Discourse Practice Scholarship

On Anurodha, “Liking”

In your day-to-day, off-the-cushion experience, what part of the 12-link Dependent Origination cycle (12-nidanas) do you notice most readily?

I ask because I think it may be the case that many of us spend our days “liking” stuff or “disliking” stuff.

But liking/disliking is not in the 12-nidanas.

When I first began learning about Dependent Origination I was surprised to learn that Anurodha, what Akincano Weber translated as “Liking”, was not a regularly used term in Theravadan Nikayan Philosophy.

But liking is more obvious than Vedanā. Why not use a highly conspicuous aspect of experience?

Well… maybe it’s the wrong question. Maybe there is something about the way thinkers of Gotama’s time understood experience such that “liking/disliking” wasn’t a thing.

Hiking recently I came across a wildflower. It went like this:

  • Hiking along, notice flower.
  • Continue two or three steps. Thinking about how lovely the flower is.
  • Stop walking.
  • Turn around, return to flower, crouch, admire flower up close.
  • Pass ~1.5 minutes here.
  • Stand, continue on hike.

Later, in a more contemplative mindset, I articulated the experience this way:

  • Eye-contact (Phassa) with flower. Mild pleasant Vedanā arises.
  • Mild pleasant Vedanā leads to craving to extend the duration of the pleasant Vedanā by returning to the flower for more eye-contact.
  • When I did return, the predicted pleasant Vedanā arose. But over about 1.5 minutes, the pleasant Vedanā faded.
  • When the pleasant Vedanā faded, I felt the urge to leave the flower and return to the hike.

If I’d been hiking in company I would have said, “I like this flower.”

But maybe, in a 12-nidana interpretation, the thing I’m doing is craving/grasping at the pleasant vedanā I received from eye-contact with the flower.

Maybe it wasn’t necessary for thinkers of Gotama’s time to talk about Anurodha because they framed the experience of “liking” a thing as a craving for the mild pleasant Vedanā we experience with sense contact.

Perhaps as we develop more subtle understanding of our mental processes, we can notice Taṇhā craving Vedanā, rather than craving the object which has excited the Vedanā.

It still interrupted my hike, but I was not impelled to harm the plant by ripping the flower off and carrying it away.


2 replies on “On Anurodha, “Liking””

Maybe too quick a reaction, but aren’t you just recognising “I feel a pleasant feeling” here? Personally I’d accept that as a contemplative experience, but perhaps I’d be trying to let myself off the hook…

Liked by 1 person

Hi hi!

Man, I have been so spoiled on the forum. I want to quote part of your question but have to cut/paste and don’t want to. XD


Regarding “feeling a pleasant feeling”… yeah. Absolutely. But in the course of my usual experience I don’t realize that. What I usually think is “I like the flower”.

I have been rolling this around for a while because it didn’t seem to me that liking a flower and craving/grasping, the pathos of Taṇhā, applied in the case of liking a flower. So I was wondering, why isn’t liking included in the 12-nidanas?

And then on retreat in May I started picking apart the experience on the cushion and that’s when I saw what the liking was. It was still craving, but a more subtle version. I didn’t want to rip the flower out of the ground, but I did want to look at the flower.

But I’m the moment of the experience, I want thinking, “Oh. I want to extend the pleasant vedana.” I was thinking, I like the flower.

Maybe the thing you are pointing at is that this is a subtle example and not particularly harmful in any case. But for me, what was happening was I didn’t see how those subtle cases fit into the 12-nidana chain. It didn’t _feel_ like a pathos. It just felt like a lovely little admiring of a flower.

And I don’t mean to say that I shouldn’t admire a flower. What I mean to say is that I think it’s worthwhile being mindful of what is going on in my experience.

Does that make sense? Or did I not answer your question somehow? If the latter please try again. This is fun!


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