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In dependent origination after sense-contact occured, craving is the next condition, which in turn forms attachment at its basis and so on...

Suppose I am eating something or taking a massage to get rid of pains, is this pleasant vedana immediately connected with craving?

Similarly with unpleasant feelings; Suppose I have a bike accident and I fall down the ground and my immediate reaction is: "Arghhh", and no other cursing; Is this considered aversion to unpleasant feelings?

Furthermore, if I go to toilett to take a pee is this good feeling connected with craving?

It seems to be quite difficult to discern whether one feels pleasant feelings (vedana) without craving, pleasant feelings with craving & the same with unpleasant feelings & aversion.

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    After sense contact comes vedanā, after vedanā comes craving... Where did you read that after contact comes craving? – yuttadhammo Jan 4 '19 at 23:24
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Short Answer:

When you think "it would be nice to have more(/less) future contact with object X" - then you have craving; when you think "this feeling is (un)pleasant and it came from object X" - then you are creating/sustaining potential for future craving; and when you think "this feeling came from the mind, it is empty, dependently originated, transient, ephemeral, unreliable, like a phantom - therefore craving to have more(less) of it would lead to suffering, and instead I keep training the mind of suchness." - then you don't have craving nor do you create/sustain potential for future craving.

Long Answer:

It is a popular misunderstanding of Dependent Origination -- to assume that it describes a process as it unfolds moment-by-moment. No, it does not. Instead, according to Mahayana (esp. Karma-Kagyu lineage), it describes a logical sequence of stages of development of individual mind.

The "contact" described in D.O. is not the momentary contact of sense organ with an external stimulus. It is a stage of development of individual mind when "contact with an object" is delineated, designated, and recognized.

Then, Vedana described in D.O. is a stage when "feeling that comes from contact with an object" is delineated, designated, and recognized.

Once this stage is reached, "Craving for feeling that comes from contact with an object" has a basis to develop on.

A more detailed description of this phase (vedana => tanha) is given e.g. in MN 18 as vedana => sañña => vitakka => papanca.

In other words, as one learns to separate the feeling that comes from contact with an object from the experience of contact itself, one learns to formulate ideas like: "it would be nice to have another contact like that, to bring that feeling again" or "it would be nice to avoid a contact like that, to not bring that feeling again". Eventually, such an idea gets simplified to something like: "It's nice and I want it" or "It's bad and I don't want it".

Then, holding such idea, mulling over it, and pursuing it in practice - making it one's goal and one's mode of operation - is what's known as upadana or grasping.

Suppose I am eating something or taking a massage to get rid of pains, is this pleasant vedana immediately connected with craving?

As I said, D.O. describes the development of mind in general, not one particular instance. So, most of the time, experience and craving do not follow one another immediately. Instead, most of the time craving occurs on the basis of remembering some past experience.

But generally speaking, when you're eating something or taking massage, and at that moment you experience a pleasant feeling, if you attribute that feeling to the external object, thinking "this food gives me the feeling" or "this massage gives me the feeling" - then, on the basis of this attribution, your thinking about that experience in those terms will fuel and sustain the potential of the future craving towards that object (food or massage).

If on the other hand, you think "this pleasant feeling is born in the mind, is a product of the mind" and you think "this comfort is mind-made, empty, dependently-originated" or "this discomfort is mind-made, empty, dependently-originated" - then on the basis of thinking in these terms you will not fuel and not sustain potential future craving towards the object and will instead develop the mind of sufficiency in suchness.

It seems to be quite difficult to discern whether one feels pleasant feelings (vedana) without craving, pleasant feelings with craving & the same with unpleasant feelings & aversion.

In my Mahayana understanding, it boils down to your frame of reference, your attribution of experience to an entity. if you attribute pleasant/unpleasant experiences to what you think are "external" objects, then you will develop and sustain future craving to them - and if instead you recognize that all pleasant/unpleasant experiences are mind-made, empty, like phantoms - and learn to control your mind's frame-of-reference, your perspective, your interpretation - then you are not developing craving and are developing the mind of bodhi instead.

As for detecting the presence of craving in the here-and-now, if your mind is leaking to imaginary past or future and grasping onto an imaginary experience (whether positive or negative) - then that's craving/aversion right there. And if your mind is not leaking anywhere but is seeing things as they are, then that's a moment of suchness.

