Thursday, 31 March 2011

The Place of Sensory Knowledge in Buddhism


The sensory knowledge means the knowledge received through senses, those are, eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind. The objects of those senses are and through what we received are called sensory knowledge; the objects are as, form, sound, smell, taste, bodily contacts and mental object are connected to sensory organs and related to consciousness in the production of sensory knowledge. Sensory knowledge does not cover the knowledge about everything in universe. But they derive and build up knowledge of things in the world as they are related to the person. Further the knowledge derived in that way is edited by thoughts, ideas, and concepts of people. Therefore the ability of receiving correct knowledge in man is further made limited. Therefore the common worldling (pathujjana) does not receive a perfect knowledge about his environment his world.

      If a person knows well as this is a form and this a sound etc, that is called vijAnana (being conscious).
      “KiJca bhikkhave viJJAnaM vadetha, vijAnAtIti kho bhikkhave tasmA viJJAnanti vuccati
                                                                              (khajjanIyasutta, SN III)
      That is not yet conceptualizes. The conceptualization of perceived consciousness is called ßaJjAnana (perception) that has been conceptualized. 
      “KiJca bhikkhave saJJaM vadetha, saJjAnAtIti kho bhikkhave tasmA saJJAti vuccati
      When the knowledge is conceptualized, that becomes personal and deformed in a sense. Therefore, often the idea in the men is deformed in the knowledge more than reality. Although sensory knowledge is essential for day-today life that is not perfectly helpful regarding the reality of world for they are conceptualized.

      The sensory knowledge is not just derived from senses and their objects. Buddhism explained a third reason namely the attention of mind (tajjo samannAhAra). For the proper sensory knowledge these three factors are essential.
      “åjjhattikaJceva cakkhuM aparibhinnaM hoti, bAhirA ca rUpA ApAthaM Agacchanti, tajjo ca samannAhAro hoti, evaM tajjassaviJJANabhAgassa pAtubhAro hoti
=The eternal (organ) is not broken. External forms come to relevant spaces (of the organ). The psychological attention is present. Thus the relate consciousness is born.

The µadhupiNDikasutta of MN explains the process further:
CakkhuJcAvuso paTicca rUpe ca uppajjati cakkhuviJJANaM taNNaM saGgati phasso phassapaccayA vedanA, yaM vedeti taM saJjAnAti, yaM saJjAnAti taM vitakketi, yaM vitakketi taM papaJceti, yaM papaJceti tato nidAnaM purisaM papaJca saJJA sankhA samudAcaranti atItAnAgatapaccuppannesu cakkhu viJJeyyesu rUpesu

=O friends! Depending on eye the eye consciousness is born in forms. By that proper contact of the three there is the contact. Depending on contact there is feeling. What feels that is known, what is known that is conceptualized, what is conceptualized that is idealized. What is idealized depending on that ideas, perceptions, and formation are made in forms, known through eye and belong to past, present and future.

      The second explanation is the further elaboration of the statement made in µahAhatthipadopamasutta of the µajjhimanikAya. It shows the personal interference in the process of ideation. That is changed or encircled because the being is thinking being.

      Buddhism teaches about a situation called papaJca which stands for the generation of individual ideas on the data received through senses. This is the complex turning point in function of mind of human. They make up the vision of man. It is a unique individualistic vision based on the nature of one’s consciousness. To understand the significant of this concept there are two other terms related to that. The nibbAna is called nippapaJca (the situation free from individual ideas) and the path leading to the nibbAna is called nippapaJcapatha (the road to the state of without individual ideas). The shows that papaJca is a very complex psychological situation which keep the man bound to the circle of life.

      The µahAtaNhAsaMkhayasutta of MN further analyses the function of papaJca in prolonging the samsaric life. The worldling receives sensory data through five senses (paJcakAmasaJJA) – rUpa, sadda, gandha, rasa, phoTThaba, and becomes attached to them. If they are pleasurable, if they are unpleasurable, they are disliked and these memories are kept in the mind. There some other experiences that they fall into neither these groups which are called neutral. Then those experiences are conceptualized in within the mind to make one’s own ideas. This causes the future of one’s experience (bhava). These explanations show the Buddhist insight on sensory knowledge (indriyaJANa).

      The ideas perceived by the man in kept in his memory and then time to time they are expressed to other men with the use of language. Such ideas are named as patibhAsa in Buddhism. They are expressed with words (vacana). Because patibhAsa does not represent the perfect knowledge of what one has and on the other hand words do not represent the truth in full as well. In other word the language is the mood of expression of human ideas. When the human ideas are not perfect the language which human production is not able to tell the truth as it is. Therefore Buddhism does not recognized language as the most appropriate instrument to convey the truth to others. Not only the human language is imperfect in conveying the truth, but it generates and spreads all the misconception among men.

      Because the senses are very important to get new knowledge Buddhism teaches the development of senses (indriyabhAvanA). It begins with restrains of senses (indriyasamvara). The arahant is explained as one who with sense door closed (indriyesu guttadvAro). It does not mean not receiving any data through senses, but it stands for not generating new ideas (that are harmful based on sensory knowledge). The ßAmaJJAphalasutta of DN explains it as follows:

îdha maharaja bhikkhu cakkhunA rUpaM disvA na nimittaggAhi hoti, nAnubyaJjanaggAhi,
=O great king! Here the monks having seen the forms with eye do not behold it, he does not behold it other way.

      Buddhism recommends cultivation or development of faculties to prevent them producing misconception and wrong ideas. Sensory knowledge is a valuable source of human knowledge. In Buddhism view, it is to be correctly guided and enriched. By that way only man can make a positive change in his fate. Even he might not try; the negative changes are commonly automatically take place in human fate. Due to the ignorance the man observe no situation. The Buddha having seen the function and the influence of human thought process recommends to be an observer or a modifier of it. That is the way to get the best of human ability to think.

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