Question about sensations

Discussion of Satipatthana bhavanā and Vipassana bhavana.

Question about sensations

Postby venkatad » Sun Apr 17, 2011 2:46 pm

Are all sensations(pain/pleasure/pressure/numbness etc) Sankaras?? I don't think so...
If I am observing pain on my leg it could be sankhara..but not every time. I think irrespective of sankara or not we have to keep observe. If it is a sankahara it will take out deep rooted mental impurity,if not sankara it helps in developing equanimity.....Am I right?
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Re: Question about sensations

Postby legolas » Sun Apr 17, 2011 7:07 pm

I dont know. I tried to find some reference to "observing sankara's, being a means to eradicate deep rooted mental impurities", within the suttas but I could'nt find any.
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Re: Question about sensations

Postby Ben » Sun Apr 17, 2011 9:44 pm

Greetings venkatad,
venkatad wrote:Are all sensations(pain/pleasure/pressure/numbness etc) Sankaras?? I don't think so...
If I am observing pain on my leg it could be sankhara..but not every time. I think irrespective of sankara or not we have to keep observe. If it is a sankahara it will take out deep rooted mental impurity,if not sankara it helps in developing equanimity.....Am I right?

Sankharas are composed phenomena consisting of cittas (mental states), dhammas (mental contents), vedanas (sensations) and rupa (physical processes). Vedananupassana (observation of the rise and fall of sensations) is a meditation practice mentioned in the satipatthana sutta and the vedana sutta. Observing sensations is a relatively accessible vipassana practice. When you observe sensations you are indirectly observing sankharas. Yes, when practicing vednanupassana, you practice with 'choiceless observation' and observe all sensations whether they be pleasant, unpleasant or neutral; gross nor subtle. They're all, for the purposes of developing vipassana, the same.
kind regards

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Re: Question about sensations

Postby Goofaholix » Mon Apr 18, 2011 12:35 am

One thing I've often wondered about. Goenka uses the term sankhara a lot in his dhamma talks but the way he refers to it the meaning corresponds more like the meaning, and common usage, of the word kilesa. Is there a reason for this?
"Whenever we feel that we are definitely right, so much so that we refuse to open up to anything or anybody else, right there we are wrong. It becomes wrong view. When suffering arises, where does it arise from? The cause is wrong view, the fruit of that being suffering. If it was right view it wouldn't cause suffering." - Ajahn Chah
"Remember you dont meditate to get anything, but to get rid of things. We do it, not with desire, but with letting go. If you want anything, you wont find it." - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Question about sensations

Postby Ben » Mon Apr 18, 2011 4:16 am

Hi Goof
Part of it is that the ten-day course discourses are aimed at a particular western newbie audience and I think there is a slight variation of interpretation that maybe unique to the tradition from which he is from. He is much more precise with his use of terminology in the courses for old students.
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Re: Question about sensations

Postby Goofaholix » Mon Apr 18, 2011 5:20 am

Ben wrote:Part of it is that the ten-day course discourses are aimed at a particular western newbie audience and I think there is a slight variation of interpretation that maybe unique to the tradition from which he is from. He is much more precise with his use of terminology in the courses for old students.
kind regards


I figured it was something along those lines. A bit like how it's common to use the term kamma when what we really mean is vipakkha.
"Whenever we feel that we are definitely right, so much so that we refuse to open up to anything or anybody else, right there we are wrong. It becomes wrong view. When suffering arises, where does it arise from? The cause is wrong view, the fruit of that being suffering. If it was right view it wouldn't cause suffering." - Ajahn Chah
"Remember you dont meditate to get anything, but to get rid of things. We do it, not with desire, but with letting go. If you want anything, you wont find it." - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Question about sensations

Postby Ben » Mon Apr 18, 2011 5:53 am

Indeed!
"Only those who take to meditation with good intentions can be assured of success. With the development of the purity and the power of the mind backed by the insight into the ultimate truth of nature, one might be able to do a lot of things in the right direction for the benefit of mankind."