Here, I explained craving (leaking), the root of craving (attribution of experience to external objects), and path to cutting the root of craving (learning to reframe the experience in such a way as to no longer reify it as something real coming from the external objects and to instead think of it in terms of D.O. and 4NT). I explained it according to my understanding and in my own words. Hope it helps.

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  1. Suppose I am eating something or taking a massage to get rid of pains, is this pleasant vedana immediately connected with craving?

Yes.

  1. Similarly with unpleasant feelings; Suppose I have a bike accident and I fall down the ground and my immediate reaction is: "Arghhh", and no other cursing; Is this considered aversion to unpleasant feelings?

Yes.

  1. Furthermore, if I go to toilett to take a pee is this good feeling connected with craving?

Yezzz :)))


Only 2. needs elaboration: Unpleasant feeling is also connected to craving. Why? Because unpleasant feeling established depends on pleasant feeling; pleasant feeling established depends on unpleasant feeling; neither pleasant nor unpleasant feeling established depends on pleasant and unpleasant feeling. Like, long is established on short, cold on hot. This is called, roughly, dependent origination (DO).

What is DO? DO is an answer to the "1st cause", which frequently recurring in the Aristotelian philosophical system. Sometimes 1st cause is God, or in physics, the prime matter, the smallest, the indivisible, atom... etc. DO said there is no 1st cause. Seeking for 1st cause is a question generated by the intellect-mind (logic and reason), which itself is defective. A defective question cannot procure a faultless answer. But to let general humans (unenlightened) understand, within reason and logic, DO is taught. Eventually DO is also empty, when you advance to study the ultimate and complete teaching taught by the Buddha himself - Mahayana (excl. Tibetan).


It seems to be quite difficult to discern whether one feels pleasant feelings (vedana) without craving, pleasant feelings with craving & the same with unpleasant feelings & aversion.

Your confusion is due to incorrect understanding, perhaps the canonical text you relied on is incomplete1. Whenever there is Vedana, there is craving, plus the rest of all activities in the 12 Nidanas. It is like a bracelet with 12 beads, when one moves, all move. When you pick up a bead, the whole bracelet is lifted. In the same way when a bead is removed, the bracelet is broken. By destroying any one factor among the 12, you can destroy the 12 Nidanas and become a Pratyekabuddha.

But, it cannot happen when the teaching of a Samyaksambuddha is available, like now :). And, as a side note, being a Pratyekabuddha you will never have a name. Like, we have the name of current Samyaksambuddha: Shakyamuni. (My unique discovery, still pondering...)


Therefore, to answer your ultimate concern, which you didn't put to words, you cannot get rid of craving by trying to conceive pleasant feeling as unpleasant (so that you develop aversion to it), or unpleasant feeling as neither pleasant nor unpleasant. Neither is it legitimately Buddhist like the Goenka method to alienate yourself from your feeling, telling yourself "it is not me, mine, myself" - it will cause mental illness, split of personality, in the worse. The Buddha never taught such horrible thing, please study the Sutra/Sutta to verify.

If you want to cut off craving, you should work to stop Vedana.

But, what is Vedana? Vedana has got horrible translations: feeling/ sensation. It is not. The Chinese Tripitaka translates Vedana as 受, this single character has multiple meanings. "Feeling" is just the result of the activities of Vedana. Vedana 受 also means accepting, receiving, taking. That is, before the feeling generates, you allow it to happen. How do you allow it to happen? You accept the inputs (contact), you receive the stimulation (6 mediums), you take in the stirs (dusts, perceived external objects, name-form).

Addition: The current question What does 'Not percipient of form internally' in Salayatana Sutta mean? confirms the analogy in this post. Salayatana Sutta arrays the interactions.

Therefore, if you want to cut the Vedana, you have to not accept it even it is making contact, you have to not receive it even it is stimulating you, you have to not take in it, remain undisturbed. When an Arhat is attained, often it declares: 諸法不受, meaning, he doesn't take in any phenomena. Therefore, even a Marilyn Monroe undresses in front of an Arhat, he won't find it exciting; even he takes a handful of Fentanyl, he won't experience euphoria.

My advice for proper cultivation is, discerning pleasant or unpleasant feeling is useless, rather, work on cutting off the Vedana.


