Can form be directly perceived?

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Can form be directly perceived?

Postby Sacha G » Thu Jan 20, 2011 11:47 am

Hello
It is often said that the 5 aggregates should be directly perceived. Now, I was wondering how the aggregate of form could be perceived, since form is just a hypothesis, and no one, as far as I know, has been able to perceive it.
But maybe my understanding is wrong here.
:hello:
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Re: Can form be directly perceived?

Postby Individual » Thu Jan 20, 2011 12:54 pm

Perceived by what?

If you're asking, "Does the eye see sights, does the nose smell scents," then yes.

In the absence of an assumed self, beyond that there is nothing to speculate about.
The best things in life aren't things.

The Diamond Sutra
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Re: Can form be directly perceived?

Postby meindzai » Thu Jan 20, 2011 1:15 pm

Sacha G wrote:Hello
It is often said that the 5 aggregates should be directly perceived. Now, I was wondering how the aggregate of form could be perceived, since form is just a hypothesis, and no one, as far as I know, has been able to perceive it.
But maybe my understanding is wrong here.
:hello:


Since (as of now) you are posting in Classical Theravada, the inevitable question is "Where in the canon, commentaries, etc. does it say that form is just a hypothesis?"

Aside from that, here is what Nina Van Gorkom has to say about form in Abhidhamma:

There are not only mental phenomena, there are also physical phenomena. Physical phenomena (rupa) are the third paramattha dhamma. There are altogether twenty-eight classes of rupa. There are four principal rupas or 'Great Elements', in Pali: maha-bhuta-rupa. They are:

1. 'Element of Earth' or solidity (to be experienced as hardness or softness)
2. 'Element of Water' or cohesion
3. 'Element of Fire' or temperature (to be experienced as heat or cold)
4. 'Element of Wind' or motion (to be experienced as motion or pressure)

[...]

Different characteristics of rupa can be experienced through eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body-sense and mind. These characteristics are real since they can be experienced. We use conventional terms such as 'body' and 'table'; both have the characteristic of hardness which can be experienced through touch. In this way we can prove that the characteristic of hardness is the same, no matter whether it is in the body or in the table. Hardness is a paramattha dhamma; 'body' and 'table' are not paramattha dhammas but only concepts. We take it for granted that the body stays and we take it for self, but what we call 'body' are only different rupas arising and falling away. The conventional term 'body' may delude us about reality. We will know the truth if we learn to experience different characteristics of rupa when they appear.



Notice that the element of Water is the only one that cannot be directly perceived, which is something we could debate about. Even Bhikkhu Bodhi has expressed some puzzlement there, but the general idea is that we cannot feel the "wetness" of a towel, for example, but we feel the other form elements of the water.

-M
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Re: Can form be directly perceived?

Postby pt1 » Fri Jan 21, 2011 8:33 am

In addition to what meindzai said (btw, good to see you around once again meindzai, how's Florida?)

Perhaps it's the English term "form" that's confusing because it can designate such things as shape of an object (e.g. square, round, etc), or a complex object (a car, a house, etc), which are basically conceptual (perhaps that's what you mean by "a hypothesis"). But in abhidhamma framework "form" would be basically a translation for the pali term rupa, which would usually stand in for all dhammas that belong to the rupa class of dhammas. And there are all together 4 classes of dhammas - rupa (form or material phenomena), citta (consciousness), cetasika (mental factors) and nibbana (the only one which is unconditioned).

It's further said that there are all together 31 (if I remember right) different dhammas that belong to the rupa class. Some of these can be directly experienced by becoming an object of a sense-consciousness (touch, smell, taste, hearing, seeing), while some can only be an object of mind-consciousness. So for example, as meindzai mentioned, the 3 elements of earth, fire and wind can be experienced through touch (tactile-consciousness) as hardness, heat and motion, while the element of water can be experienced thought mind-consciousness as cohesion.

Anyway, chapter VI (page 234) is specifically on rupa in A Comprehensive manual of Abhidhamma - the link takes you to a free online version of the book on google books. In fact, you might find reading the whole book helpful as it addresses many of the issues you've been interested in lately.

There's also a book by Nina Van Gorkom just about rupa - also free online reading here.

Best wishes
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Re: Can form be directly perceived?

Postby Sacha G » Fri Jan 21, 2011 8:52 am

OK thank you all
OK let's take the case of a tactile object:
The body meets the tactile object, and there's a tactile consciousness. Now this is tactile contact. A tactile perception arises "hardness".
Now hardness is directly pereceived, but it's something mental. The external base, i.e, the tactile object, is not perceived.
PS: I got the CMA at home
:reading:
Pali and Theravada texts:
http://dhamma.webnode.com
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Location: France

Re: Can form be directly perceived?

Postby pt1 » Fri Jan 21, 2011 9:44 am

Sacha G wrote:OK thank you all
OK let's take the case of a tactile object:
The body meets the tactile object, and there's a tactile consciousness. Now this is tactile contact. A tactile perception arises "hardness".
Now hardness is directly pereceived, but it's something mental. The external base, i.e, the tactile object, is not perceived.
PS: I got the CMA at home

Ah, excellent. In that case perhaps go through the chapter IV on the cognitive process again. As I understand it, notice that in the sense-door process of consciousnesses, rupa (such as hardness) itself is experienced by up to 17 consecutive sorts of consciousness. In particular, sense-consciousness (tactile in this case) would be number 5 in that sequence (see page 155). Then, once the rupa falls away and the sense-door process of consciousnesses is finished, the nimitta of that rupa is then experienced by the mind-door process - another series of consciousnesses, which arise at the mind-door. Finally, after this process of consciousnesses finishes, there would come other mind-door processes where conceptual understanding "hardness" would arise, and then yet more processes when you finally start thingking "aha, that was hardness". So, there's a big difference between "hardness" as an experience of rupa, "hardness" as an experience of nimitta, "hardness" as a conceptual perception of sorts, and then "hardness" as a verbal thought.

Best wishes
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