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Vedana – Affective Feeling Tone or simply Sensation?
This is very interesting.Thank you for the video clip. I am not totally sure about Bob’s suggested definition. Vedana comes upon contact, so feeling tone is quite good, with the emphasis on tone or tonality. I would use feeling sensation for something a little more elaborate emotionally. What is interesting about vedana is that the same contact with a different person lead to a different vedana, i.e art, music or food. Moreover in a different state the same contact will give rise to a different vedana to the same person. So there is something constructed already in terms of culture or affinity for example, or conditional in terms of circumstances. Also it can be quite subtle sometimes and then tonality is quite suitable there. What do you think?Warmly,
thanks so much for engaging in this dialogue….if you don’t mind, I’d like to share your comments with the contemplative community. I feel it could benefit from more heads than two. 🙂
My difficulty is primarily a semantic one. The word “tone” doesn’t translate well into psychological or cognitive terms in which we typically talk about emotion, sensation/perception, or valence. I think we are likely to agree that contact with a sense object will lead to different vedana across individuals due to culture, inherent bias, conditioning, or otherwise. The often underlooked nature of emotional expression (e.g., anger) lies within the initial contact with the sensory object of that anger (e.g., favorite wine spoils). Upon first taste that the wine has spoiled, there is a non-conscious assessment of taste that either leads to an immediate emotional reaction or cognitive interpretation and further reactivity. In this example, there is a particular temporal framework to describe contact with sense object through non-conscious processing and then a more elaborate expression of emotion. The question I still have is whether Vedana resides in the initial contact with spoiled wine, the knee-jerk reaction of anger, or the cognitive elaboration of anger??
Yes, please do share.
It is a good question.
I am very interested in vedanas because I think that they influenced a lot of what we do but it takes time for us to notice where it comes from because we have already elaborated and move somewhere else with it.
In my humble opinion vedana refers to the initial contact. We come into contact with something, this creates for example an unpleasant feeling tone, which we then have to give meaning to and then we further elaborate and stick it to something else. I would say that we start with a feeling tone, then it can become a feeling sensation that is where basic anger (survival mechanism, automatic judgement, etc) might come in and then it can turn into a disturbing emotion. This is a way I would parse it but I am not an academic only a meditator so that I am not sure how the vocabulary could work in an academic context.
Two points to consider. You have a nice experience > pleasant vedana, then something small abruptly make this change > unpleasant vedana but you do not notice it, it is just a funny feeling. Then an hour later you find yourself saying something nasty to someone totally foreign to the previous vedanas. If you investigate you realise that it is the first vedana moving quickly into the 2nd which then lead you to something you think/feel is right when it is wrong.
I have seen this again and again how vedanas seep sideways and create suffering if you are not more aware of them. I think that vedanas are crucial in terms of being ethical or not but that often there are not that much conscious content but a lot of automatism.
I am also keen on neutral feeling tones and not everyone agree on these. Maybe we should skype, it could be fun.
The wine example: it starts with a taste > different from expected> could stay there and feel and explore the strangeness of the state: pleasant, unpleasant, neutral. What does it feel like? 3rd nama is key: perception/meaning> the wine tastes funny > the wine is spoiled> this is terrible that the wine is spoiled > it was such an expensive bottle > I/someone made a mistake (again) > I/s/he is terrible > I am always terrible…..
Do you work with the framework of the nama factors?
Nice article on Martine [Link]
more recently (June, 2017), there was a conference organized by the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies on this topic (Vedana) – [Link]
Here, BCBS resident scholar Mu Soeng overviews the concept of vedana and offers a brief summary of each speaker’s presentation at the symposium. Part two will be a new article from Bhikkhu Analayo on the issue of the third kind of vedana (the neutral or neither-pleasant-nor-unpleasant).
Admittedly, there is a difficulty in translation. He states, “When translated as “feeling” or “feeling tone” its understanding in, and application to, meditative process takes on a certain hermeneutic trajectory. When translated as “sensation” an alternate or a parallel understanding and application emerges that could be considered phenomenological.”
Great speakers were present from both Buddhist and Neuroscientific perspectives, including: John Peacock, Akincano Weber, Anne Klein, Robert Buswell, and Martine Batchelor. The other group representing neuroscientists who are also Buddhist practitioners consisted of Sara Lazar, Judson Brewer, Paul Grossman, and Anurag Gupta.
