Many Things to Be Felt
Bahuvedanīya Sutta  (MN 59)

I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery.

Then Pañcakaṅga the carpenter went to Ven. Udāyin and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to Ven. Udāyin, “Venerable sir, how many feelings has the Blessed One spoken of?”

“Householder, the Blessed One has spoken of three feelings: a feeling of pleasure, a feeling of pain, a feeling of neither pleasure nor pain. These are the three feelings the Blessed One has spoken of.”

When this was said, Pañcakaṅga the carpenter said to Ven. Udāyin, “The Blessed One has not spoken of three feelings. He has spoken of two feelings: a feeling of pleasure and a feeling of pain. As for the feeling of neither pleasure nor pain, the Blessed One has spoken of it as a refined pleasure.”

A second time, Ven. Udāyin said to Pañcakaṅga the carpenter, “Householder, the Blessed One has not spoken of two feelings. He has spoken of three feelings…

A second time, Pañcakaṅga the carpenter said to Ven. Udāyin, “The Blessed One has not spoken of three feelings. He has spoken of two feelings…

A third time, Ven. Udāyin said to Pañcakaṅga the carpenter, “Householder, the Blessed One has not spoken of two feelings. He has spoken of three feelings…

A third time, Pañcakaṅga the carpenter said to Ven. Udāyin, “The Blessed One has not spoken of three feelings. He has spoken of two feelings…

Neither was Ven. Udāyin able to convince Pañcakaṅga the carpenter, nor was Pañcakaṅga the carpenter able to convince Ven. Udāyin.

Now, Ven. Ānanda overheard this discussion between Ven. Udāyin and Pañcakaṅga. So he went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he told the Blessed One of the entire discussion between Ven. Udāyin and Pañcakaṅga.

(The Blessed One said:) “Ānanda, true was the exposition that Pañcakaṅga the carpenter would not accept from Ven. Udāyin. And true was the exposition that Ven. Udāyin would not accept from Pañcakaṅga the carpenter. There is the exposition by which I have spoken of two feelings, the exposition by which I have spoken of three feelings… five feelings… six feelings… eighteen feelings… 36 feelings… 108 feelings.1 Thus I have taught the Dhamma by means of exposition. When I have taught the Dhamma by means of exposition, it can be expected that when there are those who do not consent to, assent to, or accept what is well-said and well-stated by one another, there will be arguing, quarreling, & disputing, and they will dwell wounding one another with the sword of the tongue. Thus I have taught the Dhamma by means of exposition. When I have taught the Dhamma by means of exposition, it can be expected that when there are those who do consent to, assent to, & accept what is well-said and well-stated by one another, they will live in harmony, with courtesy, without quarreling, like milk mixed with water, regarding one another with friendly eyes.

“Ānanda, there are these five strings of sensuality. Which five? Forms cognizable via the eye—agreeable, pleasing, charming, endearing, enticing, linked to sensual desire. Sounds cognizable via the ear… Aromas cognizable via the nose… Flavors cognizable via the tongue… Tactile sensations cognizable via the body—agreeable, pleasing, charming, endearing, enticing, linked to sensual desire. Now whatever pleasure or happiness arises in dependence on these five strands of sensuality, that is called sensual pleasure. Though some might say, ‘That is the highest pleasure that beings experience,’ I would not grant them that. Why is that? Because there is another pleasure, more extreme & refined than that.

“And what, Ānanda, is another pleasure more extreme & refined than that? There is the case where a monk—quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful qualities—enters & remains in the first jhāna: rapture & pleasure born of seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. This is another pleasure more extreme & refined than that. Though some might say, ‘That is the highest pleasure that beings experience,’ I would not grant them that. Why is that? Because there is another pleasure, more extreme & refined than that.

“And what, Ānanda, is another pleasure more extreme & refined than that? There is the case where a monk, with the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, enters & remains in the second jhāna: rapture & pleasure born of concentration, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation—internal assurance. This is another pleasure more extreme & refined than that. Though some might say, ‘That is the highest pleasure that beings experience,’ I would not grant them that. Why is that? Because there is another pleasure, more extreme & refined than that.

