Feelings–Worldly and Unworldly

I am amazed that each talk on the Satipatthana brings new perspectives on the whole of the Buddha’s path. I am deeply inspired by the first half of talk #12, so much so that I want to get some thoughts down in an effort to crystalize the teaching in my own mind as I think it is another major key to understanding the path.

Meditation on Feeling

Initially, meditation on feeling is becoming aware of whatever arises, pleasant, unpleasant or neutral dependent upon contact with the senses. It is the pleasant feeling, not the sense experience itself that brings the underlying tendencies of desire, aversion and ignorance about in us. Recognizing that there is this layer of feeling between the object [sensing the object] and the arising of desire — we’re desiring the pleasant feeling itself, but mistakenly believing the object to be what we are after. This clarification is critical for understanding attachment, which of course is important for understanding non-attachment, freedom and the end of suffering!

What today’s talk is focused on is a further refinement of the meditation on feelings that opens up a whole new perspective on practice–one that not only helps explain the motivation for practice and happiness on the path, but also connects the compassion practices with the path towards liberation. I’ve recently had the question arise: what does compassion have to do with liberation? Why does opening the heart lead to freedom–isn’t freedom all about understanding emptiness and non-attachment? How does generosity function? Is it just a symbolic act of ‘letting go’ and non-attachment that reminds us to cling less? Or is there something more to it?

Worldly and Unworldly Pleasures

The further distinction made by the Buddha in the Satipatthana Sutta with regards to feelings is that he instructs us to distinguish between worldly pleasant feelings and unworldly pleasant feeling; worldly unpleasant feelings and unworldly unpleasant feelings; worldly neutral feelings and unworldly neutral feelings. Joseph’s amazing commentary on this sheds a lot of light on the matter: worldly feelings are feelings associated with our common, ordinary experience — experiences arising through the six sense gates. Worldly feelings have the underlying tendencies of desire, aversion and ignorance. Unworldly feelings he defines as those arising dependent upon the practices of renunciation. The feelings arising from renunciation are the feelings that arise from practices such as Sila, Meditation, Concentration, Generosity, Equanimity, and Lovingkindness. The peace and calm brought about by an open heart gives rise to a pleasant feeling NOT from sense pleasures– it is free from desire, craving, clinging and attachment. It brings happiness without leading to suffering!

By learning about this distinction, contemplating it, meditating on it and getting clear around it we are offered the opportunity to replace our endless search for happiness in the world of impermanence and dissatisfaction with a happiness that is born of the heart, comes from within, does no harm, increases with the growth of wisdom, and spreads with our acts of compassion and generosity. This feels like a tipping point.

3 thoughts on “Feelings–Worldly and Unworldly

  1. ESW –

    I’m glad my comments resonated with you. This was (and is) an important understanding for me. If you liked this post, you should be sure to go to the talk (using the link in the first paragraph above)!

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