How would colors appear to a blind person? How would textures feel to one without a sense of touch? How do sounds sound to a deaf person?
Today, I will contemplate the way in which my very world, which seems so objectively real, is in actuality dependent upon my own body and senses.
I’m studying genetics and evolution. There we learn about how species evolved, adapting to changing circumstances on the planet. But what is not discussed explicitly is how the planet evolves from living beings.
That is to say, the experience of the planet is determined by the perceptual faculties of those living here. Can I find a planet independent of anyone’s experience, or thought, of it?
When I walk down the hallway today, I’ll watch the sense perceptions that arise as I move through my environment… the appearances of the paintings on the walls, sounds of the people around me, the feelings of moving my feet contacting the floor, the smells of the dining room, the tastes of the food I eat.
Can anything be established without sensory perceptions?
Then as humans, so much is known conceptually with conventional agreement – all the language and terms that we use to name and describe things, to communicate our ideas, and to understand our world. There is no inherent meaning in the mere vibrations of the larynx, but our minds give them lots of meaning.
Even the notion of “planet Earth” is dominated by conceptual understanding. Memories of my experiences, images I’ve seen, world maps and globes, news reports, the reports of friends, textbooks and films, the iconic footage of Earth from outer space – all of these are cobbled together into a mental image.
With that, I situate myself here on this planet, in this country, in this room, melding together the conceptual appearance of what I know in my mind with whatever I happen to be directly perceiving through my physical senses. There I have it – “the world.”
Today, I will reflect on how experience arises, on how the world arises, and on how those two things (awareness of objects and the objects themselves) are entirely interdependent. The Tibetan word for “dependent,” shen wang, literally translates as “other-powered.”
Phenomena appear to exist in-and-of themselves. The chair in front of me seems to be in a neat little box of self-contained existence – it is a chair! But the chair doesn’t exist by itself. It depends for its function upon a human body to sit in it, it depends upon the people who made it, the materials it was built with, its various parts, the term “chair,” and all the human sensory faculties to ascertain its characteristics (color, texture, scent, etc.).
To gain insight into the emptiness of inherent existence of phenomena, I will think about the way in which things are powered by entities other than themselves.
Today, I will learn how a primary factor on which all phenomena depend is one’s own senses and mind.