One of Thailand’s most revered monks is Luang Poo Buddah (Tāvaro), who was born in 1894 and died at the age of 100 in 1994. Several distinctive photos of him exist in which he is donning a brown, wooly hat, presumably in the cold season, along with a radiant smile.
I read his autobiography when I was walking tudong as a monk, and I clearly remember one of his teachings, which he gave while recollecting his own wanderings as a young monk. He was asked what he would do when he didn’t receive any food on almsround and had to go hungry. His reply, very simply, was: ‘Instead of eating food, I ate “sensation.”’ He made it sound like this is the easiest thing in the world to do. When there is no food to digest, then consciousness must rest with what exists in the present, without judgement, even if this happens to be the discomfort of hunger.
Connected to this subject is a teaching by the Venerable Ajahn Maha Bua, who passed away this year at the ripe old age of 97. He said that for an arahant, feeling (vedanā) does not ‘permeate’ into the mind or heart. And this is confirmed by the Buddha’s teaching in the Saṁyutta Nikāya (see Ajahn Payutto’s explanation in the book on Dependent Origination):
‘Bhikkhus, when the instructed noble disciple is contacted by a painful feeling, he does not grieve or lament. He does not weep beating his breast and become distraught. He feels one feeling—a bodily feeling, not a mental feeling. Suppose an archer were to strike a man with one arrow, but the second arrow would miss the mark, so that the man would feel a feeling caused by one arrow only. So too, when the instructed noble disciple is contacted by a painful feeling … he feels one feeling—a bodily one, not a mental one.’