Do you first feel the touch (pleasant, unpleasant or indifferent) or do you first identify it? Or is it all at the same time? Is the order of aggregates always the same for all the senses?

2 Answers 2


The same terms are often used at a "microscopic-view" level, at a "day-to-day-view" level and at a "macro-view". This leads to a lot of confusion.

According to the Abhidhamma, feeling / sensation / experience (vedanā) and perception / recognition (saññā) arise simultaneously in every Thought Moment (cittakhaṇa). The Abhidhamma looks at things at a "microscopic-view" level.

The Suttas (MN 18 is an example) describe how sensing leads to thinking. At this "day-to-day-view" level, vedanā (part of the sensing process that is the same for everybody) leads to saññā (start of the thinking process; a subjective process influenced by latent defilements leading to distortion of perception).

The aggregates are a way of describing what constitutes a being (what a being is or what a being does). This is the "macro-view" level that describes the nature of existence. The aggregates do not have a sequence (they are not describing a process), so vedanākkhanda (feeling aggregate) and saññākkhanda (perception aggregate) arise simultaneously.

  • Are you saying that 'sañña' is thinking?
    – Adamokkha
    Commented Sep 27, 2015 at 20:47
  • 2
    "Saññā" is translated as perception. MN 18 gives a progression: contact -> feeling -> perception -> thinking about. The initial part of this progression is impersonal (with contact as a condition, feeling arises). The subsequent part of this progression is personal (what one feels that one perceives, what one perceives that one thinks about (vitakka) ). In this Sutta, "saññā" is the stage at which distortions (saññāvipallāsa) are introduced. I described the initial impersonal part as "the sensing process" and I described the subsequent personal part as "the thinking process".
    – RobM
    Commented Sep 27, 2015 at 21:51
  • Is this correct....feeling is a characteristic of an object and we all get the same feeling from the same object. Commented Sep 28, 2015 at 8:21
  • Feeling is a characteristic of the mind, not of the object. At a primitive level, seeing, hearing, smelling and tasting all arise with neutral feeling while touch can be either pleasant or painful (this primitive feeling is impersonal). The mind's reaction to the object can be associated with pleasant, neutral or painful feeling (the reaction and its feeling is personal).
    – RobM
    Commented Sep 28, 2015 at 8:34
  • 1
    Sensing process depends on a working eye and an external object (these are impersonal; same for you and me). Thinking process is influenced by defilements, paramis, habits, accumulations, etc. (these are personal; different for you and for me). Both sensing process and thinking process are natural processes, without a self. There is seeing without a seer, thinking without a thinker.
    – RobM
    Commented Sep 29, 2015 at 21:30

'Feeling' and 'discrimination' are not only aggregates, they are first and foremost mental factors. As such, they accompany main minds with which they share similarities.

According to Tibetan Lo Rig (Mind and mental factors), the five omnipresent mental factors (intention, attention, contact, feeling, discrimination) are so called because there is not one main mind (such as an instance of an eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness... mental consciousness) that is not associated with the five.

For instance... an eye-consciousness apprehending blue is necessarily accompanied with the five omnipresent mental factors. The main mind and the five share five similarities and are one entity:

1. Time (they arise, abide, cease simultaneously),
2. object of observation,
3. Subjective aspect
4. Support
5. Substance

Yeshe Gyeltsen's Necklace for Those of Clear Awareness writes:

QUALM: Are a mind and its mental factors one entity or different entities?
RESPONSE: The Treasury of Knowledge (stanza 2.23) says: A mind and its mental factors are definitely simultaneous.

If you want more on this topic such as exposed by Tibetan Geluk scholars, I suggest The Mind and Its Functions, by Geshe Rabten.

  • Is this "feeling" that you call mental factor the same as i am thinking...sensation/feeling/vedana? Commented Sep 28, 2015 at 7:03
  • Yes, it is the same, vedana. It is "one of the seven omnipresent mental factors in the Theravāda Abhidharma", "one of the five omnipresent mental factors in the Mahāyāna Abhidharma", "one of the five skandas in both Theravāda and Mahāyāna traditions". This is why I said "they are not only aggregates, they are mental factors". Because if you understand the relationship a mental factors has with the main mind it is in the retinue of, you will have an answer to your initial question. Commented Sep 28, 2015 at 7:42

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