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The Commentary to the Discourse
on the Arousing of Mindfulness
with Marginal Notes

The Contemplation of Feeling

The Blessed One having in this way set forth the Arousing of Mindfulness through the fourteenfold method of body-contemplation, now said, "And now, o bhikkhus," in order to expound the ninefold method of contemplation of feeling.

There, the meaning of "pleasant feeling" = sukham vedanam, is as follows: The bhikkhu when experiencing a bodily or mental pleasant feeling knows, "I experience a pleasant feeling."

Certainly, while they experience a pleasant feeling, in sucking the breast and on similar occasions, even infants lying on their backs know that they experience pleasure. But this meditator's knowledge is different. Knowledge of pleasure possessed by infants lying on their backs and other similar kinds of knowledge of pleasure do not cast out the belief in a being, do not root out the perception of a being, do not become a subject of meditation and do not become the cultivation of the Arousing of Mindfulness. But the knowledge of this bhikkhu casts out the belief in a being, uproots the perception of a being, is a subject of meditation and is the cultivation of the Arousing of Mindfulness. Indeed, the knowledge meant here is concerned with experience that is wisely understood through inquiry.

Who feels? No being or person. Whose is the feeling? Not of a being or person. Owing to what is there the feeling? Feeling can arise with (certain) things -- forms, sounds, smells and so forth -- as objects. That bhikkhu knows, therefore, that there is a mere experiencing of feeling after the objectifying of a particular pleasurable or painful physical basis or of one of indifference. (There is no ego that experiences) because there is no doer or agent [kattu] besides a bare process [dhamma]. The word "bare" indicates that the process is impersonal. The words of the Discourse, "I experience (or feel)", form a conventional expression, indeed, for that process of impersonal feeling. It should be understood that the bhikkhu knows that with the objectification of a property or basis he experiences a feeling.

It is said that an Elder of Cittala Hill was sick, turning over from side to side, again and again, and groaning with great pain. To him a young bhikkhu said: "Venerable Sir, which part of your body is painful?" -- "A specially painful place, indeed, there is not; as a result of taking certain things (such as forms, sounds etc.) for object there is the experiencing of painful feeling," replied the Elder. "Venerable Sir, from the time one knows that, is not bearing up befitting?" said the young bhikkhu. "I am bearing up, friend," said the Elder. "Bearing up is excellent, Venerable Sir," said the young bhikkhu. The Elder bore up. Thereafter, the aerial humour caused injury right up to the heart. His intestines protruded out and lay in a heap on the bed. The Elder pointed that out to the young bhikkhu and said: "Friend, is bearing up so far befitting?" The young bhikkhu remained silent. The Elder, having applied concentration with energy, attained arahantship with Analytical Knowledge and passed away into the final peace of Nibbana, in the state of consciousness immediately after the course of reflection on the fruit of arahantship, thus realizing the highest and passing away nearly at the same time.

Just as when experiencing a pleasant feeling, so too when experiencing a painful feeling ..... a neither-pleasant-nor-painful spiritual feeling he understands, "I experience a neither-pleasant-nor-painful spiritual feeling."

Thus the Blessed One when expounding the non-corporeal subject of meditation after the corporeal subject of meditation, expounds it by way of feeling. For twofold is the subject of meditation: the subject of meditation of corporeality or materiality and the subject of meditation which is non-corporeal or non-material. This twofold subject of meditation is also spoken of as the laying hold of the mental and the laying hold of the material.

While the Blessed One is expounding the material subject of meditation by way of brief or lengthy reflection he expounds the discernment of the four modes (or elements) of materiality [dhatu]. Both those ways of reflection are pointed out fully, in the Path of Purity.

While expounding, however, the mental subject of meditation generally the Master expounds it by way of the contemplation on feeling.

Threefold, indeed, is the establishing in the mental subject of meditation: by way of sense-impression, feeling and mind. How? To some meditator, indeed, when the material subject of meditation is laid hold of, when there is the first impact of mind-with-mental-characteristics on the object (or the first Apprehension of that object), the sense-impression that arises with the contacting of that object becomes clear. To another the feeling that arises with the experiencing of that object becomes clear. To yet another the consciousness that arises with the knowing of that object becomes clear.

