• Government Services Buddhist Association
  • Government Services Buddhist Association
  • Government Services Buddhist Association
  • Government Services Buddhist Association
  • Government Services Buddhist Association

Mind Matter and Sense Doors

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Mind Matter and Sense Doors

Asoka Devendra

A ccording to the Buddha Dhamma the entire Universe is a mere construction and concoction of two forms of Energy namely, mental or mind and material or matter. The Scientists have been able to investigate only one of these two, that is matter. The more dominant mind energy has still not come under their purview. The Dhamma deals with both.

The Dhamma has delineated twenty seven Worlds in this Universe, where there is the mind completely controlling some aggregate of matter. They are the 16 Brahma Worlds the 6 Heavens, the Earth and the 4 Hells. In all these there is only one form of basic Mind energy and one form of basic Material, ener- gy. Both these forms of Energy of course have various attributes that manifests themselves depending on the circumstances in which these forms of Energy are being experienced.

For example, the Material Energy is compounded of light heat, sound, etc. which reveal themselves when the appropriate scientific instrument is used to investigate it. A lens for the light component, the thermometer for the heat component, and so on. The Mind energy also reflects its attributes such as desire, ill will, ignorance etc., manifesting in the format of the various thoughts it generates through mental action.

All the matter in this Universe can be divided into four main euphemous groups namely “inert matter” such as stones, water, air, etc. “Living matter” as trees, mosses, bacteria etc, “thinking matter” possessing both Mind and Matter that can impel matter to perform acts such as walking, running, etc, and finally Mind alone in Nibbana.

All forms of “thinking matter” are known as Beings (Satta). They exist in the 27 Worlds (Loka) that was mentioned earlier. All beings are invested with some or all of the six sense-doors (Dvara). Eye, Nose, Ears, etc. These sense doors are sensitive physical areas in a Being, where the external World phenomena can enter the inner World of that Being.

The attributes of the external physical World such as light, sound, smell, etc., enter in through the eye, ear, nose, etc to cre- ate an inner World of thoughts (Citta). Incidentally these sense doors perform at different levels of acuity. For example insects, animals can see, smell hear better than man. But Man’s mental sense-door is far more superior than that of any other Beings in the Universe. It is only a Man who can attain the perfect state of Buddhahood.

The sense-doors received in this life are in fact the Results (Vipaka) of their uses and abuses in the previous life. Thus some are even born with impaired sense doors as a result of their abuse in the previous life or lives. Even in the case of Prince Siddartha, who was able later to attain the Supreme state of Enlightenment did so using the same sense doors which He received from his past life. The main functions of the sense-doors is to internalize the external World thus leading to the generation of thoughts. The thoughts go on to impel actions. “Living” is in fact the perform- ance of actions. Every single act that is performed by a Being can be attributed directly to some sense door stimulation. No two sense doors can operate at the same time. For example you can’t hear when you are seeing.

Consider an act of seeing

This sense-door sequence has been described by the Buddha as follows
“Cakkuncca rupeycca uppajjathi cakku vinnanam”
The eye-door and eye object together gives rise to eye-consciousness
“Thinnan sangathe passa”
The three together is known as contact
“Passa paccaya vedana”
The contact gives rise to feeling
“Vedana paccaya tanha”
The feeling gives rise to Desire

This sequence which leads up to the generation of Desire is a consequence mostly of past kamma (actions) manifesting its Effects (Vipaka) in this life. Incidentally Desire is vital because it is needed to cause the next Rebecoming (Punnabhava). The Buddha states in his Second Noble Truth “ya yam tanha ponob- havika”. One of the acquired desires gives rise to the next Rebecoming. This was true even in the case of the birth of Prince Siddhartha.

