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Vedanā Within This Very Body
 
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Vedanā Within This Very Body
- by S. N. Goenka
(The following is a translation of an article of Samvedanā which originally appeared in the Hindi Vipassana Patrika Aug. 1983.)

The entire universe exists within this fathom-long body. Within this very body turns the wheel, the process of becoming (bhava). Within this body is the cause that sets in motion the wheel of becoming. Within this body is found freedom from the turning of the wheel of becoming. Within this body is found the way to achieve freedom from the wheel of becoming.

For this reason, investigation of the body is of paramount importance for a meditator whose goal is liberation. Unless one acquires a correct understanding of the immediate physical reality of oneself—the reality that is the basis of one’s existence—the wheel of becoming will continue to rotate within. As this proper understanding develops, little by little the turning of the wheel is arrested until at last one is liberated from the bondage of becoming.

The five physical senses and the mind are all based on the body. Through these six doors come all our contacts with the world outside. The universe exists for us only when it actually enters into contact with any one of these doors. A visible form, for example, exists for us only when it comes into contact with the eyes; otherwise it has no actual existence for us. Similarly, to exist for us, a sound must come into contact with the ears, an odour with the nose, a taste with the tongue, a tangible object with the bodily structure, a thought or fantasy with the mind. Otherwise for us they have no real existence. The entire universe manifests through these six doors that are based within the physical structure. Therefore, it has been rightly said that the entire universe exists within this fathom-long body.

To investigate the reality of oneself in a scientific way, a meditator must lay aside all beliefs, philosophies, imaginations, and dogmas. In order to arrive at the ultimate truth of oneself, it is necessary to work only with the truth, and to accept as true only what one has experienced for oneself. If one explores truth in this way, all the mysteries of nature will reveal themselves. The meditator begins by encountering gross, solidified, apparent truths, and from that level penetrates towards subtler truths. At last one reaches a stage in which all delusions are overthrown and the ultimate reality is laid bare.

By experience the meditator realizes that from the contact of eyes and visible form, eye consciousness arises—the mental cognition of the fact that contact has occurred. The meditator also realizes that the contact produces a vibration, a sensation that spreads throughout the body, just as striking a bronze vessel at one point will cause the entire vessel to vibrate. Once the contact has been cognised, the process of perception occurs: the visible form is recognized as, for example, a man or a woman, black or white, beautiful or ugly. Not only is it identified, but it is also evaluated as good or bad, positive or negative, welcome or unwelcome contact. And according to the evaluation given to the object, the vibration that arose at the moment of contact now takes on a colouration. If the object is evaluated as good, the sensation is felt as pleasant, and if it is evaluated as bad, the sensation is unpleasant. Finally, if the sensation is experienced as pleasant, the mind reacts with craving, and if it is unpleasant, the mind reacts with aversion. Thus, the meditator clearly understands how consciousness, perception, sensation, and reaction—the four segments of the mind—actually function.

Craving intensifies pleasant sensation, and pleasant sensation intensifies craving. Aversion strengthens unpleasant sensation, and unpleasant sensation reinforces aversion. One who meditates properly will understand how from the base of bodily sensations starts a vicious cycle that continues turning with gathering momentum. This is the wheel of becoming, of misery.

The same process follows when contact occurs between the ear and sound, nose and odour, tongue and taste, body and tangible object, mind and thought. In this way the wheel of becoming continues rotating, impelled by craving and aversion. By observing this process objectively without any preconceptions, a meditator who practises ardently attains freedom from craving and aversion, and stops the turning of the wheel of becoming.

Come, meditators! Let us learn to observe objectively the process that arises from bodily sensations in order to achieve liberation from the wheel of becoming, and by doing so to attain real happiness.


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