Saturday, September 1, 2012

Leigh Brasington, on Vedana

Every teacher, a different perspective on vedana. Here is Leigh's, as shared during the retreat - my notes:
Vedana is best translated as hedonic tone for all our experiences, either pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. It can also be described as initial categorization of sensory input. We only experience one type of vedana at a time. Sometimes it may seems as if both pleasantness and unpleasantness co-exist but that is an illusion due to the rapidly changing nature of vedana. As important as vedana is, the Buddha only gives us one practice for it, and that is to know the tone of the vedana we are experiencing. Vedana falls into two types:
1. Sensual vedana, from external sensory contact - the 5 senses.
2. Non sensual vedana, from mental sense - that is generated by mind.
We often miss the initial vedana from external sensory contact and go straight to perception, then thoughts and emotions (the mental proliferations) that are arising out of perception, and are in turn generating their own vedana, what is called vedana of the mind or downstream vedana. It all goes very quickly. 
It is important to practice with vedana, otherwise vedana will run us by the nose. Our culture is not helping, as it reinforces our natural inclination to pursue pleasure, avoid pain, and assume we will live forever. If we are not careful, we start craving pleasant vedana and the absence of unpleasant vedana. The trick is to not get caught into vedana. There is a gap between initial sensory vedana and craving, i.e. dukkha, and in that gap, mindfulness can intervene. Lots of the vedana we experience is downstream vedana. Our job is to intervene at the external sensory vedana level, rather than waiting for the downstream vedana. It goes like this:
1. External contact from object, sense organ, and sense consciousness coming together.
2. Mental categorization from initial sensory vedana into pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. 
3. Perception, i.e. identification of what kind of contact, giving it a name.
4. Thoughts and emotions, lead to mental vedana.
We have control over perception, thoughts and emotions, and downstream vedana.
Vedana, it's so important! Whenever unpleasantness makes itself felt, I have learned to see it for what it is. A transient state, some of which I have control over, and the rest not at all. Same with pleasantness. And in each case, the potential for more unpleasantness, either from rejecting (the unpleasantness), or clinging (to the pleasantness).

Other teachers' perspective on vedana:


  1. Thank you for this! I sat with jet lag, and anti-worm pills in my gut trying desperately to feel good in my sit.