If a sense door is activated then it will proceed right up to the Desire level. This is a critical stage where two alternatives are then available. Either to terminate the sense door cycle without generating any further results, or to proceed with it often leading to unwholesome acts and thereby generating more bad vipaka for the future of this life and possible the next as well. The two alternatives proceed as follows. If when a Desire arises, Mindfulness (sati) is immediately brought into play, name- ly the awareness that Desire has arisen in me. This will interrupt that thought cycle and terminate it causing no further result. The other is to allow the Desire to proceed on to Grasping (Upadana) which in general terms, is to now allow the mind to take over that sense door object as its own object. Thus giving the mind the opportunity to develop further the arisen desires.

In such a case the mind, in fact, then brings into bear all its past memories (Sanna) and past potentials (Sankhara) etc, on this acquired mental object. As a result the mind will go on to deter- mine what should be the next suitable state (bhava) or existence. It will then proceed to acquire that state (jati). The inexorable Dhamma laws then come into operation where impermanance (anicca) leads to decay (jara), which will then continue right up to the final extinction (marana).

Every single thought process steeped in Desire that is not guarded by mindfulness, goes through this sequence leaving a trail of sorrow (soka) lamentation (parideva) and experience or suffering as a consequence of the results (vipaka) of the unwhole- some actions indulged in, to fulfill that Desire experience.

It must also be stressed that in the alternative one can by applying Mindfulness (sati) and Awareness (sampajanna), to use the sense object to develop Wisdom (panna). This is possible by seeing its real nature, namely it being impermanent (anicca), the potential to give unsatisfactoriness (dukkha) and it being unsub- stantial (anatta), there being in fact no permanent entity to savour the arisen Desire. It is for this very reason that the Buddha emphasised “that only those who see the reality (Dhamma) can see me”. All the compounded (sankata Dhamma) phenomena in all the Worlds possess the above stated three qualities (tilakkhana).

The Buddha had then gone on to show that there is also an uncompounded (asankata) phenomena not possessing the two qualities of Impermanence and Sorrow That is the peerless state of Nibbana. A mental state totally devoid of even a trace of Desire. This mental state is attainable here and now, on this very Earth itself.

An Arahant is one who has a normal physical body which is of course protected by an untainted mind. The Arahants also use their sense doors but the mind does not concoct any form of desire out of any of the sense objects. Such a mind no longer craves to associate itself with a physical body. Hence there is no further Rebecoming for them. On passing away the Arahant enters into a perfect mental state known as Nibbana. No Worldly mind can ever understand or imagine or rationalise what this state is all about. But every Worldling whatever be his Faith will in some future rebecoming finally achieve this immaculate state. A true Buddhist is at an advantage and in fact it could be a handicap in the race to achieve the supreme state of Nibbana.

It should be patently clear, it is we who create our own sorrows or pleasures. No one else can do it. All thoughts that arise in our minds are our own creations. For example when the sound of a scolding impinges on our ear there are two ways of dealing with it. One to interpret it as an insult to ones imagined Ego concept (sakkaya ditti) and then go on to developing ill will and suffering, or in the alternative to sympathise with the scolder for develop- ing some wrong view, or is an attempt to assert his Ego. It may at times also give some insight as to how others are in fact actually seeing you. This can have a chastening effect on us and if possi- ble to help us to mend our ways.

There is no object in the World to cater to our desires. We only mess around with them using our sense doors and then to create thoughts that will yield our own pains or pleasures. Consider the case of their being a large spat of dung on the road. To a gaily attired lady walking on the road this object could be a cause for revulsion (dosa). To a farmer it could cause delight (lobha). A scientist he may think of the chemical elements in the dung thus cause indifference (moha). To an Arahant the dung will be seen as consisting of the same four fundamentals (dhatu) as in his own body. He will thus derives Wisdom (panna). This is how all neutral physical objects in the Universe can react on us. It is for us to use or misuse them. Most of us are like animals running towards mirages and finally left in frustration.

All sense objects are there only to reveal the Dhamma. The Buddha has thus stated “The Dhamma will protect those who will tread its path”. This is the path to Deliverance.

May all beings use their sense doors prudently in order to minimise their suffering.

Asoka Devendra 31/1,
Mahamegha Gardens,
Sri Lanka.
Tel: 2850500

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