Footnote

Early Buddhism or Early Buddhist Texts (EBTs) is a hoax invented around the Colonization of Asia 100-200 years ago. Scholars advocating "Early Buddhism" in the early days - when Western colonizers after colonized the Asian countries they also needed a way to "colonize" their cultures, were Theosophists. Theosophical Society was the cultural warship sent overseas, which succeeded in "colonizing" Sri Lanka, and later Thailand, also Japan and, of course Tibet was more than willing to cooperate. This is a disease Buddhism has caught for more than a century, but not healed, only getting worse.

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Feelings simply are. The point is how you act on them (or refrain from acting for that matter), and that in turn will tell you if your actions are wholesome or not. Any emotion can be both either wholesome or unwholesome, meaning that it's not really about the emotion at all.

For example: Sukha and piti during meditation can be described as a pleasurable experience. It would be wholesome to experience them as a step in your mediation practice, but it probably wouldn't be wholesome if meditation only came down to have those feelings (clinging to creating pleasure).

Another example: Being severely ill can be describes as a painful experience. It would be wholesome to avoid things that seriously hurt us, but it wouldn't be wholesome to strive for a completely healthy life in every situation (striving for the idea of health).

In order to be sure whether you're clinging/craving (unwholesome actions) one needs to develop mindfulness and concentration in order to reflect on the situation, and as a consequence act in a more wholesome manner according to the noble eightfold path.

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Yes puthujjanas struggle with the sensitivity to lust, just like sensitivity to sankharas, and they always try to salvage the vedanas of the usual 5 senses, like the puthujjanas who invented mahayana who keep claiming that there can be contact without craving, even for sensuality. Then some puthujjanas try to express the dependent origination through time, which results in ''models'' with 1 life, 3 lives and a few others, but that's not the point of the DO. Then they ask what is reborn, is there a state between death and birth. But that's still not the point. For the DO, there is a famous sutta where the buddha question the Arhat Sariputta https://www.sariputta.com/sutta-pitaka/498-kalara-sutta/english

When it comes to the 5 senses, lust follows from contact and there is always lust as long as you are not in the fourth jhana. Lust is suspended in 4th jhana. most Puthujjanas struggle to get the citta into the samadhi of the 4th jhana, because all they know is sensuality and lack of citta in samadhi, which makes it easy for them to claim that they do not have lust. They claim that they do not have lust for some object they cognize, like some rock or twig in their garden, but they forget to claim that they still lust over other things that they cognize. This obsession with caring about individual sensual objects and the individual tastes, likes and dislikes, is what make them claim that ''each person'' has a path to reach nibanna. They think that personal tastes matter, because they completely fail to see the big picture, that there is nothing to salvage when it comes to kama and that the only good relationship with kama to have is the one of upekkha. Kama is 100% dukkha. Vedana is 100% dukkha. There is not a tiny bit of rupa, of vendana, of jati, of karma, of anything conditioned that can be rescued form dukkha and converted into something non-dukkha.

Once you get your citta into the samadhi of the 4th jhana, you reach for the first time upekkha. This is not upekkha like in sensuality where you do not care about one particular object (again like a rock in your garden or particular tree in some forest), while still having plenty of lust for other objects (like plenty of other trees in the forest), but upekkha towards all the forest, all that is rupa, vedana and so on.

In terms of cessation the jhanas are expressed thus Rahogataka Suttaṃ - Alone

"Then, bhikkhu, I have also taught the successive cessation of formations.

For one who has attained the first jhāna sa eech has ceased.

For one who has attained the second jhāna hought and examination have ceased.

For one who has attained the third jhāna rapture has ceased.

For one who has attained the fourth jhāna in-breathing and out-breathing have ceased.

For one who has attained the base of the infinity of space, the perception of form has ceased.

For one who has attained the base of the infinity of consciousness, the perception pertaining to the base of the infinity of space has ceased.

For one who has attained the base of nothingness, the perception pertaining to the base of the infinity of consciousness has ceased.

For one who has attained the base of neither-perception-nor-nonperception, the perception pertaining to the base of nothingness has ceased.

For one who has attained the cessation of perception and feeling, perception and feeling have ceased.

For a bhikkhu whose taints are destroyed, lust has ceased, hatred has ceased, delusion has ceased.

