Author Topic: The nature of vedana  (Read 21814 times)

Matthew

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Re: The nature of vedana
« Reply #25 on: February 15, 2012, 10:23:54 PM »
Progress does not have to be slow. Morality is the base. Lack of it the greatest cause of slowness.

Matthew, thanks for your comment. It's prompted me to re-evaluate my sila over the last few years! I think I've made a reasonable effort so far - perhaps I deserve a B-? :angel: No alcohol or other intoxicants for more than four years, celibate and vegetarian for at least three years, I do not intentionally kill animals (though on occasion I've unintentionally killed bugs!), and I do my best not to lie or exaggerate, though I need to work on this more. Also, I must admit that I do listen to music sometimes, I do eat after noon, and perhaps my queen-size bed could be counted as "high and luxurious"!  ;D

Glad to be of service.

To get back to your original question, Vedana is NOT always a sensation in the body, though it is an inherent part of the sense processes and ceases when the sense processes cease.

When is Vedana NOT a sensation in the body? When it is a product of the mind sense-organ. When it is a product of the ear sense-organ. When it is a product of the eye sense-organ. ... the tongue .... the nose ....
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Cilla

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Re: The nature of vedana
« Reply #26 on: February 19, 2012, 06:47:34 AM »
Yep you are right about the first three paragraphs but you've made it more than necessarily complicated by using pali. None of those words were necessary. I would have understood thread long ago without so much strain if you had confined yourself to discussing sensations instead of vedana. but moving on...

Quote
What I'm confused about is this: Is vedana always a sensation in the body? For example, if I see something unpleasant, the unpleasant sensation isn't in my eyes, right? Or if I hear something pleasant, I don't get a pleasant sensation in my ears. So is it the case that input from any sensory modality is somehow translated to a sensation in my body - trunk, arms, legs, etc?

Yes sensation is something you discern by the sense of touch.

Yes it is asserted that sensory input is converted into sensation. Though i would say that it is not always so easy to draw a direct link between a sensation and sensory input. And in fact i don't think its even necessary to do that using this technique. I think the technique just wants you to discern sensations and not try to analyse them and their roots. Just observe and remain equanimous in the face of the sensations, whatever they are.  That's the technique.

However, if you recall in the talk, goenka also said, if you become agitated, angry of whathave you, instead of thinking about the event, or the object of your emotion, look for sensations and focus on them. You will notice the anger/agitation etc will dissolve while you are busy on your sensations. I mean the sensations arising from being angry are not necessarily unpleasant and they are certainly a lot more pleasant than the emotion itself.
« Last Edit: February 19, 2012, 07:13:30 AM by Cilla »

Cilla

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Re: The nature of vedana
« Reply #27 on: February 19, 2012, 07:05:26 AM »
Quote
The quote below from S. N. Goenka seems to imply that pleasant/unpleasant sensations are generally bodily, rather than being tied to the sense door that cognised the object:

"When one looks within, one finds that the moment a sound touches the ear sense door, there is a vibration, a neutral vibration. If the sanna (perception) says that it is bad, this vibration changes into an unpleasant physical sensations or vibration. If the sanna says, "Oh, this is a word of praise; ah, wonderful!", then immediately this neutral vibration becomes very pleasant. These sensations comprise the third part of the mind: vedana. In India today the word vedana has only one meaning: misery, unhappiness, pain or sorrow. Twenty-five centuries ago vedana referred to any sensation--pleasant, unpleasant or neutral."

If you read that carefully and understand what is said about it, there is no problem. He's saying that when we have a bad experience of any sort, it gives rise to an unpleasant sensation.

My problem with all this is that's unnecessary to go looking ofr sensations to determine if we do or don't like something and practice equanimity when its much more straightforward to observe the more direct perception, notice our response to it - positive or negative or neutral, and remain equanimous in the face of it.

I suspect that the idea is that by channelling all our observation only through sensations, we somehow gain some advantage but i am not sure what it is. I am not sure if the theory is correct. I think it is easier to learn how to be  observant of the various perceptions including our thoughts as they arise. But to do so we do need to practice a lot and to slow down our responses and so and so forth, especially when we are mingling with people. Another good reason for talking less.

Athe moment i am so far from being mindful...

Cilla

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Re: The nature of vedana
« Reply #28 on: February 19, 2012, 07:08:01 AM »
Quote
This isn't to shut you query down by the way; let me put it this way; the itching feelings, how much detail can you notice in them? Does noticing them increase/decrease them? Why are they the way they are? How much is physical/mental? What actually happens in your practice and then perhaps the more advanced people can point out how they see your experience lining up with the traditions, rather than learning about it first, then looking for it.

This post of andrews is another technique. Its not vipassana as taught by Goenka. I think its zen. Best to ignore his input here in answer to your question.

Matthew

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Re: The nature of vedana
« Reply #29 on: February 19, 2012, 11:19:31 AM »
This post of andrews is another technique. Its not vipassana as taught by Goenka. I think its zen. Best to ignore his input here in answer to your question.