When sense-impression becomes clear, not only does sense-impression arise; together with that sense-impression, arise feeling, perception, volition and consciousness.

When feeling becomes clear the other four too arise.

Also when consciousness becomes clear the other four arise.

The bhikkhu, on reflecting thus: "Dependent on what is this group of five things?" knows as follows: "Dependent on the (coarse) corporeal base (vatthu)."

That coarse body [karaja kaya] about which it is said: "And indeed this consciousness of mine is depending on, is bound up with this body," that, in its actual nature consists of the four great physical things, the four great primaries, and the physical qualities sourcing from the four great primaries. These physical qualities are called derived materiality. Here, the bhikkhu sees mind and body, thinking, "The (coarse) corporeal base aforesaid is body; the five beginning with sense-impression are mind."

In this connection there are the five aggregates because the body is the aggregate of materiality, and the mind, the four aggregates of non-material things. There is neither a fivefold aggregation separate from the mind and body nor a mind and body separate from the fivefold aggregation. The bhikkhu who tries to find out what the cause of these five aggregates is sees that these are due to ignorance, etc. Henceforth the bhikkhu lives with thorough knowledge thinking that this thing, the fivefold aggregation, is only something conditioned and includes what is produced from conditioning. It is a congeries of bare formations, indeed, of bare processes. He applies to it, by way of the mind and body that exist together with conditions, according to the gradual succession of insight-producing knowledge, the words: "impermanent,", "subject-to-suffering," and "soulless".

After getting suitable weather conditions, a person of advantage to him spiritually, food that agrees with him, or fitting doctrinal instructions, the bhikkhu desirous of realization says, "Today, today," fixed in one posture, reaches the acme of insight and stands fast in the fruit of arahantship. For the three kinds of persons aforesaid the subject of meditation up to arahantship is expounded, in this way.

Here, however, the Blessed One speaking of the non-material or mental subject of meditation speaks by way of feeling. While expounding by way of sense-impression or consciousness the subject of meditation does not become clear. It seems dark. But by way of feeling it becomes clear. Why? Because of the clearness of the arising of feeling. Indeed the arising of pleasant or painful feeling is clear. When pleasant feeling arises spreading through and flowing over the whole body, making one to utter the words: "Ah 'tis joy," it is like causing one to eat fresh clarified butter cooled in very cold water a hundred times after being melted again and again, also a hundred times; it is like causing one to be massaged with an emollient oil worth a hundred pieces; and it is like causing one to be cooled of a burning fever with a thousand pots of cold water.

When painful feeling arises spreading through and flowing over the whole body making one to bewail with the words, "Alas, what woe," it is like the applying on one of a heated ploughshare; it is like the sprinkling upon one of molten copper; and it is comparable to the hurling into dried grass and trees, in the forest, of bundles of wood firebrands.

Thus the arising of pleasant or painful feeling becomes clear, but the arising of the neither-pleasant-nor-painful feeling is dark, and unclear.

The neither-pleasant-nor-painful feeling becomes clear to one who grasps it methodically, thinking: "At the disappearance of pleasure and pain, the neutral neither-pleasant-nor-painful feeling occurs, which is contrary to the pleasant and the unpleasant." To what is it comparable? To a deer hunter following the hoof marks of a deer which midway having gone up a flat rock is fleeing. The hunter after seeing the hoof marks on the hither and thither side of the rock, without seeing any trace in the middle, knows by inference: "Here the animal went up, and here, it went down; in the middle, on the flat rock, possibly it went through this part."

Like the hoofmark at the place of going up the arising of pleasurable feeling becomes clear. Like the hoofmark at the place of descent the arising of painful feeling becomes clear. Like the grasping through inference of the part traversed over the rock by the deer is the laying hold of the neither-pleasant-nor-painful feeling methodically with the thought: "At the disappearance of pleasure and pain, the neutral neither-pleasant-nor-painful feeling occurs, which is contrary to the pleasant and the unpleasant."

In this manner, the Blessed One having expounded at first the form subject of meditation, later, pointed out the formless subject of meditation, by way of feeling, having taken it out from the fivefold aggregation distinguishingly.