When the citta is in the samadhi of the 4th jhana, what remains is the famous ''ignorance'', because the puthujjanas who do not have right view, sati, right resolve, and yet who manage to go into this jhana full of upekkha claim easily that this jhana is the end of the path. This is what happened to the buddha with the famous legend that when he was a child he managed to get his citta into the samadhi of the first jhana. Fortunately, he was not stupid enough to claim he was awaken when his citta got out of this samadhi, but he did nothing with his first jhana.

Only decades later, once he wanted to end dukkha, and once he left all the wrong ways invented by the puthujjanas to get the citta into wrong samadhi (and yet that they claim is nibbana), the thoughts occurred to him that the good manasikharas are the ones of metta and nekkhama. [at this point people today speculate whether he was a sotapanna, but the only explicit state mentioned is bodhisatta and what people call today ''buddhahood'' but sometimes he used a phrasing like ''when I was still not fully enlightened'' so perhaps at this point, he was a sotapanna, or just a lucky puthujjana who managed to see what happened when thoughts of nekkhama are cultured to the end, or perhaps what he called bodhisatta in some places include sotapanna...]

Then he says that even with what later on he will call right intention, meaning culturing thoughts of nekkhama and metta, he still failed to get the citta into right samadhi. After this, he continued the right use of mano which is judging your skills at knowing good states from bad states and he continued to use mano rightly, meaning to see the danger of sensuality. after that he got his citta into samadhi, then his citta knew about karma-rebirth, then how to end dukkha.

Some puthujjanas ask how to ''stop desiring with desire'' and how to make nibanna the object of meditation or contemplation, and ''is it possible to crave nibanna''.

The answer is that it is not possible for puthujjanas to crave nibanna, because puthujjanas do not know what nibanna is and is not (you have to find out, by yourself, the meaning of the various statements of the buddha, because nibanna cannot be experienced vicariously). Even for non-puthujjanas, it is not possible to crave nibanna. Non puthujjanas go mostly by being repulsed by anything conditioned, and more precisely by what is disgusting, so typically kama and they strive for peace. Puthujjanas always use mano to turn mano into papanca and the unhealthy way for puthujjanas to ''desire nibanna'' always is in fact to cling to what they fantasize as nibanna. It is part of the fantasy of puthujjanas that ''intellectual knowledge'' is indeed knowledge.

The desire to reach nibanna is typically generated by puthujjanas who live around non-puthujjanas, because puthujjanas love to mime, envy, idolize people who are allegedly better than them, and non-puthujjanas brainwash the puthujjanas with healthy statement and activities. But of course, when there is no arhat, it gets difficult for puthujjanas to desire nibanna.

What you still can do is to focus on sensual object that you do not care about and then use the mano properly by wondering if it would be good if you had the same relationship of ''not caring'' with the objects that you love, then with the objects that you hate. Use the mano to see the danger of having lust-hate over sensual objects. Use the mano to see how good you are at not lusting over sensual objects [typically food]. This is what ''guarding the senses'' is all about, having ''sati sampajanna'', ''being mindful''. When you are ''mindful'', you get to be sensitive to future lust and aversion, and with the memory of the statements of the buddha, you strive to keep this sati sampajanna (puthujjanas love to claim that having love and hate is good and not having them is bad). This is how close puthujjanas can go to desiring and mediating on nibanna.

  • "Non puthujjanas go mostly by being repulsed by anything conditioned, and more precisely by what is disgusting, so typically kama and they strive for peace." So this, in turn, is then viyapada, isn't it? Apart from that, I didn't quite understood the last paragraph of yours. May you clarify once again concerning love-hate towards sensual objects and sati-sampajañña? Thanks. – Val Jan 4 '19 at 10:19
  • "When it comes to the 5 senses, lust follows from contact and there is always lust as long as you are not in the fourth jhana. Lust is suspended in 4th jhana." Response: I don't believe that there is always lust on sense-contact. There might be a lot of remainders be there, sure, but not, as you said, ALWAYS. Also you said that "Lust is suspended in 4th Jhana", but according to the Suttas this is definitely wrong. Jhana, no matter which level we're referring, always has the preconditioning of abandonning all five hindrances. Therefore, even in the 1st Jhana lust is suspended (temporarily). – Val Jan 4 '19 at 10:24

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