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Sensitivity of mind versus the feeling skhanda..

I don't know how many will be able to engage with my topic, but the background on my question is related to my Lama's presentation of the awareness qualities of mind in the mahamudra teachings. Her teacher is Khenpo Gyamptso Tsultrim Rinpoche which means scholar, ocean of ethics, teacher. He is felt by some to be an incarnation of Milarepa and is in that lineage of students and teachers. He approved my Lama's understanding of mahamudra to become a teacher expressing the concepts in a way she has found appropriate for a western audience.

The qualities of mind are inherent to awareness. Whenever you have awareness you automatically have openness, clarity, and sensitivity. I've asked my Lama already in an e-mail, but I was curious what others would say. I'm not sure if we can talk about this because not everyone is familiar with mahamudra. @taiyaki or @person maybe (hey where did those guys go?)

So we have these qualities that are undistorted in a Buddha but they are pure manifestations of bodhicitta in an enlightened mind. Sensitivity is the responsiveness, feeling, and interactive quality. Openness is the spaciousness and is the reason our mind flits about so much (I think). Clarity is the cutting quality. Always when clarity cuts through a problem sensitivity and openness are there too. We might feel good when we see something cut through with our version of youthful Manjushri's sword of wisdom of emptiness.

So with all that pre-amble what is the difference between that sensitivity and the feeling skhanda?


  • Straight_ManStraight_Man Gentle Man Veteran
    edited October 2013
    Well, the skhandra word seems to mean what we consider to be bad feelings or negative feelings. The sensitivity aspect can refer to bad or good feelings and in the sense you are talking about it, it emphasizes good feelings. That is my present understanding, willing to learn.

  • First the primordial mind must be considered in essence pure and non-dual in nature. Then sensitivity, like openness and clarity, can be considered an aspect of this notion of a pure mind. At the impure or conditioned state this sensitivity corresponds to every type of thought, emotion, feeling etc... arising in the mind, but at pure or unconditioned state all the wisdom or enlightened qualities used to help beings.
  • misecmisc1misecmisc1 I am a Hindu India Veteran
    my thinking on the above thing says: sensitivity is the same as awareness, in the sense, what we are sensitive to is what we are aware of - so just different words conveying the same meaning. now openness and clarity are felt or known in that sensitivity. so the sensitiveness or the awareness is what knows or make knowing possible of openness and clarity - but both dependent on each other - without sensitivity, no knowing of openness - without the knowing of clarity or delusion in openness, what will the awareness be aware of ? - something like the relationship of mind and its objects.

    coming to feeling skandha or vedana, now this is felt when there is awareness and when there is either clarity or delusion. so awareness and then due to it, clarity or confusion in the openness, leads to the feeling of something good or bad or neither, which is vedana khandha.

    disclaimer: i think you already know, but just to clarify - i am not a student of Mahamudra, or Therevada - i am a Hindu, and whatever i have said above is based on what I have theoretically understood from the webpages of internet of the teachings of Buddha and various other Buddhist tradition monks. so please feel free to ignore, what i have said above, if it does not make any sense to you.

    metta to you and all sentient beings.
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited October 2013
    Here is what my Lama said:

    Hi Lama Shenpen. I have been thinking about how in my life and meditation I am focused on a good feeling. Along with that I have read that letting go of the skhandas leads to dispassion and a different kind of positive feeling than the one we pursue when averse to our difficult meditation sessions or events in our life.

    What is the difference between sensitivity and the feeling skhanda like in the heart sutra?
    Lama Shenpen
    It does indeed seem there has to be some kind of feeling in order to have an awareness. So what is the difference between sensitivity and the feeling skhanda?

