Nature of Our Perception

As Buddha points out, most of our perceptions are erroneous.

Our perception is fundamentally illusory – it is not what it seems!

There are many demonstrations of visual, auditory and other illusions (see images below). People tend to think these are just an illusion, when in fact, our whole perception is fundamentally illusory – i.e., it is not what it seems. We only recognize its illusory nature in those examples, but mostly we are oblivious to it. Our whole perception is a mental model or construction; and then we project it outwards or identify with it. For example, there are no colors, sounds, tastes, smells, etc. out there; there is no pain or pleasure out there. They are all constructions of our mind. Though they are illusory, at some level this is necessary and useful. But the problem is that we take it seriously and literally.

Our perception is highly narrow and limited.

There is the parable of the blind men and an elephant in which a group of blind persons touching different parts of the elephant and coming to different conclusions. Our perception is always narrow and limited.

Sometimes it's useful to divide truths as relative (perceptions) and absolute (truths) – like, how sunrise is relative to our standpoint; but, in the absolute sense, sun doesn't really rise, the earth just rotates itself. As per the general relativity, space and time itself relative. It's ok to use the relative truth as long as we are not trapped by it and not taking it too seriously.

Our perception is deeply distorted by our mental states.

Our perception is distorted by our emotions, feelings and moods [Emotional Hijacking], by our desires and fears, by our beliefs, views and opinions.

  • Whenever we are not peaceful, our mind lacks clarity and our perceptions will be deeply distorted. When we are emotionally hijacked, it is better to calm our mind first before doing anything.

  • If we strongly hold on to our beliefs, views and opinions, we cannot see the truth. It is better not to take our views and opinions seriously and throw away all dogmatic beliefs.

Our perception is heavily outdated and corrupted by our past accumulated images.

Based on our perceptions which are highly narrow, limited and illusory, we form memories and build images of ourselves and others. Nothing in the world is static and permanent. As everything and everyone constantly changes, there is always mismatch and conflict between our accumulated images and the reality. Often relationship is not between two people, but between two images. Whereas, "relating" is a fresh living thing where we don't take anyone or anything for granted. Such "relating" is mindfulness where we pay non-judgmental attention and listen with total openness and respect. Such listening leads to understanding which is the foundation of love.

A good relationship stems from love and trust. To build trust, first we have to trust others (this may inspire others to do the same; but any such expectations destroys the relationship). To trust others, we have to trust ourselves first. To trust ourselves and others, it takes courage. Courage allows us to genuinely open to ourselves or others.

When we take our perceptions too seriously and project it on to others, we end up blaming others for our suffering and project our anger onto others; or we project our pain and pleasure to external things and desperately cling to them.

Our sense of self and freewill are fundamentally narrow, limited and illusory. They are useful at some level, but if we take it too seriously and literally, we end up developing strong "ego" where we take our accumulated images about ourselves and others as reality.

Cultivating mindfulness is about going beyond our perceptions, feelings and mere thoughts and knowledge towards seeing things just as they are.

CK. Kamaraj

28 March 2021

Both red circles are same size.

Both A & B are same shades of color.

This is not a spiral; they are all concentric circles.

This a static image. Stare at the image to stop the movements.

(All images are from the internet)