Do you consider this right speech?
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Cilla

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Re: The nature of vedana
« Reply #30 on: February 19, 2012, 12:48:16 PM »
Well perhaps i could have used a better word than "ignore". But i was trying to point out that Andrew's approach was confusing the issue cause he doesn't understand the question and his reply is coming from a different angle.

Andrew

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Re: The nature of vedana
« Reply #31 on: February 19, 2012, 01:07:13 PM »
haha, so someone has worked out my approach, that has to be a first, not even I knew that one. good work!  :)

No my point was always this; look to your experience, once you have enough data to actually need intermediate names (dependant origination etc), then more experienced meditators than I will help you put labels to them based on the traditions with words such as 'vedana'.

there are plenty of perfectly good terms floating around in pragmatic circles for all sorts of things, I find them useful if held at an arms distance, but I wouldn't 'swear on a bible' (sorry could resist), that i have a) definatively experience what the originator of the term means by it. b) absolutely could not do without them...

Perhaps i understood the question a little too well...
« Last Edit: February 19, 2012, 01:15:02 PM by Andrew »
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DarkNightOfNoSoul

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Re: The nature of vedana
« Reply #32 on: February 20, 2012, 08:48:42 AM »
Hi Cilla, thanks for your comments!

Yep you are right about the first three paragraphs but you've made it more than necessarily complicated by using pali. None of those words were necessary. I would have understood thread long ago without so much strain if you had confined yourself to discussing sensations instead of vedana. but moving on...

As I understand it, Pali is the language in which the Buddha's teachings were originally recorded. The questions I 've posted in this thread are based on my personal interest in possibly developing a neuroscience account of the Buddhist "theory" of the mind. So I must necessarily start with the language in which that theory was written. IMHO I don't think it's too confusing to use the original Pali words, particularly those that are central to the theory, as there aren't many of them to learn, and most people who study Buddhism for any length of time become very familiar with them.

I think the technique just wants you to discern sensations and not try to analyse them and their roots. Just observe and remain equanimous in the face of the sensations, whatever they are.  That's the technique.

However, if you recall in the talk, goenka also said, if you become agitated, angry of whathave you, instead of thinking about the event, or the object of your emotion, look for sensations and focus on them. You will notice the anger/agitation etc will dissolve while you are busy on your sensations. I mean the sensations arising from being angry are not necessarily unpleasant and they are certainly a lot more pleasant than the emotion itself.

I appreciate your caution against analysing sensations etc. I've tried to emphasise in this thread that my attempted intellectual analysis of the mind is for the benefit of my planned research (for better or for worse!), and I'm doing my best to keep my practice free of such overthinking!

My problem with all this is that's unnecessary to go looking ofr sensations to determine if we do or don't like something and practice equanimity when its much more straightforward to observe the more direct perception, notice our response to it - positive or negative or neutral, and remain equanimous in the face of it.

I suspect that the idea is that by channelling all our observation only through sensations, we somehow gain some advantage but i am not sure what it is. I am not sure if the theory is correct. I think it is easier to learn how to be  observant of the various perceptions including our thoughts as they arise.

Now, I've always started with the assumption that the Buddha's account of how the mind works is correct, and that the meditation technique that is based on this account is effective in reducing suffering. This assumption is a calculated gamble, based on the apparent logic of the account and the evidence that those who practice the technique long term do indeed seem to experience significantly increased happiness (and these subjective experiences are accompanied by measurable neural changes).

But it seems to me that you are starting with no such assumption, and feel comfortable with discarding aspects of the technique that you don't agree with. For example, you suspect that it is not necessary to attend to sensations because we can use "direct perception" of the emotional valence (positive or negative) of an event. (This seems a bit at odds with your earlier exhortation to observe sensations!)

However, as I understand it, one of the central principles of the Buddha's four-part model of the mind is that the evaluation of an event and the subsequent generation of a sensation in the body are very quick processes that precede our conscious perception of that evaluation. And from my initial studies, this appears to fit nicely with findings from neuroscience - increased bodily arousal is indeed the first reaction to a salient stimulus (occurring within a few hundred milliseconds), while conscious processes in response to that stimulus are relatively slow, taking more than 500 ms. By the time we are consciously aware of whether a stimulus is "good" or "bad", an emotional reaction (autonomic arousal) is already well underway, which is difficult to suppress. (In fact if we habitually suppress our emotional reactions, this can have harmful long-term effects on cardiovascular system etc.) Thus the aim of the technique taught by the Buddha is to train one to be aware of these (previously-unconscious) bodily sensations so that one can choose to "let them go", so that the resulting emotional reaction (and any harmful behaviour associated with it) is circumvented. Vivek, Andrew, Matthew, please correct me if I'm wrong!

