Do we feel because we perceive? Or do we perceive because we feel?

As per mahā-vedallasutta(MN43)

Yaṁ vedeti taṁ sañjānāti, yaṁ sañjānāti taṁ vijānāti.
so vedanā -> sañjānāti -> vijānāti

But shouldn't this order be in reverse?

Because first, we cognise (vijānāti), then recognise (sañjānāti) and then we feel, isn't it so? Goenka also confirms this sequence. vijānāti->sañjānāti->vedeti.

Or is there a different between viññanā and vijānāti as well saññā and sañjānāti?

Nibbedhikasutta(AN 6.63) says

Phassa is nidānasambhavo for vedanā/saññā/sankhārā.

as if vedanā, saññā and sankhārā co-arise. but are they independent of each other?

Note: (Adding comments of @blue_ego)

consider this question as non sequential. When I say first it means second is dependent on first.

Take any meditation practice. we just practice to change perception, and feeling changes accordingly. but vice versa is not true.

  • i prefer to think of it as encapsulated rather than sequential..afterall, whenever there is perception there is coginitino, whenever there is feeling, it is the perception of feeling
    – blue_ego
    Commented Apr 22 at 21:09
  • I agree. consider this question as non-sequenctial. when I say First it means second is dependent on it.
    – enRaiser
    Commented Apr 23 at 4:15
  • When you say feeling and perception are conjoined as MN 43. does that also means there is no dependency among themself. see general meditation practice is to change perception and by changing perception you change feeling. but viceversa is not possible.
    – enRaiser
    Commented Apr 23 at 4:17
  • 1
    I don't think you can change your perception. What actually happens is that you change your view about something and filter out perceptions that don't match this view. While only allowing in perceptions that agrees with the view as mentioned in here.
    – Desmon
    Commented Apr 23 at 5:31

2 Answers 2


This is strange, the sutra, MN43 that you quoted had already mentioned that feeling, perception and consciousness are tied together.

“Feeling, perception, & consciousness are conjoined, friend, not disjoined. It is not possible, having separated them one from another, to delineate the difference among them. For what one feels, that one perceives. What one perceives, that one cognizes. Therefore these qualities are conjoined, not disjoined, and it is not possible, having separated them one from another, to delineate the difference among them.”

My Pali is no good but my experience thus far indicate this is the case. Whatever we are conscious about, we feel (pleasant/unpleasant/neutral) and perceive (good/bad/neutral). And these good/pleasant or bad/unpleasant experiences pull or push us. While neutral experiences cause boredom, restlessness or bewilderment.

This is at the mental level. Feeling and perception happens very quickly and our awareness only registers them usually after some lag. But as mentioned, even at this level, our experiences are already tainted (with good/pleasant, bad/unpleasant or neutral impressions). The consciousness that arises together with feeling and perception is also a low level one. It is unfortunate that there is only one word in Pali and English for consciousness because there are obviously different types of consciousness. Whereas, the consciousness that we are most familiar with while awake, relies on aggregating various sensory inputs, processing, enhancing and transforming those inputs before registering them in our awareness. Once, registered within the higher awareness, this is also the level where our memory faculty is accessible and further comparison, evaluation, discernment and differentiation may or may not occur. It is at this level that our views come into play. Admitting perceptions/feelings that are agreeable while filtering out those that aren’t. Consequently, this process further distorts the reality that is cognised.

We may think that at least at the physical level our perceptions and senses behave in the same way. All of us see the same things, hear the same sounds, smell the same odours and so on. Was that a blue/black or white/gold dress? But alas even here, our physical senses betrayed us.

When one realised how distorted reality is, there is a sense of uncertainty, dismay and despair. Frankly, I don't care which comes first, just let me know what's real and what's not.


But shouldn't this order be in reverse.....a different between viññanā and vijānāti as well saññā and sañjānāti?

I believe higher mental functions like discrimination (vijānāti) and recognition (sañjānāti) requires access to our memories which is still not available at the level where mere consciousness (viññanā) and perception (saññā) occurs. Discrimination and recognition needs information that cuts across space and time. Example, comparing this apple in my hand to the one I had last week, it is definitely looks redder, bigger and better (discrimination). Hey, I recall buying this type of apple before; it is brand XXX from France! (recognition). So, we should think of mere consciousness, perception and feeling as building blocks that form the foundations for higher level thinking, recognition and emotions.

as if vedanā, saññā and sankhārā co-arise. but are they independent of each other?

The quote of AN 6.63 confused me as it pertains to the five aggregates. I believe you mean vedanā (feeling), saññā (perception) and viññāna (consciousness albeit eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness and so on) co-arise. In any case, they are not independent as mentioned in MN43.

  • So do you mean perception is as primodial as feeling. like good/bad. the elaborate labeling like Red-nice-apple is not a perception. its something more grocer then perception. ?
    – enRaiser
    Commented Apr 23 at 8:05
  • Yes, I see perception as primordial just like feeling. It is bad that we use feeling/emotions interchangeably and perception/recognition interchangeably in English. By the time we recognize a nice, red and juicy apple, many perceptions and feelings would have been formed to ignite our recognition and emotions.
    – Desmon
    Commented Apr 23 at 8:49

Feeling appears obviously more primitive than perceiving.

For example, primitive organisms, such as worms, will wriggle when touched, which would demonstrate a predominance of feeling over perceiving. For example, it is unlikely the perceptions of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness & not-self will occur to a worm.

When the physical body needs food, obviously, it is painful feeling arising first.

Thus the suttas say:

"And why do you call it 'form'? Because it is afflicted,thus it is called 'form.' Afflicted with what? With cold & heat & hunger & thirst, with the touch of flies, mosquitoes, wind, sun, & reptiles. Because it is afflicted, it is called form.

"And why do you call it 'feeling'? Because it feels, thus it is called 'feeling.' What does it feel? It feels pleasure, it feels pain, it feels neither-pleasure-nor-pain. Because it feels, it is called feeling.

SN 22.79

Obviously the more primitive & primal arising of mentality from the physical body is feeling rather than perception.

  • but then we perceive differently and feeling changes. e.g I might see a woman and feel happy, perception says its sister feeling changes. you can say there are phases of feeling/perception pairs. but advance feeling which are conjoined with recognition of sister. even that is primitive to perception of sister?
    – enRaiser
    Commented Apr 25 at 12:12
  • yes, sure, feelings can arise from perceptions. But my answer said on a more "primitive" level, it appears feeling arises first. But many people interestedi in Buddhism are so stuck in their thoughts in their heads they think everything is mind made. We can observe the active questions currently at the top of forum are largely stuck in mind-only or solipsist ideology Commented Apr 25 at 12:15

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .