Feeling – Vedanā

One of Thailand’s most revered monks is Luang Poo Bud­dah (Tāvaro), who was born in 1894 and died at the age of 100 in 1994. Sev­er­al dis­tinc­tive pho­tos of him exist in which he is don­ning a brown, wooly hat, pre­sum­ably in the cold sea­son, along with a radi­ant smile.

I read his auto­bi­og­ra­phy when I was walk­ing tudong as a monk, and I clear­ly remem­ber one of his teach­ings, which he gave while rec­ol­lect­ing his own wan­der­ings as a young monk. He was asked what he would do when he didn’t receive any food on alm­sround and had to go hun­gry. His reply, very sim­ply, was: ‘Instead of eat­ing food, I ate “sen­sa­tion.”’ He made it sound like this is the eas­i­est thing in the world to do. When there is no food to digest, then con­scious­ness must rest with what exists in the present, with­out judge­ment, even if this hap­pens to be the dis­com­fort of hunger.

Con­nect­ed to this sub­ject is a teach­ing by the Ven­er­a­ble Ajahn Maha Bua, who passed away this year at the ripe old age of 97. He said that for an ara­hant, feel­ing (vedanā) does not ‘per­me­ate’ into the mind or heart. And this is con­firmed by the Buddha’s teach­ing in the Saṁyut­ta Nikāya (see Ajahn Payutto’s expla­na­tion in the book on Depen­dent Orig­i­na­tion):

Bhikkhus, when the instruct­ed noble dis­ci­ple is con­tact­ed by a painful feel­ing, he does not grieve or lament. He does not weep beat­ing his breast and become dis­traught. He feels one feeling—a bod­i­ly feel­ing, not a men­tal feel­ing. Sup­pose an archer were to strike a man with one arrow, but the sec­ond arrow would miss the mark, so that the man would feel a feel­ing caused by one arrow only. So too, when the instruct­ed noble dis­ci­ple is con­tact­ed by a painful feel­ing … he feels one feeling—a bod­i­ly one, not a men­tal one.’



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