Question: perception vs memory

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Question: perception vs memory

Postby Sein » Sun May 18, 2014 12:11 pm

As I understand, perception is the ability to recognize things, meaning attach definition (emotion, events, thought, etc...) to that thing.
But memory is also attach definition to stuff.
What is the different between perception (in Buddhism) and memory ?
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Re: Question: perception vs memory

Postby Sam Vara » Sun May 18, 2014 12:53 pm

Sein wrote:As I understand, perception is the ability to recognize things, meaning attach definition (emotion, events, thought, etc...) to that thing.
But memory is also attach definition to stuff.
What is the different between perception (in Buddhism) and memory ?


I think it is that memory is a perception of an idea or mental event, rather than something existing in the external world.
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Re: Question: perception vs memory

Postby Jason » Sun May 18, 2014 4:09 pm

They're both intimately connected, and the Pali word for perception, sanna, can be translated as 'the act of remembering.' Perceptions are the mental labels we apply to things that arise in our experience, and memory is an integral part of that:

    "And why do you call it 'perception'? Because it perceives, thus it is called 'perception.' What does it perceive? It perceives blue, it perceives yellow, it perceives red, it perceives white. Because it perceives, it is called perception. (SN 22.79)

The way I see, there isn't a sharp distinction, although I'd say memory can be a more passive mental phenomenon whereas perception a generally a more active process, sort of like directed memory or the act of noting what arises in our field of awareness.
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

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Re: Question: perception vs memory

Postby culaavuso » Sun May 18, 2014 7:38 pm

It might also be helpful to consider the relationship between memory and mindfulness.

Mindfulness Defined by Ven. Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:What does it mean to be mindful of the breath? Something very simple: to keep the breath in mind. Keep remembering the breath each time you breathe in, each time you breathe out. The British scholar who coined the term “mindfulness” to translate the Pali word sati was probably influenced by the Anglican prayer to be ever mindful of the needs of others—in other words, to always keep their needs in mind. But even though the word “mindful” was probably drawn from a Christian context, the Buddha himself defined sati as the ability to remember, illustrating its function in meditation practice with the four satipatthanas, or establishings of mindfulness.


Another consideration is the difference in time. The notion of perception can be much more immediate such as with the perception "blue" arising in connection with the visual experience. However memory implies a certain function across time. For something to be called a memory it is generally expected that there is a perception of a strong correspondence with past events and experiences. Such a strong correspondence with past experience doesn't seem to be necessarily implied by perception.
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