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founded by S. N. Goenka in the tradition of Sayagyi U Ba Khin






Feeling and Right Perception in Vipassana Meditation

-By G. C. Banerjee

A French philosopher rightly pointed out long ago, 'One who knows something and acts differently knows imperfectly.' In other words, one who knows perfectly acts according to his knowledge. So simply knowing something or simply being aware of something is not sufficient for right action. Vipassana meditation teaches us to see things as they are. Perception devoid of any wisdom-in-action is meaningless, so true perception must include wisdom-in-action.

The main object of education should be to acquire knowledge about the self, and then, about other things in the universe. In order to know oneself, in order to bring mental peace and harmony, one should observe one's mental and physical behaviour. The process of observation must be scientific and without any prejudice of dogma based on past experience accumulated in the storehouse of memory. Any action born out of thought is bound to produce contradictions because thought itself is limited. Therefore, action born out of thought is not right action. The only other instrument left is feeling (vedana) not associated with emotion. Vedana can provide us with an instrument for observation of the activities of the body and mind in order to know the self.

Vedana is born out of contact between a sense organ and its corresponding object. The contact is spontaneous and natural. We know that when there is a living body, there is breath and when there is mind, there is thought. The arising of breath in the body and the arising of thought in the mind can only be known through vedana. Therefore, vedana is inseparable from the body and mind and one can know oneself through vedana. Vedana are of three kinds-pleasant, unpleasant and neutral. If we do not see its true nature, pleasant vedana generates craving, unpleasant vedana generates aversion and neutral vedana generates ignorance, then all the three kinds of feeling in turn produce greed, hatred, and delusion. These products are the root cause of human suffering.

Buddha, as a practical physician, was primarily concerned with the eradication of human suffering in this present life. He found out a cause and prescribed the medicine for the removal of the cause. This medicine is Vipassana meditation. If we concern ourselves solely with the theoretical teachings and do not implement them in real life, we cannot cure the ills. Rather than merely reciting his prescriptions, we must implement the teachings and see whether the sufferings are eliminated. Vipassana is the sole way of ending the suffering of the present life. Vipassana helps us to see things as they are, in their true nature. If we can see the real nature of things, sampajanna, or wisdom-in-action, will operate. Without sampajanna, Vipassana is incomplete and insufficient and we cannot deal with vedana because, unlike thought, it is non-accumulating. As vedana is inseparable from living, so sampajanna is inseparable from Vipassana. Vedana also plays an important role in the cyclic movement of the causal connection of dependent origination. If vedana is not seen in its true nature it will lead to tanha (craving) and and tanha will lead to upadana (clinging) and the vicious circle starts. But when we see the vedana in its true perspective, then we see feeling as feeling. The feeling feels, it is not my feeling or your feeling, it is not a man's feeling or a woman's feeling, it is simply a feeling born of contact. The pleasant feeling is dukkha because it goes away after it appears; the unpleasant feeling is also dukkha because it gives pain; the neutral feeling is dukkha because it produces ignorance. So feeling is painful, impermanent, and because it is a product of conditional relation, there is no self or feeler in it.

The nature of feeling, if seen in this light, will not be a matter of taste and attachment; and if we do not cling to it, it will meet a natural death. As it is the nature of all natural phenomena to arise and pass away, the circle is broken and we no longer move on the way of suffering. In other words, the road of suffering is closed. Now this breaking up of the circle will lead us to enlightenment. If this constant effort is maintained in our non-accumulating perception-action, we can realize the other end, the truth of all truths, the peace of all peace and the end of all ends.

Vipassana is the simplest as well as the most difficult form of meditation. It is the simplest because it tells us to do nothing except to be aware and watchful like a witness. At the same time, it is also the most difficult because our mind is conditioned to do something with expectation of a definite result. Constant effort is necessary in order to break this conditioning and this effort is the process of Vipassana. Human beings have tried various methods like Bhakti, Yoga and Karma to attain peace of mind, but instead of attaining peace, the world has suffered from poverty, jealousy, war and destruction. The second half of the present century has witnessed the revival of Vipassana meditation after 2500 years. The way of Vipassana is the only way left for humanity to discover itself. The method of total inaction as envisaged in Vipassana meditation will enable one to live with total energy; action born out of love and compassion will be the right action, arising out of right perception, which will lead to the end of human suffering.