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Perception: How we make sense of reality

We make sense of our envi­ron­ment through the process of per­cep­tion. It typ­i­cal­ly hap­pens through our sens­es: visu­al, audi­to­ry, olfac­to­ry, gus­ta­to­ry and tac­tile sense. We respond to stim­uli from the envi­ron­ment and inter­pret them. In the process of per­cep­tion, four com­po­nents are involved: the sense organ, the recep­tor cells, the nerves the trans­mit the sig­nal and the brain region.

Indi­an view of per­cep­tion

The Indi­an philo­soph­i­cal sys­tems have diverse views on the ori­gin of the sens­es. The upan­ishads talk of the cre­ation of the uni­verse, the indi­vid­u­at­ed con­scious­ness and the koshas that enclose the atman.

The adhisthana is the seat of the sens­es which are the sense organs. The gna­nen­driya are the five sens­es. Like the nerve con­duits that we men­tioned before, the sig­nals from the var­i­ous sens­es flow through des­ig­nat­ed nadis: gand­hava­ha for smell , rupava­ha for light and form, rasava­ha for taste, spar­shava­ha for touch, shab­dava­ha for sound, manova­ha for the mind. What is per­ceived is called the visaya or object of the sens­es. Sens­es that work by direct con­tact with the object are called prapyakari (smell, touch and taste) and those that work by indi­rect con­tact are aprapyakari(vision and sound). The tatt­va bod­ha, a vedan­tic prakarana grantha speaks of the Manomaya kosha as the mind with the gna­nen­driya and the Vij­nan­maya kosha is the intel­lect with the gna­nen­driya.

Pratyak­sha is a form of direct per­cep­tion through the sens­es. It is one of the Pra­mana: valid sources of knowl­edge.

What impacts per­cep­tion

Per­cep­tion can be impact­ed by sev­er­al things. The qual­i­ty of the sense organ could change the way we expe­ri­ence things. Per­ceiv­ing through the sens­es is called indriya pratyak­sha. The state of the mind could impact per­cep­tion. When the mind is dis­tract­ed (kship­ta), it changes the per­cep­tion. Per­ceiv­ing through the mind is called man­as pratyak­sha. The kle­shas: men­tal impu­ri­ties could also impact with way we per­ceive the world around us. Our likes and dis­likes make us per­ceive a sit­u­a­tion favor­ably or unfa­vor­ably. Our intel­lec­tu­al frame­works too col­or our per­cep­tion of real­i­ty. If we don’t have pri­or knowl­edge of some­thing, we might per­ceive the object to be a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent thing. The Indi­an tra­di­tion also recog­nis­es high­er states of per­cep­tion like intu­ition: yoga pratyak­sha.

Once Bha­ga­van Shri Krish­na asked Dury­o­d­hana to bring one good man from his region. He also asked Yud­histhi­ra to bring one bad per­son his region. The next day both came alone. Dury­o­d­hana said he could­n’t find one good per­son and Yud­histhi­ra said he could­n’t find one bad per­son. The frame­works we hold in our mind impact the way we look at the world around us. Don’t they?

More about the cog­ni­tive process­es com­ing soon.

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