Not only here did he point it out thus. In the Cula Tanhasankkhaya, the Cula Vedalla, the Maha Vedalla, the Ratthapala, Magandiya, Dhatuvibhanga, and Ane˝jasappaya of the Majjhima Nikaya; in the Maha Nidana, Sakkapa˝ha, and Maha Satipatthana of the Digha Nikaya; in the Cula Nidana, Rukkhupama, and Parivimamsana Suttas of the Samyutta Nikaya; in the whole of the Vedana Samyutta of the same Nikaya; and in many other discourses did the Master point out the formless subject of meditation, by way of feeling, having taken out feeling from the fivefold aggregation, after first expounding the form subject of meditation.

This is another method of understanding: (He) understands, "I experience a pleasant feeling" = Sukham vedanam vediyamiti pajanati. By the absence of painful feeling at the moment of pleasant feeling, he knows, while experiencing a pleasant feeling: "I am experiencing a pleasant feeling." By reason of that knowledge of the experiencing of pleasant feeling, owing to the absence now of whatsoever painful feeling that existed before and owing to the absence of this pleasant feeling, before the present time, feeling is called an impermanent, a not lasting, and a changeful thing. When he knows the pleasant feeling, in the pleasant feeling, thus, there is clear comprehension. For it is said, in the 78th Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya, by the Blessed One: "When one experiences a pleasant feeling, Aggivessana, then one does not experience a painful feeling or a neither-pleasant-nor-painful feeling. Only the pleasant feeling does one then experience. When one experiences a painful feeling, Aggivessana, then one does not experience a pleasant or a neither-pleasant-nor-painful feeling. Only a painful feeling does one then experience. When one experiences a neither-pleasant-nor-painful feeling, then, one does not experience a pleasant or a painful feeling. Only a neither-pleasant-nor-painful feeling does one then experience. Pleasant feeling, indeed, Aggivessana, is a thing that is impermanent, put-together, dependently originating, decaying, passing away, fading and ceasing. So is painful feeling, and the neither-pleasant-nor-painful feeling. The learned, real disciple, Aggivessana, seeing thus, turns away from the pleasant feeling even as he does from the painful, and the neither-pleasant-nor-painful feelings. Turning away, he detaches himself; by absence of attachment, he frees himself; freed, he knows thus: "I am freed of craving. Destroyed by me is rebirth; lived by me is the Highest Life of the Real Way; done by me is the work of developing the Real Way that must be developed; and (concerning the sixteen-fold work of the development of the Royal Way) there is no more work to be done by me."

Pleasant worldly feeling refers to the six joyful feelings connected with the six sense-doors, and dependent on that which is tainted by defilements.

Pleasant spiritual feeling refers to the six joyful feelings connected with the six sense-doors, and not dependent on sense-desire.

Painful worldly feeling refers to the six feelings of grief connected with the six sense-doors, and dependent on that which is tainted by defilements.

Painful spiritual feeling refers to the six feelings of grief connected with the six sense-doors, and not dependent on sense-desire.

Worldly neither-pleasant-nor-painful feeling refers to the six feelings of indifference connected with the six sense-doors, and dependent on that which is tainted by defilements.

Spiritual neither-pleasant-nor-painful feeling refers to the six feelings of indifference connected with the six sense-doors, and not dependent on sense-desire.

The division into pleasant worldly feeling and so forth is in the 137th Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya.

Ajjhattam = "Internally": The bhikkhu dwells contemplating feelings in the feelings that are his own by laying hold of the pleasant, painful or neither-pleasant-nor-painful feeling. Or he dwells contemplating feelings in the feelings of others by laying hold of the pleasant, painful or neither-pleasant-nor-painful feelings, in the way told above. Or at one time he contemplates his own feelings and at another time, another's.

Samudayadhammanupassi = "Contemplating origination-things." In this contemplation of feeling, the bhikkhu dwells seeing the origination and the dissolution of the aggregate of feeling or seeing the origination of feeling at one time and the dissolution of feeling at another time, by way of ignorance, craving and so forth, in the five ways mentioned in the Section on the Modes of Deportment.[32]

From here on it should be understood that the exposition is just according to the method followed in the explanation of body-contemplation.

Indeed, the mindfulness that lays hold of feeling is the Truth of Suffering. Thus the portal of deliverance for the bhikkhu who lays hold of feeling should be understood.

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