How to Investigate the Feeling Aggregate

There are five aggregates, materiality, feeling, perception, formations and consciousness.


Central to the path of developing understanding is investigating all of the aggregates. Here are some recommendations to investigating the second one in depth.

Steps

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    Take some time and find some space if you are just starting to practice this subject. Once you've been doing it a while you can do it anywhere and anytime.
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    Firstly break down feelings into groups of 5, 3 & 3. Feeling luckily is much more limited in scope compared to the materiality aggregate. The first group to look for is the group of 5. These are:
    • Pleasant physical feelings
    • Unpleasant physical feelings
    • Pleasant mental feelings
    • Unpleasant mental feelings
    • Equanimity feelings
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    Try to classify each feeling as it comes. The point behind this is not only will you know them when they happen but you are far more connected in order to develop or let go of each type. It also has the big advantage that you can know when the mind is playing tricks on you, saying this or that is pleasant, when in reality parts of the brain are stressing out.
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    The way to do that is just to watch them. Not only see how they change or react to various things but keep an important eye on collective feelings. Is there tension at seeing something, is there a pleasant sensation at seeing something and so on through the senses (touch, taste, sight, smell etc).
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    Examine the next group of three. These are:
    • desirable - so you would want more of them or the ones you have to stay forever etc.
    • undesirable - so you don't want them to come and the ones you have to go away.
    • neutral feelings.
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    Again Try to classify them into these groups. You might be surprised to see that you might desire getting angry, when parts of the mind are showing the whole anger experience is really pretty unpleasant. You can gain some real insights in doing this as pleasant and desirable can make a common pair, but so does unpleasant and desirable and vice versa - Undesirable and pleasant and so on.
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    Consider this is important just because you are the one involved in these contradictions. Are your feelings leading you into potential traps?
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    Investigate the final group which is probably the most important.
    • Profitable, beneficial or skillful, (or whatever word works for you)
    • Unprofitable, harmful or unskillful
    • Indeterminate.
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    Think about these. Some of them are tricky because what is pleasant and desirable is not always beneficial to you or others. That's the big catch. The only way to work out which is which is to watch and examine each feeling as it comes.
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    Examine your feelings and these groups carefully. It might sound crazy that your mind would want to have anything to do with harmful or undesirable feelings, but it does it all the time because it has been let run wild and no one has been watching it to pull it back into line.
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    This can actually reveal the whole purpose and method of Buddhism, to develop the mind in order to let go of stress, to develop a lifestyle in order to avoid stress and to develop skillful actions that don't result in stress.
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    Then you are free.

Article Info

Categories: Philosophy and Religion