Buddhist Psychology

This site working in conjunction with www.buddhistpsychology.info. It will include answers to questions relating to courses at Amida Trust and will give explanation and comments on aspects of Buddhist psychology.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Reflecting on perception

Buddhist psychology is broadly phenomenological in its orientation. that is it looks at the way we perceive our world - and the way that perception is coloured - indeed the word "rupa" which is often translated as form would more correctly be translated as "colour" - in other words the colour we add to our perceptual objects.

I had a recent experience that led me to think about this issue of how we perecive, and how that perecption is far from simply being "how things are". It was a very simple, everyday incident, but these sorts of micro-examples help us to realise just how conditioned and conditional our view is. No doubt others, similarly, can identify experiences that brought home the subjectivity of quite ordinary "seeing". It is worth noticing such things lest we assume our perception IS reality.

I was organising my photos on a web page the other day. As thumbnails it was diffficult to make out the content of each image and the images were packed maybe twenty in view at a time.

Having loaded the images from a disc, a number of pictures were sideways on. I set about turning them. What struck me was that although I could recognise the subject of the image when it was sideways on, as soon as I turned it the right way, the images suddenly became super-clear to me. All the details stood out in a way that seemed even clearer than surrounding pictures that had not required turning. It was as if it leapt into three dimensional view, so great was the shift in my perception of it.

Such a perceptual shift illustrates the way the senses lock onto the familiar and reject the unfmiliar. They are not neutral, but conditioned and grasping. It is almost as if they were seeking to compensate for the prior confusion of the sideways view, and returning my perceptual world to the comfort of the familiar and easily recogniable.