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Re: Question about sensations

Postby legolas » Mon Apr 18, 2011 12:17 pm

Ben wrote:Hi Goof
Part of it is that the ten-day course discourses are aimed at a particular western newbie audience and I think there is a slight variation of interpretation that maybe unique to the tradition from which he is from. He is much more precise with his use of terminology in the courses for old students.
kind regards

Ben


As I understand the tradition, it is the same 10 day course east or west and purports to give people a taste of the dhamma, irrespective of cultural or racial background.

What criteria is used for imparting the "precise" teaching?

Does this imply a two tier system?
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Re: Question about sensations

Postby Ben » Mon Apr 18, 2011 12:51 pm

legolas wrote:Does this imply a two tier system?
No.
As I mentioned earlier, the ten-day course is an introductory course. Numerous times throughout the discourses, SN Goenka says "this is the kindergarten of Dhamma". What is taught within this tradition is a gradual training and what is taught in a ten-day course is not the entire path.
"Only those who take to meditation with good intentions can be assured of success. With the development of the purity and the power of the mind backed by the insight into the ultimate truth of nature, one might be able to do a lot of things in the right direction for the benefit of mankind."

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Re: Question about sensations

Postby withing » Fri Jan 27, 2012 11:07 pm

Wow I have a lot to learn. :juggling:
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Re: Question about sensations

Postby pilgrim » Sun Feb 26, 2012 2:13 pm

When Goenka asks students to observe vedana , he is referring to physical vedana only ( that is pleasant/unpleasant sensations on the body). Does he recognise that vedana could also refer to mental vedana and is a student also suppose to observe this?

Does phasso always result in a physical vedana ( my understanding is he teaches this) ?
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Re: Question about sensations

Postby bodom » Sun Feb 26, 2012 3:31 pm

pilgrim wrote:When Goenka asks students to observe vedana , he is referring to physical vedana only ( that is pleasant/unpleasant sensations on the body). Does he recognise that vedana could also refer to mental vedana and is a student also suppose to observe this?


In Analalayo's satipatthana commentary he quotes an article by Goenka entitled "Sensation the Key to Satipatthana" pg. 22 note 16. In this article Goenka proposes that...

Goenka wrote:"Since the "body" is to be experienced via "feelings", which at the same time are related to the "mind" by being "mental objects" , by observing bodily sensations one can cover all four satipatthanas."


I dont have much knowledge on Goenkas style of practice but can conclude from the article above that in Goenkas practice when one is observing physical vedana they would already be indirectly observing mental vedana as well.

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Question about sensations

Postby farmer » Sun Feb 26, 2012 9:43 pm

Here is a nice piece by Ven. Bodhi on the ways the word "sankhara" functions in the canon.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ay_43.html

Is it my imagination, or does Goenka use the word in a somewhat idiosyncratic way?
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Re: Question about sensations

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Feb 26, 2012 10:17 pm

Greetings farmer,

farmer wrote:Is it my imagination, or does Goenka use the word in a somewhat idiosyncratic way?

What Goenkaji calls sankharas are indeed sankharas.

:juggling:

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Question about sensations

Postby pilgrim » Fri Mar 02, 2012 12:51 pm

So how do I apply this experience in real life? When I face a situation, am I supposed to look for a corresponding sensation somewhere on my body? That doesn't seem practical.
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Re: Question about sensations

Postby Ben » Fri Mar 02, 2012 12:56 pm

pilgrim wrote:When I face a situation, am I supposed to look for a corresponding sensation somewhere on my body?

Just attend to whatever is rising and passing away.
For me, as a student of SN Goenka, I attend to the dominant sensations that are rising and falling at that time.
kind regards,

Ben
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Re: Question about sensations

Postby pilgrim » Fri Mar 02, 2012 1:23 pm

Ben wrote:Just attend to whatever is rising and passing away.
For me, as a student of SN Goenka, I attend to the dominant sensations that are rising and falling at that time.
kind regards,

Ben

I just returned from a Goenka retreat and am trying to understand better. I remember one of his discourses advised one to be aware of sensations on the body as a proxy to watch mind states. How does that work? If someone shouts at me, am I supposed to look for sensations on my body?
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Re: Question about sensations

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Mar 02, 2012 8:21 pm

pilgrim wrote:So how do I apply this experience in real life? When I face a situation, am I supposed to look for a corresponding sensation somewhere on my body? That doesn't seem practical.

