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Is being mindful of feelings in-and-of-themselves according to the triad of pleasant, unpleasant, neutral the Middle Way? Is is also auto-suggestion? Is it normalization of a distribution? Does it attempt to root out the extremes by placing us in the context of three categories? I really like the simplicity of Buddha’s model but what then about agony and ecstasy or rapture? I am happpy to do away with them, but I’m not sure how beyond lifestyle overhaul

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  • it can really help, ime
    – fake
    Commented May 30 at 15:05

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The path or purpose of The Middle Way is to give up craving & other types of associated defiled mental states that arise based on pleasant, unpleasant & neither feelings. MN 3 says:

Venerables, there is greed, which is harmful, and hatred, which is harmful. For the abandoning of greed and hatred there is the Middle Path, which produces vision and understanding, and leads to peace, knowledge, awakening, and Nibbāna. Venerables, what is the Middle Path which produces vision and understanding, and leads to peace, knowledge, awakening, and Nibbāna? It is this Noble Eightfold Path – that is, Right View, Right Attitude, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration. Venerables, this is the Middle Path, which produces vision and understanding, and leads to peace, knowledge, awakening, and Nibbāna.

“Venerables, there is anger, which is harmful, and resentment, which is harmful… denigration… malice… envy… stinginess… fraudulence… deceitfulness… stubbornness… hostility… conceit… arrogance… pride… and negligence, which is harmful. For the abandoning of anger... and.... negligence there is the Middle Path… which produces vision and understanding, and leads to peace, knowledge, awakening, and Nibbāna.”

MN 3

The reason why defiled mental states are given up in The Middle Way and not feelings is simply because feelings cannot be given up. MN 43 says consciousness, feeling & perception are conjoined (cannot arise without each other) thus Iti 44 also says Arahants (Fully Enlightened) continue to experience pleasant, painful, agreeable & disagreeable feelings.

It follows, having mindfulness at feelings is The Middle-Way, as shown in the following quotes:

And what is that middle way of practice? It is simply this noble eightfold path, that is: right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right immersion. This is that middle way of practice, which gives vision and knowledge, and leads to peace, direct knowledge, awakening, and extinguishment.

MN 56.11

All dhamma practices converge on feelings.

AN 10.58

Now it is for one who feels that I proclaim: ‘This is suffering,’ and ‘This is the origin of suffering,’ and ‘This is the cessation of suffering,’ and ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’

AN 3.61

On seeing a form with the eye, he does not lust after it if it is pleasing; he does not dislike it if it is unpleasing. He abides with mindfulness of the body established, with an immeasurable mind, and he understands as it actually is the deliverance of mind and deliverance by wisdom wherein those evil unwholesome states cease without remainder. Having thus abandoned favouring and opposing, whatever feeling he feels, whether pleasant or painful or neither-painful-nor-pleasant, he does not delight in that feeling, welcome it, or remain holding to it. As he does not do so, delight in [craving for] feelings ceases in him. With the cessation of his delight comes cessation of clinging; with the cessation of clinging, cessation of being; with the cessation of being, cessation of birth; with the cessation of birth, ageing and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair cease. Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering.

“On hearing a sound with the ear…On smelling an odour with the nose…On tasting a flavour with the tongue…On touching a tangible with the body…On cognizing a mind-object with the mind, he does not lust after it if it is pleasing; he does not dislike it if it is unpleasing… With the cessation of his delight comes cessation of clinging; with the cessation of clinging, cessation of being; with the cessation of being, cessation of birth; with the cessation of birth, ageing and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair cease. Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering.

MN 38

The above can include a practice similar to auto-suggestion, namely, wise reflection (as described in MN 19), such as reflecting: "There is greed, which is harmful, and hatred, which is harmful... there is anger, which is harmful, and resentment… denigration… malice… envy… stinginess… fraudulence… deceitfulness… stubbornness… hostility… conceit… arrogance… pride… and negligence, which is harmful. For the abandoning these there is the Middle Path, which leads to peace".

Therefore the above also is a normalization of the distribution of feelings because, whatever of the three feelings arise, there is no defiled reaction towards these three types of feelings. Each feeling is viewed in the same way, namely, as merely a feeling; as impermanent, unsatisfactory, not-self and mere suchness; merely a natural phenomena (dhatu).

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  • "no defiled reaction"...passion-obsession, resistance-obsession, ignorance-obsession?
    – blue_ego
    Commented May 28 at 14:01
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    yes, as you quoted from MN 148, which is another example of mindfulness at feelings Commented May 28 at 20:22
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IMHO the main/original meaning of "middle way" comes from the opening of the "first" sutta i.e. SN 56.11

Mendicants, these two extremes should not be cultivated by one who has gone forth. What two? Indulgence in sensual pleasures, which is low, crude, ordinary, ignoble, and pointless. And indulgence in self-mortification, which is painful, ignoble, and pointless. Avoiding these two extremes, the Realized One woke up by understanding the middle way of practice, which gives vision and knowledge, and leads to peace, direct knowledge, awakening, and extinguishment.

The essential characteristic of the phrase is "avoiding the two extremes".

By extension I also often use it to recognize or to refer to "false dichotomies", e.g. of the form "Is it this or that?" to which an answer might be "neither".

Conversely the main/original meaning of "mindfulness" might be related to what we call "remembering"

anussati: [f.] recollection; memory; mindfulness.

... for example including the forms described in the Anussati.

"Mindfulness of feeling" seems to me to be, more specifically, "remembering what the dhamma says about feeling".

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I think pleasant/unpleasant/neutral feelings represents the entire range of experiences (both physical and emotional) if not all. As explained by Ven. Thanissaro, mindfulness of pleasant/unpleasant/neutral feelings is not merely to note that they exist or are absent. It is also not just to avoid clinging to pleasant feelings, avoid repulsing to unpleasant ones or avoid boredom, restlessness or anxiety in the face of neutral feelings. But I believe it is to help us penetrate into their very nature as taught by the Buddha i.e. they are inconstant, fabricated, dependently co-arisen, subject to ending, subject to vanishing, fading, ceasing as mentioned in MN74. Because there is a difference between suppressing our desires/aversions and outgrowing them. I doubt if we can ever let go of feelings through suppression but we can through disenchantment and dispassion.

In a way, I think it is the middle way as it avoids ascetism or indulgence as responses to such feelings. It avoids these two extremes through a deep understanding into their core nature; thereby allowing us to begin erecting a wall of fearlessness and anchoring our mind inwardly to that which is unperturbed, solid and peaceful.

There are those who immediately attain deep insight (and attain the 4 fruits of liberation) when the true nature of all feelings/experiences are explained and there are those who don’t. The difference, I believe, lies in their cultivation/attainment of virtues, concentration and wisdom. So, I do agree that the noble eightfold path is needed especially for the latter group. It is just the nature of beings in the world as seen by the Buddha in SN6:1.

As he did so, he saw beings with little dust in their eyes and those with much, those with keen faculties and those with dull, those with good attributes and those with bad, those easy to teach and those hard, some of them seeing disgrace & danger in the other world.

Appendix I

If we approach Buddhism as a body of knowledge, like all bodies of knowledge, it has its own classification schema. For example, in biology, organisms are categorised as prokaryotes and eukaryotes based on their properties. Similarly, in chemistry, compounds are categorised into organic and inorganic depending on certain properties. In Physics, elementary particles are classified into fermions and bosons based on their spin properties. Such classifications allow for better study and understanding of various stuff and their unique effects.

I believe the Buddha classified feelings/experiences based on pleasant-ness, unpleasant-ness and neutral-ness properties so that it is easier for his followers and students to study and understand their effects. Ultimately, these properties had the same effect of binding us to samsara albeit in their own different ways.

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  • that's my point...do you really think it represents the entire gamut of feeling? then i must misunderstand, not be concentrated, leftover with something..like in DD's answer, some kind of internalization that produces an excess of emotion
    – blue_ego
    Commented May 28 at 13:07
  • represents the entire gamut of feeling? Yes, I believe if this includes both physical and emotional feelings, I can't imagine anything beyond these. While, Arahants are not immune to physical feelings as pointed out in SN35.87, the noble ones only suffer once and as DD pointed out no defiled reaction similar to your understanding of passion-obsession, resistance...as per SN36.6.
    – Desmon
    Commented May 28 at 15:24
  • what i mean is the connotation of pleasant and unpleasant...this is not horrible, excruciating, ecstasy, etc..
    – blue_ego
    Commented May 28 at 15:47
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    @blue_ego if I read you correctly, you are perturbed that the entire range of feelings are categorised into just 3 types and its effectiveness?
    – Desmon
    Commented May 29 at 2:12
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    Mindfulness is needed for concentration. Concentration is need for insight. What Thanissaro says is of no relevance. Commented May 29 at 7:21

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