Vivek

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Re: The nature of vedana
« Reply #33 on: February 20, 2012, 09:23:00 AM »
Quote from: DNONS
...so that the resulting emotional reaction (and any harmful behaviour associated with it) is circumvented.
You are correct, Dark Night, however, I am not sure if "circumvent" is the right word to use here. No reactions are circumvented as such. All reactions are observed for what they are. Just like the sensations, the reactions (which spring from sankharas) are also impermanent. A Vipassi not only observes the sensations, but also the way the mind reacts to those sensations. Only by observing the reactions, can the mind be purged of them, not by suppressing, circumventing etc. They will also eventually die out, which means, the Sankharas will dissolve, which effects the purification of the mind and the culmination of Vipassana's purpose. Usually, we are not aware of the reactions (unless things "go wrong" or, we face a crisis etc) and on top of that, we normally believe that our reactions are justified! Vipassana makes us face these things without exception.

Let's go beyond this illusion, shall we?

Matthew

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Re: The nature of vedana
« Reply #34 on: February 20, 2012, 09:44:51 AM »
Thus the aim of the technique taught by the Buddha is to train one to be aware of these (previously-unconscious) bodily sensations so that one can choose to "let them go", so that the resulting emotional reaction (and any harmful behaviour associated with it) is circumvented. Vivek, Andrew, Matthew, please correct me if I'm wrong!

You're not "wrong" and also there is a little more to it than this. It is the arousal of the autonomic reactions and sub-conscious mental formations that one quietens, cools down and eradicates through these practices aimed at achieving calm, concentration, equanimity and clear-seeing. The calm and concentration help greatly because the less mental chatter in the mind the easier it is to see clearly what is taking place and maintain equanimity.

Vivek's point is also important: the dying of reactivity (cessation of Sankharas) is the aim, rather than circumvention.
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Cilla

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Re: The nature of vedana
« Reply #35 on: February 20, 2012, 11:56:09 AM »

Quote from: Cilla on Sunday 19 February 2012, 07:05 AM
My problem with all this is that's unnecessary to go looking ofr sensations to determine if we do or don't like something and practice equanimity when its much more straightforward to observe the more direct perception, notice our response to it - positive or negative or neutral, and remain equanimous in the face of it.

I suspect that the idea is that by channelling all our observation only through sensations, we somehow gain some advantage but i am not sure what it is. I am not sure if the theory is correct. I think it is easier to learn how to be  observant of the various perceptions including our thoughts as they arise.  END QUOTE OF MINE


YOU
Now, I've always started with the assumption that the Buddha's account of how the mind works is correct, and that the meditation technique that is based on this account is effective in reducing suffering. This assumption is a calculated gamble, based on the apparent logic of the account and the evidence that those who practice the technique long term do indeed seem to experience significantly increased happiness (and these subjective experiences are accompanied by measurable neural changes).

ME
The assumption you are making and which is wrong here is that what goenka teaches is what the buddha taught. I don't believe it is. Goenka and his line of teachers are the only ones who have taught this. You will not find this instruction for his method of doing vipassana in the pali discourses. If it was there it would have been taught more widely than just his school. Of course you will see reference to sensations but you will not see the direct connection that goenka makes between this and his technique of cultivating equanimity either. You will not see a suggestion to make the focus of all your meditation, sensation. No no no, this is the goenka tradition. Goenka makes a few inaccurate claims in his dharma talks.  He suppresss vital elements of the dharma and makes a few subtle changes and such. I don't heavily begrudge him this except when people believe a) that this is strictly what the buddha taught and b) you should stay away from other traditions because they will corrupt you. What actually happens as a result of that direction is that people end up not practicing meditation between retreats because there is not enough infrastructure around, nowhere for them to go to and touch base on a regular basis. That is the biggest weakness of his system. none of the returning female students or the one male student i talked to had been meditating in between retreats. Their whole buddhist practice is the occasional retreat. And they have some wrong ideas about how different buddhism is from Goenka's teachings. That's unfortunate.

 I had read quite a lot about the dharma before i did his course and i had also been learning mindfulness meditation with a zen monk. Goenka's technique is good and it will work but it is not strictly speaking what the buddha taught. You should be wary that all buddhist teachers will make claims that are not strictly true. It is human nature to nudge the truth around to make to make it serve their own purpose.  They may even believe what they teach - they have long ago suppressed their doubts if they had any. Stephen Batchelor is an excellent example of this in his book confession of a buddhist atheist. But then you have people who have been brought up from childhood on a certain technique and it is too too challenging to contradict them. Doesn't matter, they all work. So long as you stick with the one practice and practice hard on your meditaiton and on the noble eightfold path, you will go a long way.

YOU
But it seems to me that you are starting with no such assumption, and feel comfortable with discarding aspects of the technique that you don't agree with. For example, you suspect that it is not necessary to attend to sensations because we can use "direct perception" of the emotional valence (positive or negative) of an event. (This seems a bit at odds with your earlier exhortation to observe sensations!)

When i told you how to regard sensations in my posts above, i was telling you how goenka teaches the technique and tell you how to follow that precisely since that is what you were asking advice about. My own views of how to meditate are a bit different and his sticking strictly to the observation of sensations does not suit me. I'd rather follow the breadth of the sattipatana sutta and pay attention to all the goings on within me as I am being taught by my zen monk who also has done three goenka retreats.  One of the reasons (the assistant teacher told me this) for focussing on sensations and not on direct perceptions as well is that it helps people to stop thinking and she is correct in saying it is largely thinking that gets people into their problems in teh first place.

However, yes i do think the buddha is wrong in some aspects of his analysis of reality but i do think he's right in how we might go about being better people. So for that reason, i follow the dharma.


YOU
However, as I understand it, one of the central principles of the Buddha's four-part model of the mind is that the evaluation of an event and the subsequent generation of a sensation in the body are very quick processes that precede our conscious perception of that evaluation. And from my initial studies, this appears to fit nicely with findings from neuroscience - increased bodily arousal is indeed the first reaction to a salient stimulus (occurring within a few hundred milliseconds), while conscious processes in response to that stimulus are relatively slow, taking more than 500 ms. By the time we are consciously aware of whether a stimulus is "good" or "bad", an emotional reaction (autonomic arousal) is already well underway, which is difficult to suppress. (In fact if we habitually suppress our emotional reactions, this can have harmful long-term effects on cardiovascular system etc.) Thus the aim of the technique taught by the Buddha is to train one to be aware of these (previously-unconscious) bodily sensations so that one can choose to "let them go", so that the resulting emotional reaction (and any harmful behaviour associated with it) is circumvented. Vivek, Andrew, Matthew, please correct me if I'm wrong!

The speed with which we react to stimulus is the problem here. We can learn to be more conscious of our responses to stimulus just as we can learn to be more conscious of the sensations we have. If its true that we get bodily reactions more quickly it does not mean that it is easier to become conscious of them than it is of perceptions.

You see i have done psychotherapy and i have noticed in myself a great improvement in awareness of feelings, emotions and so on as they arise. No technique was taught but it came about as a result of learning to reflect a new and a fresh on my own experiences. the process is ongoing. I mean the process of learning ,not the process of therapy. But the therapy for me made me a lot more conscious of things than i was before. I used to ignore a lot of feelings, and thoughts and so on before. Now i am much better, much faster at picking up on the truth of my experience and making a better assessment of how to proceed. Which is not to say I am perfected nor that therapy is the perfect tool. I have turned to buddhism becuase of the existence of centres wiht communities and a daily pratice of meditation. You need these things in order to keep focussed on developing yourself to your best.

that's why readings books "doesnt work". They do work but people don't practice what they read from a once through reading of a book.

Anyway enough from me.

Andrew

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Re: The nature of vedana
« Reply #36 on: February 20, 2012, 12:00:26 PM »
(Edit: Replying to DNONS, Vivek, Matthews points, sorry Cilla I'll read all that in a minute!) I've got goose bumps here, Bhante G's says in chapter 13 of 'Mindfulness in Plain English'

Quote
Mindfulness is the English translation of the Pali word Sati. Sati is an activity. What exactly is that? There can be no precise answer, at least not in words. Words are devised by the symbolic levels of the mind and they describe those realities with which symbolic thinking deals. Mindfulness is pre-symbolic.

It is not shackled to logic. Nevertheless, Mindfulness can be experienced -- rather easily -- and it can be described, as long as you keep in mind that the words are only fingers pointing at the moon. They are not the thing itself. The actual experience lies beyond the words and above the symbols. Mindfulness could be described in completely different terms than will be used here and each description could still be correct.

Mindfulness is a subtle process that you are using at this very moment. the fact that this process lies above and beyond words does not make it unreal -- quite the reverse. Mindfulness is the reality which gives rise to words -- the words that follow are simply pale shadows of reality. So, it is important to understand that everything that follows here is analogy. It is not going to make perfect sense. It will always remain beyond verbal logic. But you can experience it. The meditation technique called Vipassana (insight) that was introduced by the Buddha about twenty-five centuries ago is a set of mental activities specifically aimed at experiencing a state of uninterrupted Mindfulness.

When you first become aware of something, there is a fleeting instant of pure awareness just before you conceptualize the thing, before you identify it. That is a stage of Mindfulness. Ordinarily, this stage is very short. It is that flashing split second just as you focus your eyes on the thing, just as you focus your mind on the thing, just before you objectify it, clamp down on it mentally and segregate it from the rest of existence. It takes place just before you start thinking about it--before [it -- before] your mind says, "Oh, it's a dog." That flowing, soft-focused moment of pure awareness is Mindfulness. In that brief flashing mind-moment you experience a thing as an un-thing. You experience a softly flowing moment of pure experience that is interlocked with the rest of reality, not separate from it. Mindfulness is very much like what you see with your peripheral vision as opposed to the hard focus of normal or central vision. yet this moment of soft, unfocused awareness contains a very deep sort of knowing that is lost as soon as you focus your mind and objectify the object into a thing. In the process of ordinary perception, the Mindfulness step is so fleeting as to be unobservable. We have developed the habit of squandering our attention on all the remaining steps, focusing on the perception, recognizing the perception, labeling it, and most of all, getting involved in a long string of symbolic thought about it. That original moment of Mindfulness is rapidly passed over. It is the purpose of the above mentioned Vipassana (or insight) meditation to train us to prolong that moment of awareness.

