• Philosophy,  Psychology

    A Random Walk Through Perception

    I have recently received several questions about Sāñkhya. These include the differences between senses and organs, that between inert matter and a living body, how desires influence perception, how Sāñkhya elements could be understood in analogy to motion, and the relation between yoga and the control of senses and the mind. These are not tightly interconnected topics, but I found a way on how to weave the answers together into a progressive ‘random walk’.

  • Philosophy,  Religion

    The Tortoise Model of Perception

    We normally think that the world comes to us during perception. For example, light enters your eyes; the electrical impulses go into the brain, where an image is created. Owing to this model of perception, John Locke claimed that the mind is tabula rasa or a blank slate at birth. As a child acquires more sensations, he or she acquires the concepts necessary to know. In this post I will contrast this idea to the one given in Bhagavad-Gita in which our senses “go out” to the objects to create perception, like the tortoise draws out its limbs. The yogi who withdraws the senses is said to be like the…

  • Philosophy,  Psychology

    Can We Know Reality Without Changing It?

    Modern atomic theory describes perception as a change both to reality and to our perception. For instance, when we see the redness of an apple, light impinges on the apple, is absorbed by the atoms in the apple, and then emitted. The color perceived by the eyes is due to the light that is emitted. This model of perception requires a physical particle (a photon) traveling from the apple to the eyes, which presents a deep philosophical problem of perception in that we cannot know the world without changing it. In the case of seeing an apple, the electrons in the atoms must first absorb light and then emit it,…

  • Overview,  Philosophy

    What are Manifest and Unmanifest States of Matter?

    This is a follow-up to the previous post, which discussed the nature of space in Śrimad Bhāgavatam (SB). The goal of this one is to describe the ideas of “manifest” and “unmanifest” states of matter. Matter in the Śrimad Bhāgavatam (and indeed in many other Vedic literatures) is described as originating in an “unmanifest” form, which essentially means that it cannot be known and observed, although it exists. From this “unmanifest” state, a “manifest” state of matter is produced, which can be known and observed. This post discusses how we must understand these states of matter, and how this understanding is related to the observer’s knowledge.

  • Overview,  Philosophy,  Psychology,  Religion

    Perception in Indian Philosophy

    How we perceive taste, smell, touch, sound and sight is a fact about our perception, but it has never been properly understood in biology, psychology, or philosophy. The problem is that we suppose material objects to be length, mass, charge, momentum, energy, temperature, etc. How these physical properties become taste, touch, smell, sound, and sight remains a mystery because the sensations have qualitative properties (and are described as types) while the objects do not. If eyes, nose, ears, skin and tongue are material objects, then they could only have physical properties, not qualities. How can then we perceive qualities?