Phase Two: Establishing the Practice in Your Experience
Week 4: Feeling – the Key
experience and understand the significance of feeling (vedanā) and mind (citta)
The emphasis on deepening personal experience continues. The study is of the sutta sections 10 and 11, and Living with Awareness Chapters 8 and 9, addressing in particular the crucial place of feeling in conditioning our mental states.
Read Living with Awareness Chapter 8: ‘Feeling’ and compare Anālayo, Chapter VII: ‘Feelings’.
Clarify for yourself precisely what the sutta means by ‘feeling’, using Sangharakshita’s definition
on and around p.75.
As part of your practice this week notice, each time you remember, exactly what ‘feelings’ are arising in your experience NOW. Are they pleasant, unpleasant, or indefinable (i.e. neutral)?
Read Living with Awareness Chapter 9: ‘Understanding’ and compare Anālayo chapter VIII: ‘Mind’.
Resolve that in every moment that you remember the practice, you will check which particular mood is colouring your experience. One easy way to start may be to consider whether your mind is ‘contracted’ or ‘distracted.’ See if you can tell when your mood is influenced by craving, hatred or delusion.
Read sections 10 and 11 of the sutta, on Feelings and Mind.
Study selected material from the sutta and the two commentaries.
Report in individually about your prevailing moods in the past fortnight, as well as feelings and mental states that have characterised your life overall. If this section of the course is being done on a retreat, one or two students might like to offer a short life story with these patterns in mind.
Do you see how the heart is a key into all Dharma practice? How does Sangharakshita’s statement (towards the end of p.74) strike you – that, “Being able to identify feelings...is what makes it possible for us to follow the Buddhist path.”
Understand the many ways you can lose touch with feelings. Consider how you could change your life so as to become more aware of them, and what effects increased awareness might have.
Discuss the relationship between feelings, moods, and thoughts.
Meditate – Mindfulness of breathing focusing on feeling both in the body, and as in the Ānāpānasati Sutta feeling section. Walking meditation may also be practised with the same emphasis.
Suggested focus: Amitābha, the Buddha whose quarter of the Mandala houses great Bodhisattvas of compassion such as Avalokiteśvara.