You may all look forward to reading the transcripts of the full presentations as they become available. Unfortunately, I have yet to read a satisfying account clarifying the types of processing contributing to “initial sensory contact” with an object using both pre-conditioned forms of attention, sensory-motor, and memory processing as well as something relatively novel with fewer biases to distort the initial processing pre-conscious and at moment of perception before evaluation.
The full papers from the conference will be published in the Spring 2018 issue of Contemporary Buddhism (Vol 19:1).
His Holiness The Dalai Lama is Coming to MIT – Oct. 14-16th
The Dalai Lama Center for Ethics is sponsoring an event with His Holiness to confront important issues of contemporary society. Check out the link [Link] or [Link]
Some videos related to the talks can be found Here [Link]
Beyond Religion, Ethics, Values and Well-being | October 14, 1:30pm
A Talk by His Holiness the Dalai Lama with response by Br. David Steindl-Rast and Fr. Thomas Keating. A unique, precious chance to be in the presence of these three wise elders.
Global Systems 2.0 | October 15, Panel I, 9:30-11:30am; Panel II, 1:30-3:30pm
This day-long forum is a continuation of The Center’s 2009 inaugural series of conversations with the aim of sparking ideas to address the complex challenges in industry, academia, government, and the world at large through systems thinking and innovation. Global Systems thinking provides practical information from multiple disciplines.
Stages of Meditation: Buddhism for the 21st Century | October 16, 9:30am
A Teaching by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, hosted by Prajnopaya at MIT.
Based on Kamalashila’s essential 8th century meditation text, the teaching offers an in-depth introduction to contemplative practice and its contemporary relevance in day-to-day life.
Mind and Life XVIII: ATTENTION, MEMORY AND THE MIND: A SYNERGY OF PSYCHOLOGICAL, NEUROSCIENTIFIC, AND CONTEMPLATIVE PERSPECTIVES: with His Holiness The Dalai Lama Dharamsala, India • April 6–10, 2009
I have the unique opportunity to attend the private conference Mind and Life XVIII: ATTENTION, MEMORY AND THE MIND: A SYNERGY OF PSYCHOLOGICAL, NEUROSCIENTIFIC, AND CONTEMPLATIVE PERSPECTIVES: with His Holiness in Dharamsala, India – April 6-10, 2009.
I will be blogging my experiences from my perspective daily and hope to hear your comments, questions, and/or feedback during this time (or after).
To begin, I can say that my own perspective is one from mutiple levels. One certainly is a personal one. The auspicious nature of the opportunity and timing is one that I smile about every time I think about it. It happens to be my 34th birthday April 6th, the first day of the meeting. At this personal level, it appears that all roads have led (and would have led) to this one that takes me to Dharamsala to participate in a discussion about memory and attention. From another level, this journey is going to happen because of simple choices that have been made throughout my life, each choice being one that can be retrospectively observed and associated with one or another aspect of the context of my life at which time and in which place I made those decisions/choices. At this same level, I think we can collectively investigate the interdependency of all relations with whom we interact and with whose paths we cross. From a third level, I am a research fellow at Harvard University Medical School in the department of Psychiatry. Here I investigate resilience and vulnerability to psychopathology. If I need to be considered part of a socialized academic category, I typically identify myself as a cognitive neuroscientist with a background in the basic neuroscience of learning and memory. My final perspective is from my position as Senior Research Coordinator of the Mind & Life Institute. As the research coordinator of Mind & Life, I work very diligently and passionately to maintain the rigorous standards of the scientific method in all aspects of research supported by Mind and Life and in our program and event planning.
Well now, those are my levels of perspective and if you find any one of those perspectives intriguing then I look forward to sharing fruitful discussion with you in the next few weeks and beyond.
I leave you with two quotes:
Mind and ideas are nonexistent entities invented for the sole purpose of providing spurious explanations…Since mental or psychic events are asserted to lack the dimensions of physical science, we have an additional reason for rejecting them” – B.F. Skinner
“Open to me, so that I may open.
Provide me your inspiration
So that I might see mine.”
 From: Dunn, P. (2000). The Love Poems of Rumi. Kansas City, MO: Andrews McMeel.
Neuroplasticity and Meditation: Can the brain really change in response to meditation?
Dan Rather reports on the study of Meditation by Neuroscientists and the support of His Holiness, The Dalai Lama. One can also see the full report at the HDnet Mindscience program at the following link, HERE.
Vodpod videos no longer available.