by Venerable Amitha Teldeniyaye
04 Thursday 2018

In the context of this reflection, ‘feeling’ is not same as what we mean in conventional language, that is, it is not the reaction to touching something and thus gaining an awareness of its physical size, shape or colour, for instance.  On the contrary, its source is the mind; consequently, ‘feelings’, in that connection are very powerful determinants of one’s moods of being happy, unhappy, restless, or, simply, being at peace with oneself, one’s family, friends & associates.   For this reason, mindfulness on feelings and sensations can be a very powerful method for shaping one’s physical as well as mental wellbeing. 

In general, three kinds of sensations may be identified:

  • Pleasant ones

  • Unpleasant ones &

  • Neutral ones.

Experiencing the taste of an object is feeling. It is a mental factor. Feelings play a vital role when determining one’s happiness or unhappiness, unrest or peace. Mindfulness on feelings or sensations is thus a very powerful method for both physical and mental wellbeing.

Since feeling is not simply what we sense physically it has something to do intimately with our six senses.  A little technical knowledge on this subject may therefore be usefully applied in arriving at a clear understanding of what it really means.

When our six internal sense organs (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind) come in to contact with six external sense objects, there arises the associated consciousness. For example, when any colour comes into contact with the eye organ, a combination of these two leads to the formation of eye consciousness. The combination of three, colour + eye + eye consciousness paves the way for contact. What is contacted is felt in the mind.

This process always occurs and our ordinary minds don’t notice it. It is the same with other senses as well. This procedure doesn’t end there. This is just the beginning - the beginning of a process that moulds our lives.

For example, when we hear a sound suddenly we give it a valuation. Good, bad, pleasant or unpleasant, I like it, I don’t like it, I hate it, I want to hear it again etc. If it is pleasant, we attach to it and if it is the negative one rejects it and develops an aversion to it. These two ends govern the lives of all the living beings in the universe. If we look closely going deep into our mind this is what our minds contain; likes and dislikes.

But that is not how it affects a person. What we see, hear, taste, smell, contact, or think they all manifest in the mind. What manifests in the mind, manifests in the body. What feels in the body affects the mind. Therefore, if the mind is frequently occupied with negative feelings and emotions one cannot expect to have a healthy, happy and peaceful life.

“All mental phenomena have mind as their forerunner; they have mind as their chief source; they are mind-made. If one speaks or acts with an evil mind, 'suffering’ follows him just as the wheel follows the hoof print of the ox that draws the cart.”

If one keeps chasing after the attachments that also has no end and subsequently creates more and more suffering as an attaching mind can never be satisfied only through gratification.

Therefore, a wiser and more pragmatic approach is essential to find a solution for this issue. An ordinary person attaches to the pleasant and generates aversion to the unpleasant. This is the natural way one reacts. Both these makes the things worse instead of solving the issue.

A meditator or any person interested in finding peace and happiness treats all the feelings or sensations in a different way. He sees all pleasant, unpleasant feelings as momentary and incessantly changing. He realises it through experiential wisdom and sees the vanity of such responses; and then he develops mental composure and an evenness of temper to all he experiences, especially when faced with misfortune and loss.   Whatever he perceives through six senses he treats as objects and practises the letting go. He develops a non-judgmental mind, equal to all feelings; as a result, no fresh conditioning.

Another method of looking at feelings is this; one should look at a pleasant sensation as a suffering, an unpleasant sensation as a spike and a neutral sensation as impermanent.

Any great pleasant feeling lasts a little while and ends up in unhappiness. We wish a pleasant feeling to last forever but it cannot in reality. When one does not get what one wants that inevitably leads to disappointment and unhappiness.

Unpleasant feelings cause suffering for all without exception. The more one lives on with such feelings, the more the suffering it creates. Because of this it is like a spike when stepped on. It always brings suffering.

The most difficult sensation to trace is the neutral feeing. Obviously, it has not got anything to feel specially. Whenever we don’t feel any happiness or unhappiness we are having neutral feelings. In fact, we experience more neutral feelings in our life than pleasant or unpleasant feelings; we hardly notice this. But this also changes in a flash once any pleasant or unpleasant feeling arises. So, any neutral feeling should be treated as impermanent.

None of the feelings we experience is a final product. They all keep changing. And the other truth is that none of these happens accidentally, they all have a cause. All feelings, no matter how big or small it is, produces an effect. This effect in turn causes further change making an endless causes and effects. Every tiny little feeling is a seed, which, if left unattended, can cause a big issue to a catastrophic level in our life.