When this Mindfulness is prolonged by using proper techniques, you find that this experience is profound and it changes your entire view of the universe. This state of perception has to be learned, however, and it takes regular practice. Once you learn the technique, you will find that Mindfulness has many interesting aspects.
 

emphasis mine.

Pre-symbolic awareness masters all.

A
« Last Edit: February 20, 2012, 12:27:46 PM by Andrew »
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Cilla

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Re: The nature of vedana
« Reply #37 on: February 20, 2012, 01:04:27 PM »
I gotta say i am not entirely in agreement with vivek and matthew.

Firstly vivek, you are forgetting taht some reactions can be speech and acts. Being aware of our mental states as well as our sensations enables us to make different choices.

Further we are also able to prevent certain emotions from escalating and arising in the first place by noticing our earlier responses. So circumventing is indeed the right word.

Secondly, some meditators still seem to be unconscious of the involvement of thought in the changes that result from meditation. However, thought is there. You have been taught distrust and undervalue thought so you are unwilling to recognise it. Gradually more and more of your thought that could have been brought to consciousness goes underground. You internalise change without ever having let arise to consciousness.

But it is possible to be aware of changes in our thought patterns and its not a bad thing to do be able to do it. 

The book that Andrew is quoting from is a very good book about mindfulness. I have it too. I've read it through twice and i was using it for inspiration before meditation. This is theravada a la sri lankan practice. The methods in this book are in keeping with what the buddha taught with regard to what i've read in the pali canon. Though it must be said in the pali canon, the techniques are not spelled out in great clarity and it can be difficult to understand how one would go about doing it if one had no idea. You might find it worthwhile to take a look at the sattipatana sutta from accesstoinsight website darknight. You might find the text annoying to read. I used ot find the texts annoying but having tackled successfully the first discourses of the buddha alongside reading the book What the Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula, i could understand them all well and the style of the suttas no longer bothers me so much.
« Last Edit: February 20, 2012, 01:17:20 PM by Cilla »

Vivek

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Re: The nature of vedana
« Reply #38 on: February 20, 2012, 01:14:48 PM »
Hello Cilla,

 From what you have written, I could make out a few things:

1) Goenkaji does not teach what Buddha taught
2) The four-part model of the mind (Vinnyana, Sannya, Vedana, Sankhara) is incorrect
3) Goenkaji is wrong on some things and right on some others
4) Buddha did not teach the four-part model of the mind
5) Buddha is right on some things and wrong on some others.

Some of the above maybe incorrect, you may correct them if so.

So,

1) According to you, if Buddha did not teach the four-part model, what is the model of mind that he taught?
2) What are the things that Buddha is right about, and what all are wrong?


Quote
The speed with which we react to stimulus is the problem here. We can learn to be more conscious of our responses to stimulus just as we can learn to be more conscious of the sensations we have.
I hope you are aware that the premise which I, Dark night and others are using is that our ongoing responses in the form of feelings and emotions, are not towards the stimulus as such, but to the sensations which are experienced in the body based on the how the stimulus is evaluated by the mind. The response to stimulus IS the response to the body sensations, there are no separate responses for each of them separately. So, your talk about being conscious of response to stimulus as opposed to response to sensations, is quite confusing. Kindly enlighten us on this.

Quote
You see i have done psychotherapy and i have noticed in myself a great improvement in awareness of feelings, emotions...
I assume that you are still continuing with responding to Dark night's comments related to stimulus/sensations, with the above. If so, I am not sure why you are talking of psychotherapy here. I have been associated with psychology for many years, and as I understand it, it deals with our mental contents, not external stimulus as such.   
« Last Edit: February 20, 2012, 01:18:03 PM by Vivek »
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Vivek

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Re: The nature of vedana
« Reply #39 on: February 20, 2012, 01:28:28 PM »
Cilla,
Quote
Firstly vivek, you are forgetting taht some reactions can be speech and acts. Being aware of our mental states as well as our sensations enables us to make different choices.
I respectfully disagree. Even before we actually speak, or do some external action, the unconscious part of our mind has already reacted to the sensations in the body. Those reactions are usually in a crude form. It is only when those reactions are translated by the conscious part of the mind, that they become speech. expressions etc. This understanding comes only after years of practice, not by reading by books, hearing talks or accepting Buddha's words as such.

The chain of events: external stimulus -> mental evaluation -> body sensations -> reacting to body sensation -> unconscious reactions translated to external response, is not something to be argued about and proved right. And your statement that Goenkaji is wrong about this or that Buddha did not teach this, or that this model is not useful/incorrect, is not much of relevance as far as practice is concerned. This chain has to be observed and understood through one's own direct experience. With continued practice, this process can be easily discerned, and when one starts understanding this, the deeper impurities of the mind start to dissolve and Vipassana becomes an ongoing experience, both on- and off-cushion.
Let's go beyond this illusion, shall we?

Cilla

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Re: The nature of vedana
« Reply #40 on: February 21, 2012, 01:09:16 AM »
Quote
The chain of events: external stimulus -> mental evaluation -> body sensations -> reacting to body sensation -> unconscious reactions translated to external response, is not something to be argued about and proved right.

