Not Perceiving the Feeling [Notes on MN 43]

Posted: April 17, 2013 by Bhikkhu Ninoslav Nyanamoli in Bhikkhu's Notebook, Dhamma Article

Friend, feeling and perception and consciousness-these things are associated, not disassociated. It is not possible to separate them and by separating them point out the difference [between them]. What one feels, that one perceives. What one perceives, that one cognizes. Therefore, these things are associated not disassociated. It is not possible to separate them and by separating them point out the difference[between them].-MN 43.

The Teaching is for the one who feels. When one thinks “this is what I feel”, that is what one thinks, not what one feels. Feeling cannot be thought, it cannot be perceived. What one perceives is one’s perception, what one feels is one’s feeling.1 Feeling and perception are simply there, superimposed, independent and different in nature.

“What one feels, that one perceives.”

Thinking that it is the same thing that one feels and simultaneously perceives, means one assumes that [same] thing as independent of that feeling and perception. That thing is.

Thinking that it is a different thing that one feels and simultaneously perceives, means one assumes that [different] thing as independent of that feeling and perception. That thing is.

Thinking that it is both-the-same-and-different thing that one feels and simultaneously perceives, means one assumes that [both-the-same-and-different] thing as independent of that feeling and perception. That thing is.

Thinking that it is neither-the-same-nor-different thing that one feels and simultaneously perceives, means one assumes that [neither-the-same-nor-different] thing as independent of that feeling and perception. That thing is.

Thus, through that assumption, one identifies that thing.

Whether one thinks it is the same, or different, or both or neither, feeling is there, regardless of the perception in regard to it. Thus, a feeling cannot be thought, it can only be felt. A perception cannot be felt, it can only be perceived. One has to learn how to feel, or how to know ‘that because of which’ the feeling is.2 This means how to discern it from that which perception is. This cannot be done by separating feeling and perception and examining them individually.3 So how can one do it then?-

By feeling [the feeling]. By perceiving [the perception]. By cognizing [the cognizance].

By cognizing feeling-while-perceiving.

By understanding cognizing.

By not-conceiving perception.

If the superimposition of these two completely independent simultaneously present domains is understood, the assumption of an independent thing,4 outside of feeling and perception ceases to be “a bridge” for the two. The ‘thing’ which is being identified (as the same, different, both-the-same-and-different, neither-the-same-nor-different), is that “bridge” and feeling and perception ‘meet’ or ‘come together’ because of it. That thing is assumed to be that which one feels and perceives.5 In this way, feeling and perception (and consciousness) also come to be identified.6 Thus, that ‘[assumption of a] thing’ which identifies the unidentifiable7 feeling and perception makes them manifest in that identity-feeling and perception come to exist. The identity feels, the identity perceives-I feel, I perceive.

One feels pleasure, one feels pain, one feels neither-pain-nor-pleasure.

One perceives blue, one perceives yellow, one perceives red, one perceives
white.8

One can be aware of what one feels; one can also be aware of what one perceives. Through understanding that because of which one is aware of, one knows the feeling and perception structurally cannot overlap or merge or “be bridged” or identified; 9 This makes the assumption in regard to feeling and perception (as the same, different, both-the-same-and-different, neither-the-same-nor-different),10 redundant, irrelevant, not worth maintaining. Why? Because it does not and it cannot make any difference to the structural order of things (feeling feels, perception perceives). If it could, the freedom from suffering would not be possible.11 Fully understanding that whichever way one’s thought (assumption) goes, the feeling cannot be identified as (the same, different, both-the-same-and-different, neither-the-same-nor-different from) perception, leaves that feeling and that perception just standing there-indifferent to each other.12 13

Agreeable perception is assumed to be that which is pleasantly felt;

Disagreeable perception is assumed to be that which is unpleasantly felt;

Neutral perception is assumed to be that which is neutrally felt.

Thus, one thinks it is this sight14 (sounds, smells…thoughts) that is felt. Because of that feeling one sets upon to ‘affect’ those sights (sounds, smells, …thoughts), sets upon to change them, modify them, adjust them, pursue them, avoid them; one gets entangled in the sights (sounds, smells…thoughts) on account of what one feels when they are . Knowing that feeling is just there-being felt, and perception is just there-being perceived, makes further entanglement impossible, and any entanglement that was there15 is made redundant, disowned, dropped down, never to picked up again. Why? Because it was structurally impossible to get entangled in the first place, but until one has fully understood that, one’s ‘not-knowing-that-one-cannot-be-entangled’ was one’s entanglement. When one understands that the arisen things cannot structurally relate to each other-feeling feels the feeling, perception perceives the perception16concern becomes impossible or inconceivable-dukkha completely ceases, never to arise again.

Bhikkhu Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli


Footnotes:

1Cf. Ñāṇavīra Thera, Clearing the Path, SAÑÑĀ, §2.

2Or how to not-conceive ‘that because of which’ perception is.

3Thinking it in isolation from the present experience (i.e. from perception and consciousness) would amount to this. Since the separation cannot actually occur (not even in one’s imagination), all one can do is assume that which is different between those three.

4The [sense of] independence is the inevitable outcome of the presence of the assumption in one’s experience. It is not therefore accidental that one’s sense of Self is always regarded as an extra-temporal and changeless, i.e. independent (from the rest of the experience). Cf. Ñāṇavīra Thera, op.cit., ATTĀ, §1 and L.147, §3.

5Thus, because of this assumption, one feels the thing, not one’s feelings; one perceives the thing, not one’s perception. By doing so one conceives things different to what they are, and when those things change one suffers.

6Cf. my essay Determining Determinations. ‘That because of which’ [feeling, perception, consciousness are] is assumed as ‘that which’ feeling, perception, consciousness ‘are‘.

7“It is not possible to separate them and by separating them point out the difference…”-MN 43.

8Cf. MN 43.

9Or cross into each other’s domains.

10All of these are forms of identity.

11Cf. my essay The Infinity of Mind.

12By understanding this structural ‘indifference’, one feels indifferent to the whole structure-which is what upekkhā is.

13It is the nature of the superimposition that breeds this indifference, since concern is in its nature always in relation to something.

14Disagreeable (or agreeable, or neutral)

15In the past, or possible in the future, or standing there in the present.

16Matter matters, feeling feels, perception perceives, determinations determine, consciousness cognizes.


 

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