can, you don't have to lead in things which are not healthy for you. You can let in things which are healthy for you. We can later leave out what is unwholesome and bring in what is unwholesome, leave out what is unwholesome bring in what is wholesome. And, and so it gives you a vantage point, tremendously important place to stay healthy to stay well. And it's easier to stay right there. And notice the feeling tones, then when things get more complicated, you just like to go out into the world and analyze everything in the world, all the complicated aspects of it, think about it and figure it out, you know, can take a lifetime to figure out the world, or to go inward, and really kind of discover the inner life. It's, it's also a kind of complicated world of thoughts and memories and histories and experiences we've had and accumulated and how they all come into play. But everything inner experiences and outer outer experiences, in a sense for us to know anything, to feel anything goes through this little door of it being either pleasant, unpleasant, or neither. So what's the big deal about that? The big deal is that there's sometimes for the people who don't practice or have a strong kind of mindfulness awareness practice. We often can act automatically, on whether things are pleasant and unpleasant and neutral, maybe not. But so something's pleasant. And there's kind of an automatic desire for it. For more of it, things are unpleasant or painful, there's a desire to push it away or not have it there. And they can be so automatic, so quick, that we don't even see the two are separate, we experienced something that's pleasant. And with that comes a feeling what that feeling something unpleasant with that comes, don't want that pushing it away. But these are actually two different movements. And so when I was practicing the pasta and Burma settled long retreat, and there was a particular moment that just taught me this lesson in a very powerful way. And, and that was I was every day I would go into see my teacher most days, six days a week for practice discussion, talk about my practice. And, and he lived in a little kind of cabin and there was kind of an entryway and just next to the entryway, the door going in. To the right there was a little altar, and usually some Buddha's on the altar, and you didn't have to pay any attention to it, which was on the way in to see him. And, and one day, because maybe it hadn't been there before there was a new wooden Buddha sitting on that little altar. So my mind was very, you know, fairly mindful at this point. So I was able to track things more closely than I usually can do. And, and so, I noticed there's a statue of Buddha statue
I noticed that it was beautiful. And the first thing I noticed was really pleasant, I felt this pleasantness of pleasure looking at it. And then I saw there was desire to have it. But those things happen in clear distinction from each other sequentially. Seeing the Buddha, recognizing it as such, experiencing the pleasantness of it, and then wanting it. And when I saw that the experience of pleasure and the wanting were very distinct, two different activities of the mind, I said, I could, oh, there's possibility for freedom here. It's possible, I don't have to pick up the desire, I don't have to get involved in it. It was just like, Oh, just a fleeting desire comes and goes. But that desire arose. Influenced by that sense of pleasure. But because it was so clear the distinction between them. The desire had very little authority over me, it had a real influence on me just Oh, it's a desire. And I saw that these two are different. And that was the beginning of a lot of discover of a lot of pauses gap, inexperience, where there's a possibility of freedom, it's possible to leave the present alone, it's possible to leave that what's unpleasant alone, and not get involved in the reactivity to it. And or, it's possible that it's automatic way in which the mind can work. That Yes, there might be see the pleasant is clearly, and it's possible to see the desire, or the aversions that have come from pleasant or unpleasant. And because it's so clear, it might be possible just not get involved. It just, it just desire, it's just a version, just a blip in the mind, and you let it go. But if these two are yoke together, the feeling tone, the Verdana, and our reaction response to it, our desires around it, then we don't see them being two different things, chances are, we're already in the stream of desire, it already kind of, we don't have enough, strong attention to, to, to, you know, not be pulled in and kind of automatic pilot into the desires. And that is can be quite intense, you know, in our lives, something very unpleasant happens, and we immediately bark at someone, something very pleasant we see and immediately, that's what we want. And, you know, it's the compulsions are so strong. It isn't just simply an innocent desire, we have these desires sometimes come with tremendous compulsion. And we say things and do things that later we will regret. And realize that we were not free, something inside of us, which was not, in a sense, not us or not our choice or our will, our decision has taken over and pushed us to do things that maybe that we actually didn't want to do. And, and so, too, to be able to slow down enough. And notice that pleasant experiences pleasant, the unpleasant experiences unpleasant, can give us a tremendous amount of choice, freedom, we can kind of stop the automatic ways in which the activity arises. And we have more choice, that you want choices to do nothing and just to let it be as it is. And other choices to change gears and, and be careful and not automatically given to the desires and compulsions are there. And so so for the Buddha in his teachings, because Verdana is at this kind of door, like a narrow, narrow neck of the funnel, that everything goes through. To start paying attention to feeling tone is a powerful way to develop mindfulness, but also to discover freedom. Feeling tone, pleasant or unpleasant, unpleasant. This is mostly independent of our desires. It just kind of just the nature of things. I'll talk more about that tomorrow. But what what the consequence of them how desires get evoked in response to them? That's where we're trying to discover our freedom. So there's no compulsion. There can be a wise desire, appropriate desire, but no desire that we're compelled by
it And compulsion is, you know, is the antithesis of freedom. So, that was the introduction, and we'll talk more about this the next few days. And in the meantime, you might want to see and study and reflect and have conversations with people about what's the role or the impact or the influence that pleasant and unpleasant experiences have on you. What kind of gut reaction Do you have to them and, and what what kind of wisdom Do you have to them? And how does it work in your life? So thank you very much.