What Is The Nature Of Perception

Continuing with the teachings of the Buddha that are coming forward in the scientific community, we ask, “What is the nature of perception?” According to the teachings of Buddhism, most of our suffering is caused by wrong perceptions.

Perception is the third of the Five Aggregates – form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness. These five aggregates come together to make up an individual. More about the other aggregates later…

ShadowZen Master Thich Nhat Hanh tells this story about wrong perceptions.

There is a story, a tragedy, which everyone in my country knows about. The story of a man who went to war and left his wife at home, pregnant. When they were separated, they cried a lot, but, fortunately, two years later he came back home. By that time the little boy had been born. His wife and his little boy came to the gate of the village to meet the veteran. He wept in their arms, and then he said to his wife, “Go to the market and buy some things to be able to prepare an offering to put on the ancestral altar, and to announce to the ancestors that the soldier has returned.” The ancestors always need to be told the good news.

When his wife was at the market, the husband tried to persuade the child to call him Daddy. “No, mister, you are not my Daddy. My Daddy is someone else. He comes every night, and my Mommy talks a long time to him, many times, and she cries a lot. Each time she sits down, he sits down too. Each time she lies down, he lies down too.” The child spoke all these terrible things, and the happiness of the husband disappeared completely. He became a block of ice. When his young wife came home, he did not look at her. His suffering was so great, it came right up to his heart. There was nothing he could do. After he had offered incense to the ancestors, he touched the earth four times, as we do in Vietnam, and he addressed his prayer to the ancestors. Then he rolled up the mat on which he had touched the earth, so that his wife would not be able to touch the earth in front of the ancestors. He thought that his wife was unfaithful to him, and therefore was not worthy to present herself before the ancestors. His wife was still very young, she didn’t understand at all why her husband’s attitude had changed so drastically after she came back from the market. She suffered too much. She kept all this suffering within her own heart, because she was proud. He was proud. He suffered so much, but his pride was too great to allow him to share his suffering with his wife.

After having told the ancestors the good news that he had returned home, he went out into the village, and he spent all his time in the bar, drinking alcohol. When people suffer a lot, if they do not know how to practice, they use alcohol to drown their suffering. Usually, after an offering like this, the whole family needs to come together before the altar to celebrate the good news; but he went out into the village, and he only came back at two o’clock in the morning. He did this for three or four days, and his wife couldn’t bear it any longer. She threw herself into the river and drowned herself.

After hearing the news the young husband came back home to take care of his child. That night, he lit up the kerosene lamp in the house, and the little boy pointed to the shadow of his father, and he said, “Mister, that’s my father. He comes every night, and Mommy speaks to him every night, and she cries a lot. And every time she sits down, he sits down too.” The child’s words! Now the husband began to understand. The father the child talked about was just the shadow thrown onto the wall. His wife had spoken to a shadow every night: “My dear husband, you’ve been away so long. How can I, all alone, take care of our little boy?” and then she would cry. And of course, every time she sat down, the shadow sat down too. Wrong perception had now been removed, but it was too late. The young lady was already dead, and there was no way to bring her back to life.

If there had been ho pride, the young man could have come to his wife and said, “While you were out in the market, our little boy said that someone comes to visit you every night. I don’t understand. I’m suffering so much because of this. You have to explain it to me.” If he had done this, his young wife would have had an opportunity to explain, and both of them would not have had to undergo the tragedy which happened. But he didn’t do that. His wife too had suffered greatly, but the pride she had stopped her going to her husband and saying: “Darling, why are you acting like this? Why are you behaving like this? Since I came back from the market you haven’t looked at me, you haven’t spoken to me. Have I done something so terrible, to be treated like this?” If his wife had said something like that, then her husband would have been able to explain what had happened, and together they would have not had to go through this tragedy. [Read More…]

I know this is a long story and I hope you found it interesting.

This video explores the scientific perception of perceptions. The essential teaching is that the world is in me just as much as I am in the world. See, for example, Mother Earth Is Inside Of Us and You Are Me and I Am You.

The quantum physicist, David Bohm said,

The attempt to live according to the notion that the fragments are really separate, is in essence, has led us to the growing series of extremely urgent crises that are confronting us today.

Rupert Spira wrote,

There is no separate, inside self and no separate outside object, other or world. Rather, there is one seamless, intimate totality, always changing when viewed from the perspective of objects, never changing when viewed from the perspective of the totality.

Both of these intelligent people are saying that the perception of a separate self is a wrong perception. What is more important is that we recognize our interbeing with all sentient beings, the earth, the sky, the sun, and the whole cosmos.

What can we do today to protect all life on planet earth from the urgent crises that are confronting us today? Please share.

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