Vivek, i accept taht the brain receives and treats all external stimulus but its first response is at a deeply unconscious level. Its at the conscious level that we can interrupt it. And we can bring to awareness the mental reactions before we physically react.

Lets take a concrete example.
Someone swears at you
your hear it consciously
before you can even react consciously, your brain may have sent a message to your body unconsciously to respond with a sensation and even a physical reaction like jumping as if startled.

It is the things that we are conscious of that we can easily start to mitigate and these come after and we do have choices.

We might judge the event negative and we might not be conscious of that. But then we can say no, i'm not going to harbour a negative thought about it. And i am not going to react negatively by saying anything in a negative way about it such as swearing back. And could say no, i'm not going to punch the guy either.

But for some people, these reactions would be normal and they would not question that.

Cilla

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Re: The nature of vedana
« Reply #41 on: February 21, 2012, 01:17:03 AM »
Quote
From what you have written, I could make out a few things:

1) Goenkaji does not teach what Buddha taught
2) The four-part model of the mind (Vinnyana, Sannya, Vedana, Sankhara) is incorrect
3) Goenkaji is wrong on some things and right on some others
4) Buddha did not teach the four-part model of the mind
5) Buddha is right on some things and wrong on some others.

Some of the above maybe incorrect, you may correct them if so.

So,

1) According to you, if Buddha did not teach the four-part model, what is the model of mind that he taught?
2) What are the things that Buddha is right about, and what all are wrong?

Well i will try to answer as best i can without going and consulting books.
1) Goenka does not teach what the buddha taught.

the buddha meditation teachings are not focussed entirely on sensations as is the case with goenka.

2)The four-part model of the mind (Vinnyana, Sannya, Vedana, Sankhara) is incorrect
I don't know if i said that. I don't use words vinnayan or sanya etc. In the talks that goenka gave i only remember him useing the word sankhara. If you had put this in english, i might be able to respond to it better. Sankhara means reaction and more over from what i understood at the time, i would say goenka meant habitual reactions so that when we are practising not reacting, he is actually trying to teach us to untrain our selves from our habitual way of responding to the world around us. This is a good tactic.

3) Goenkaji is wrong on some things and right on some others
I said a lot of what goenka teaches in his  dharma talks is accurate as i know it and there are some things he teaches which i am hearing for for the first time and which is not in other books about dharma. And certainly i do believe he is wrong in some of his ideas.

4) i am not in the habit of htinking of the 4 part model of the mind So without going back over my post with a fine tooth comb i'm going to say that i think i did not say this.

Cilla

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Re: The nature of vedana
« Reply #42 on: February 21, 2012, 01:23:41 AM »
Quote
5) Buddha is right on some things and wrong on some others.

Some of the above maybe incorrect, you may correct them if so.

So,

1) According to you, if Buddha did not teach the four-part model, what is the model of mind that he taught?
2) What are the things that Buddha is right about, and what all are wrong?

Yep i don't believe the buddha is right about everything. I think he is wrong about karma, rebirth for example.

Talking about cause and effect. I specifically do not believe that a wrong act always gives rise to a wrong effect insofar as it effects the actor. Effects on a person end when they are dead. If there are continuing effects, these are carried on by sometimes totally innocent people who do not deserve the negative effects. In the same people who don't deserve it can also experience positive effects from you.

there is a degree of cause and effect such as its described in the buddha's doctrine of karma but when we can not find a direct and sensible line of argument to connect them all, we should not say they are connected. eg. a man is killed in an earthquake. Under no circumstances has he earnt this ending to his life. if he has brought it about its because he chose to be somewhere at a certain time and it is chance up to the point that he knew he was in an earthquake zone and that such a thing was possible.

That's about as much as i care to go with in answering your question at the moment. I haven't got time for more. I'd say let my position sit and if others disagree with it, that's fine. Lets not argue for the sake of arguing because the issues are not going to come clearer.

Vivek

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Re: The nature of vedana
« Reply #43 on: February 21, 2012, 05:19:05 AM »
Hello Cilla,

Quote
That's about as much as i care to go with in answering your question at the moment...
Fair enough. If that's all you care about, that is fine by me. But, take care that you don't state your assumptions about what others are saying wrong, like you did in this thread. Remember, most of the discussion in this thread was over, but then you came in saying where Dark Night is wrong, Andrew, Matthew and myself are incorrect etc, and how we are misleading Dark Night with what we are posting in this thread. When you make such statements in your posts, you can very well expect questions which you are expected to answer. And for the record, I never argue anything for arguement's sake, neither am I interested in any debate. You can check the forums, or with other members, if you doubt that. But, if someone states that what I said is wrong, or is misleading others, then I would definitely ask the person why he thinks so, just to understand if I am indeed wrong somewhere. You make a lot of distorted obervations in your posts about others, the technique, the path and the teachers, but since you "don't care" about correcting or even understanding any of that, I will gladly refrain from putting forth my points in this regard. This is a practice-oriented forum, but, if there are any theoretical aspects of Dhamma that anyone wants to discuss, that is definitely welcome. Every person has every right to hold on to his views, but every member is OBLIGED to respects others as well, and if he wants to question any of that, that should be done respectfully, and not by stating blatant assumptions and then later saying that he "does not care" or "won't bother" to discuss any further. Enough said.
Let's go beyond this illusion, shall we?