The connection between mental and physical is usually very obvious if you look for it, and is very common advice, not only from Buddhist teachers. When you feel angry you can probably notice tightness in the chest, flushed face, etc. It can often be helpful to focus on those sensations, rather then the mental proliferation that is causing the anger.

:anjali:
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Re: Question about sensations

Postby Ben » Fri Mar 02, 2012 10:13 pm

Hi Pilgrim,
pilgrim wrote:
Ben wrote:Just attend to whatever is rising and passing away.
For me, as a student of SN Goenka, I attend to the dominant sensations that are rising and falling at that time.
kind regards,

Ben

I just returned from a Goenka retreat and am trying to understand better. I remember one of his discourses advised one to be aware of sensations on the body as a proxy to watch mind states. How does that work? If someone shouts at me, am I supposed to look for sensations on my body?


I think this is good advice. The observation of sensation is indeed a proxy for the observation of the mind. One step removed from the proliferating mental content, and our ingrained habit of identifying with our mental contents, it is easier to observe sensation then mind and mental contents - particularly when faced with difficult situations. As you know, mind and body are intimately linked. Body is conditioned by mind and mind by body. We can notice this ourselves when during anger our heart rate quickens and our breath becomes faster and more shallow. Lustful thoughts cause other physical and somasomatic changes to the body. My own experience has been that certain mental states and thought processes correspond with different types of vedana. Gross and compounded states such as strong emotions are composed of the four primary dhammas and different types of sensations occur within and on the body while one is experiencing one of these composed (emotional) events. In time, you will notice this yourself.

When someone shouts at you the sensations experienced relate to your perception of what is going on. The shout could be a warning of immanent danger, a shout from a long-lost friend to get your attention, it could be an abusive shout. As far as what you are "supposed to be doing", I refer you to Sayagi U Ba Khin's classic discourse: The Essentials of Buddha Dhamma in Meditative Practice
it would be wise for him to follow the motto of work while you work, play while you play. There is no need for him to be activating the experience of Anicca all the time. It should suffice if this could be confined to a regular period, or periods, set apart in the day or night for the purpose. During this time, at least, an attempt must be made to keep the attention focused inside the body, with awareness devoted exclusively to Anicca; that is to say, his awareness of Anicca should go on from moment to moment so continuously as not to allow for the interpolation of any discursive or distracting thoughts which are definitely detrimental to progress.

kind regards,

Ben
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Re: Question about sensations

Postby Manachi » Sun May 06, 2012 11:37 am

Hi all,

I just returned from my first 10 day Vipassana course (of SN Goenka). One aspect that confused me was the way in which the term "Sankhara" was used.

#1 I had previously always understood the word Sankhara to basically mean any mental formation or mental construct.

#2 But the way it is used in Goenka's teachings is quite different. He refers to a Sankhara is a 'reaction' and that any Sankhara generated is effectively a 'credit or debit' to the individual, according to whether the action is good or bad. Basically he teaches that you want to try and remove "all the stack of Sankharas" that are accumulated. I had never ever heard the term being used like this, and in fact it didn't sound quite right to me. The entire goal of his teaching is effectively to "reduce the stack of sankharas".

If you consider the phrase 'Annica Vata Sankhara" this makes sense with the definition #1 (("Impermanent, alas, are all formations") but not so much with #2. If "Sankharas" are impermanent (which they clearly are), why would you have a stack of them that you have to actively remove?

This causes great confusion to me and a little bit of concern. As I'm sure you can tell I'm still a beginner, but I was hoping someone could please help clarify? It would be much appreciated.
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