“And what, Ānanda, is another pleasure more extreme & refined than that? There is the case where a monk, with the fading of rapture, remains equanimous, mindful, & alert, senses pleasure with the body, and enters & remains in the third jhāna, of which the noble ones declare, ‘Equanimous & mindful, he has a pleasant abiding.’ This is another pleasure more extreme & refined than that. Though some might say, ‘That is the highest pleasure that beings experience,’ I would not grant them that. Why is that? Because there is another pleasure, more extreme & refined than that.

“And what, Ānanda, is another pleasure more extreme & refined than that? There is the case where a monk, with the abandoning of pleasure & pain—as with the earlier disappearance of elation & distress—enters & remains in the fourth jhāna: purity of equanimity & mindfulness, neither pleasure nor pain. This is another pleasure more extreme & refined than that. Though some might say, ‘That is the highest pleasure that beings experience,’ I would not grant them that. Why is that? Because there is another pleasure, more extreme & refined than that.

“And what, Ānanda, is another pleasure more extreme & refined than that? There is the case where a monk, with the complete transcending of perceptions of (physical) form, with the disappearance of perceptions of resistance, and not attending to perceptions of multiplicity, (perceiving,) ‘Infinite space,’ enters & remains in the dimension of the infinitude of space. This is another pleasure more extreme & refined than that. Though some might say, ‘That is the highest pleasure that beings experience,’ I would not grant them that. Why is that? Because there is another pleasure, more extreme & refined than that.

“And what, Ānanda, is another pleasure more extreme & refined than that? There is the case where a monk, with the complete transcending of the dimension of the infinitude of space, (perceiving,) ‘Infinite consciousness,’ enters & remains in the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness. This is another pleasure more extreme & refined than that. Though some might say, ‘That is the highest pleasure that beings experience,’ I would not grant them that. Why is that? Because there is another pleasure, more extreme & refined than that.

“And what, Ānanda, is another pleasure more extreme & refined than that? There is the case where a monk, with the complete transcending of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, (perceiving,) ‘There is nothing,’ enters & remains in the dimension of nothingness. This is another pleasure more extreme & refined than that. Though some might say, ‘That is the highest pleasure that beings experience,’ I would not grant them that. Why is that? Because there is another pleasure, more extreme & refined than that.

“And what, Ānanda, is another pleasure more extreme & refined than that? There is the case where a monk, with the complete transcending of the dimension of nothingness, enters & remains in the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception. This is another pleasure more extreme & refined than that. Though some might say, ‘That is the highest pleasure that beings experience,’ I would not grant them that. Why is that? Because there is another pleasure, more extreme & refined than that.

“And what, Ānanda, is another pleasure more extreme & refined than that? There is the case where a monk, with the complete transcending of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, enters & remains in the cessation of perception & feeling. This is another pleasure more extreme & refined than that.

“Now it’s possible, Ānanda, that some wanderers of other persuasions might say, ‘Gotama the contemplative speaks of the cessation of perception & feeling and yet describes it as pleasure. What is this? How can this be?’ When they say that, they are to be told, ‘It’s not the case, friends, that the Blessed One describes only pleasant feeling as included under pleasure. Wherever pleasure is found, in whatever terms, the Blessed One describes it as pleasure.’”

That is what the Blessed One said. Gratified, Ven. Ānanda delighted in the Blessed One’s words.

Note

1. SN 36:22 gives an overview of these various expositions (plus an extra exposition) as follows:

“And which are the two feelings? Physical & mental. These are the two feelings.

“And which are the three feelings? A feeling of pleasure, a feeling of pain, a feeling of neither pleasure nor pain. These are the three feelings.