DarkNightOfNoSoul

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Re: The nature of vedana
« Reply #44 on: February 21, 2012, 07:05:18 AM »
Hi Cilla, you've made lots of interesting points with your last few posts.

Thanks for recommending the Satipatthana Sutta, I have read it before - admittedly I may have skimmed the repetitive bits! But looking through it again, I can see there is indeed quite a lot of emphasis on feelings/sensations, and it does discuss the four-part mind in the section on the five aggregates. I've often seen it referred to as the most important sutta, for example on the website you recommend, Cilla:

"The Satipatthana Sutta, the Discourse on the Foundations of Mindfulness, is generally regarded as the canonical Buddhist text with the fullest instructions on the system of meditation unique to the Buddha's own dispensation. The practice of Satipatthana meditation centers on the methodical cultivation of one simple mental faculty readily available to all of us at any moment. This is the faculty of mindfulness, the capacity for attending to the content of our experience as it becomes manifest in the immediate present. What the Buddha shows in the sutta is the tremendous, but generally hidden, power inherent in this simple mental function, a power that can unfold all the mind's potentials culminating in final deliverance from suffering."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/soma/wayof.html#intro

Perhaps this is is why Goenka emphasises the concepts from this sutta in his standard 10-day retreat. I think you're right that he does seem to put an inordinate emphasis on sensations - but then according to the four-part model (which Goenka discusses in detail on Day 4), it is only at the junction of sensation and reaction that we can break the cycle of suffering, so sensations do seem especially critical. I agree that the sutta also discusses several other very important aspects of mindfulness, and I can only assume G. goes into a lot more detail about these in his Satipatthana Sutta course (but I'm yet to attend this, so maybe someone who has attended could shed more light on this). And I wholeheartedly agree with you that Goenka's infrastructure should provide some sort of formal between-retreat support from assistant teachers, rather than simply relying on the informal weekly meditation groups that spring up. Having said that, there seem to be fairly regular 1- and 3-day retreats available.

Regarding your discussion of the chain of events following an unpleasant stimulus - my interpretation of what you've said (and my apologies if I have this wrong) is that you're essentially talking about emotional suppression. That is, the process of consciously judging an event negative, then choosing not to say or do anything inflammatory in response to it. But contrary to what you say, this conscious judgement does not occur the moment we hear someone swearing at us (as you imply when you say "you hear it consciously"). Neuroscience studies suggest that the initial neural processing and evaluation of emotionally-arousing sensory inputs are pre-conscious. The specific physiological sequence is: swearing -> auditory apparatus -> auditory cortex -> sensory thalamus -> amygdala -> hypothalamus -> pituitary gland & adrenal cortex -> spinal cord. So before we even consciously register that someone swore at us, there is a full-on physiological reaction going on under the surface - increased heart rate and blood pressure, changes in breathing, release of cortisol (stress hormone), and of course loads of unpleasant sensations. That is, by the time we consciously recognise the swearing (perhaps half a second later), a lot has already happened in our body without our awareness.

Other psych studies suggest that a habit of experiencing emotional arousal but then suppressing our behavioural response can be very damaging to us physically - perhaps this is why some therapies advocate just "letting rip" and expressing the negative emotions, thereby reducing the arousal. Come to think of it, you mentioned earlier that you have had experience with therapy - perhaps psychodynamic psychotherapy? This tradition has long emphasised the psychological dangers of "bottling up" - which is what we're doing if we experience the physiological arousal of a negative emotion but restrain ourselves from swearing or punching the person who swore at us. This is why I like the techniques advocated by Buddhism - you learn to become aware of the process at an early stage (before the physiological arousal has started to ramp up), avoiding the damaging stress hormones etc, as well as avoiding the unhelpful and potentially harmful behavioural response.

Now, reading your last post, I must admit, I don't quite understand the logic of your approach - surely if the Buddha was wrong about some things, then he could in fact have been wrong about everything! So why bother with his teachings at all? How do you figure out what is right and what is wrong, so that you can then pick and choose what to believe? Does the resulting mix of ideas and approaches give you the results you are hoping for?

Anyway, as you point out, debating this stuff is probably counter-productive - a recipe for unpleasant sensations! By starting this thread, perhaps I've wrongly encouraged the "playing of intellectual games", when in fact it's more important that we simply practice the meditations as prescribed and allow dhamma to work for us.

Thanks Cilla once again for your interesting and provocative comments.

Matthew

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Re: The nature of vedana
« Reply #45 on: February 21, 2012, 08:47:44 AM »
Beliefs about things are not very useful.
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

mettajoey

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Re: The nature of vedana
« Reply #46 on: February 21, 2012, 12:42:42 PM »
Beliefs about things are not very useful.

Up-voted
The best type of meditation is the one that you'll do

DarkNightOfNoSoul

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Re: The nature of vedana
« Reply #47 on: February 21, 2012, 07:37:22 PM »
Beliefs about things are not very useful.

