Contemplation of feelings

In addition to the mindfulness of the body, specifically mindfulness of breathing and contemplation of the body, according to the Satipatthana sutta, there is a second way of practicing mindfulness called “contemplation of feelings” (vedananupassana) with regard to emotions, whether happy, unhappy or neutral. When one has a pleasant feeling, one knows he is experiencing a pleasant feeling, when one has a painful feeling, one knows he is experiencing a painful feeling, when one has a neutral feeling, one knows he is experiencing a neutral feeling. The Satipatthana Sutta (Nyanaponika, 1962) explains: Thus he dwells practicing feeling-contemplation on feelings internally, or externally, or both internally and externally. He dwells contemplating origination-factors in feelings, or he dwells contemplating dissolution-factors in feelings, or he dwells contemplating both origination and dissolution factors in feelings.

The question arises: how does one identify those feelings and how should they act towards the feelings,according to the above citation. For instance, when a student experiences an unhappy, sorrowful sensation, his mind is cloudy and not clear; the student may be depressed. In some cases, he does not even see clearly why he has these unhappy feelings. In order to overcome this state of mind, he should try to see clearly why there are these sensations or feelings of unhappiness or worry or sorrow. He should examine how these feelings or sensations arise, their cause, and how they disappear. But one may ask: how is this to be done? According to Rahula (1996), he should try to examine these sensations or feelings as if he is observing them from the outside, without any subjective reaction, as a scientist observes some objects. In this mode he should not look at them as ‘my feelings’ or ‘my sensations’ subjectively, but only look at them each as ‘a feeling’ or ‘a sensation’ objectively. For example, when he has feelings of anger towards someone, he should not think that it is “my anger” towards that person, but notices that it is an angry feeling. When he sees its nature and how the particular sensation or feeling arises and disappears, his mind grows dispassionate towards that sensation and thus the student is able to cope with the troubling emotion.