“And which are the five feelings? The pleasure-faculty, the pain-faculty, the joy-faculty, the distress-faculty, the equanimity-faculty. These are the five feelings. [a]

“And which are the six feelings? A feeling born of eye-contact, a feeling born of ear-contact … nose-contact … tongue-contact … body-contact … intellect-contact. These are the six feelings.

“And which are the eighteen feelings? Six joy-explorations, six distress-explorations, six equanimity-explorations. [b] These are the eighteen feelings.

“And which are the thirty-six feelings? Six kinds of house-based happiness & six kinds of renunciation-based happiness; six kinds of house-based distress & six kinds of renunciation-based distress; six kinds of house-based equanimity & six kinds of renunciation-based equanimity. [c] These are the thirty-six feelings.

“And which are the one hundred and eight feelings? Thirty-six past feelings, thirty-six future feelings, and thirty-six present feelings. These are the one hundred and eight feelings.”

Other discourses further explain these expositions as follows:

a. SN 48:37 explains the pleasure-faculty as a feeling of physical pleasure, the pain-faculty as a feeling of physical pain, the happiness-faculty as a feeling of mental pleasure, the distress-faculty as a feeling of mental pain, and the equanimity-faculty as a feeling, either physical or mental, of neither pleasure nor pain.

b. MN 137 explains this as follows: “Seeing a form via the eye, one explores a form that can act as the basis for happiness, one explores a form that can act as the basis for distress, one explores a form that can act as the basis for equanimity. Hearing a sound via the ear… Smelling an aroma via the nose… Tasting a flavor via the tongue… Touching a tactile sensation via the body… Cognizing an idea via the intellect, one explores an idea that can act as the basis for happiness, one explores an idea that can act as the basis for distress, one explores an idea that can act as the basis for equanimity.”

c. MN 137 explains this as follows: “And what are the six kinds of house-based happiness? The happiness that arises when one regards as an acquisition the acquisition of forms cognizable by the eye—agreeable, pleasing, charming, endearing, connected with worldly baits—or when one recalls the previous acquisition of such forms after they have passed, ceased, & changed: That is called house-based happiness. [Similarly with sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, & ideas.]

“And what are the six kinds of renunciation-based happiness? The happiness that arises when—experiencing the inconstancy of those very forms, their change, fading, & cessation—one sees with right discernment as it has come to be that all forms, both before and now, are inconstant, stressful, subject to change: That is called renunciation-based happiness. [Similarly with sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, & ideas.]

“And what are the six kinds of house-based distress? The distress that arises when one regards as a non-acquisition the non-acquisition of forms cognizable by the eye—agreeable, pleasing, charming, endearing, connected with worldly baits—or when one recalls the previous non-acquisition of such forms after they have passed, ceased, & changed: That is called house-based distress. [Similarly with sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, & ideas.]

“And what are the six kinds of renunciation-based distress? The distress coming from the longing that arises in one who is filled with longing for the unexcelled liberations when—experiencing the inconstancy of those very forms, their change, fading, & cessation—he sees with right discernment as it has come to be that all forms, both before and now, are inconstant, stressful, subject to change and he is filled with this longing: ‘O when will I enter & remain in the sphere that the noble ones now enter & remain in?’ This is called renunciation-based distress. [Similarly with sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, & ideas.]

“And what are the six kinds of house-based equanimity? The equanimity that arises when a foolish, deluded person—a run-of-the-mill, untaught person who has not conquered his limitations or the results of action & who is blind to danger—sees a form with the eye. Such equanimity does not go beyond the form, which is why it is called house-based equanimity. [Similarly with sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, & ideas.]

“And what are the six kinds of renunciation-based equanimity? The equanimity that arises when—experiencing the inconstancy of those very forms, their change, fading, & cessation—one sees with right discernment as it has come to be that all forms, both before and now, are inconstant, stressful, subject to change: This equanimity goes beyond form, which is why it is called renunciation-based equanimity. [Similarly with sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, & ideas.]”

See also: DN 9; MN 14; MN 136; MN 137; AN 9:34