Hi Matthew, I need some clarification on this.

An example. From the point of view of someone investigating Buddhist principles for the first time and deciding whether or not to commence a meditation practice, surely something is needed in order for them to start devoting considerable time and effort to sitting daily and observing breath, sensations, etc. Otherwise, why would one choose to take refuge in "Buddhism" over the multiplicity of religions and cults in the world, which often require relatively little effort (performing rituals, accepting some prophet as one's saviour, praying to some god, etc)? Some motivating factor is needed to start practicing (and to continue practicing when no obvious benefits have arisen, as in my case). So isn't belief useful in the sense that it motivates you? Or if this motivating factor isn't "belief", then what do you call it? Faith, devotion, confidence, trust, intuition?

Is it really possible to meditate daily yet have no belief, faith, or confidence that your meditation and mindfulness practice has long-term benefits for yourself and others?

mettajoey

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Re: The nature of vedana
« Reply #48 on: February 21, 2012, 08:46:08 PM »
Beliefs about things are not very useful.

Hi Matthew, I need some clarification on this.

An example. From the point of view of someone investigating Buddhist principles for the first time and deciding whether or not to commence a meditation practice, surely something is needed in order for them to start devoting considerable time and effort to sitting daily and observing breath, sensations, etc. Otherwise, why would one choose to take refuge in "Buddhism" over the multiplicity of religions and cults in the world, which often require relatively little effort (performing rituals, accepting some prophet as one's saviour, praying to some god, etc)? Some motivating factor is needed to start practicing (and to continue practicing when no obvious benefits have arisen, as in my case). So isn't belief useful in the sense that it motivates you? Or if this motivating factor isn't "belief", then what do you call it? Faith, devotion, confidence, trust, intuition?

Is it really possible to meditate daily yet have no belief, faith, or confidence that your meditation and mindfulness practice has long-term benefits for yourself and others?

DNONS
Sorry to jump into this thread but in my opinion truth is where you find it.  There is truth in most any established belief system.  The acid test is to try the principles for yourself and see if you get results.  Results that matter to you and not to any standard you may currently know.

If your intent is long-term benefits for yourself and others the most practical thing to do is join a charity or any group that actively helps others.  Drilling into the fine points Buddhist thought is a hindrance to the actual work.  Find some recorded Dhamma/Dharma talks, spend some time sitting, then reassess.

-Joey  :)
The best type of meditation is the one that you'll do

Matthew

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Re: The nature of vedana
« Reply #49 on: February 21, 2012, 11:47:28 PM »
Beliefs about things are not very useful.

Hi Matthew, I need some clarification on this.

An example. From the point of view of someone investigating Buddhist principles for the first time and deciding whether or not to commence a meditation practice, surely something is needed in order for them to start devoting considerable time and effort to sitting daily and observing breath, sensations, etc. Otherwise, why would one choose to take refuge in "Buddhism" over the multiplicity of religions and cults in the world, which often require relatively little effort (performing rituals, accepting some prophet as one's saviour, praying to some god, etc)? Some motivating factor is needed to start practicing (and to continue practicing when no obvious benefits have arisen, as in my case). So isn't belief useful in the sense that it motivates you? Or if this motivating factor isn't "belief", then what do you call it? Faith, devotion, confidence, trust, intuition?

Is it really possible to meditate daily yet have no belief, faith, or confidence that your meditation and mindfulness practice has long-term benefits for yourself and others?

DarkNight,

Asking for clarification is never a problem.

"Faith-followers" are those who have heard the teachings, find something that sounds true in them - and then set about exploring that truth for themselves.

It does not take long to establish that faith is no longer needed - because you are able to reproduce the effects the Buddha said his teachings would have: in the early stages greater calm, concentration, peace, understanding. If you really are having none of these results then perhaps we can speak on Skype and see what's up.

It can take just a few days of regular practice to start seeing these effects for yourself, as long as the practice is not based on a corrupted Dhamma. Faith in the Buddha's teachings is not demanded at any stage. It's useful but it's not the same as belief or faith in other religions. In fact it is categorically different.

Belief is blind, it is blindness, it is saying I choose to believe X rather than Y - even though I have no evidence for either X or Y. It is actually choosing to be blind instead of investigating truth and finding out what reality is.

In this regard Buddhism is different to all other religions. At no stage are you asked to have blind faith or blind belief. It is always "informed faith" - informed by the Dhamma, the teachings in the beginning - and by your own experience of their validity as you progress on the path.

In short:

Buddhist faith = "sounds true, I'll try and see if it is".

Other Religious Faith = "Got to believe this for salvation even though I can not gain evidential experience of this 'truth' for myself".

Buddhist faith empowers you. Other religious faith empowers the politicians/priests that control that belief system.

Buddhism has no belief system. It has a series of propositions you can explore for yourself.

Having said this there are many forms of corrupted Dhamma that denigrate the Buddha's teachings by piling bullcrap and belief all over them.

If you need further clarification don't hesitate to ask.

Kind regards,

Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

 

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