Project

What the Buddha felt: A study of vedana in early Buddhism

Program

The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Dissertation Fellowships in Buddhist Studies

Abstract

This dissertation explores the concept of 'feeling' (vedana) in the early Buddhist texts. It argues that some recent attempts at understanding it have relied too heavily on modern psychological models, obscuring how Buddhist doctrine and ethics shape 'vedana'. Secondly, it looks at how pleasant, unpleasant and neutral feelings actively contribute to awakening. It argues that various doctrinal models and formulas reveal a shared hedonic curve underlying early Buddhist soteriology, which strongly suggests that spiritual pleasure is expected or even inevitable in a mind that grows more wholesome and wise. This allows a more fruitful approach to debates like the relationship between mindfulness (satipatthana), absorption (jhana) and wisdom.