    It is important to notice how much we focus on feeling and always want good feelings. We want the bad feelings to stop and the good ones to go on for as long as possible. This means we are constantly fidgeting about trying to feel good and avoid feeling bad. As long as we can do that we don’t think too much about the bad feelings. It is when we are trapped in difficult situations where we cannot avoid the bad feelings that we really notice suffering and really have to deal with it. Deciding to sit in meditation for a long time is helpful in the sense that we are more likely to notice bad feelings when they arise because we cannot always immediately distract ourselves……….however, often, even in meditation that is exactly what we try to do anyway………

    You may be wondering why I am calling feelings good and bad. When we talk about the feelings in the skandhas we are talking about the feelings of liking and disliking. The sensation or perception or thought that gave rise to liking or disliking is not in itself good or bad. But when we dislike it we call it a bad feeling and try to escape it or call it good and try to prolong it. A lot of the time we feel more or less neutral to our experiences because we are not paying much attention to them. As soon as we do we always have a slight bias towards or against them.

    In order to arrive at dispassion we have to let go of the heavy-handed bias towards either liking or disliking. However this does not mean that we let go of feeling altogether. We might try to do that but all we could succeed in doing would be to dislike feelings and use some mechanism to try to dull them out. If one liked that state one would still be attached to feeling. There is no way out of it really.

    Letting go of the feeling skandha is a subtle process and the end result would be that we could still move away from the stimulus that produced the painful or unpleasant feeling if that were an option. However, if we had no option we could experience the stimulus with dispassion which is in fact not suffering. Not suffering means that awareness is blissful in itself regardless of the stimulus. This is dispassion. As you say, it is a very different kind of feeling. You are right there.

    Even if we don’t manage to let go of all clinging like this, to let go just a little already feels more pleasant. When we do not judge too heavily when we experience something as unpleasant, we can lighten up and not mind things, then in general we can go through life with a more or less cheerful attitude. For most of us, for most of the time this works quite well and certainly improves the quality of our life even if it doesn’t really liberate us from samsara.

    How does this relate to Sensitivity? Sensitivity, responsiveness, a sense of goodness – that is actually the true nature of our being. It is always with us and is what we are referring to when we say ‘awareness is blissful in itself’. It is non-conditioned and so does not change. It is present in all experiences whether we like them or not. So on the one side we have to let go of clinging to or judging our feelings as somehow inherently good or bad and on the other side we need to really experience our feelings as fully and accurately as we can in all their depth and variety. We can learn to appreciate all feelings and sensations and by not getting heavy handed in judging them and trying to push them around they open up and we experience them as sensitivity which can respond to ourselves and others with love and compassion…………and that spontaneous activity is non-conditioned bliss.

    Does that make sense?

    Much love
  • What it comes down to is deluded sentient vision and pure buddha vision.

    As a sentient being all feeling perception is bounded in ignorance (proliferation of this and that duality). As a Buddha feeling perception is wisdom clarity-expanse.

    Hence what you describe in OP is the three bodies of the Buddha, which is the ceaseless activity of becoming, without essence.

    Feeling is related with the sense of pleasantness, unpleasantness, and neutral. It is generally impersonal, but with other conditioning factors becomes clinging, grasping and the whole mass of suffering. When it is unraveled through the path it becomes a wisdom. An intelligence of the heart. There are many wisdoms and I don't really have time to go into them. But I'll give you an example. You can feel others pain so intimately because there is no distinction between the other and you. And at the same time you are not conditioned by any pain for you see its absence and presence at the same time. It is clarity emptiness, yet there are the sentient beings who in their delusion cannot see that their pain is clarity grasping at clarity. Since they do not see the emptiness they construct solidity out of assumed structures of perception. For a Buddha they see the sentient being as a display of wisdom. So a Buddha cannot see a sentient being in the mode of dharmakaya. Yet a Buddha also has the ability to discern using the mind. the Buddha knows how to act accordingly to circumstances, etc.

    So while that makes sense for a Buddha for most sentient beings it doesn't. The very reality sentient beings grasp to is illusory from the start yet they believe otherwise. Their believe is so strong that their perception binds them continually in a pattern of clinging, release, clinging, release, etc. And its so bound that most sentient beings cannot even imagine a way out or even a problem to begin with.

    So blah. blah. blah. More thought fluff for you. For a Buddha feelings are shunyata. Yet they function as wisdoms. For a sentient being feelings are seen as inherent, hence sentient beings cling to what is good and negate what is bad.
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