The 9th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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Six sense organs
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six sense organs
六根 (Skt shad-indriya; Jpn rokkon )Six Organs The six indriyas, or sense organs: eye, ear, nose, tongue,
body and mind.
Also, six sensory organs. The eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind. The contact of the six sense organs with their corresponding six objects gives rise to the six consciousnesses—sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and thought. In Hinayana Buddhism, the six sense organs are regarded as the source of earthly desires. The Lotus Sutra says that one can purify the workings of the six sense organs by embracing and reciting the sutra. With the six sense organs purified, one is free of attachment to and delusion about their corresponding objects—color and form, sound, odor, taste, texture, and phenomena. The Sanskrit word indriya means faculty, faculty of sense, sense organ, or power.
According to classical Buddhist teachings, we experience the world through six “sense doors,” or perceptual gateways. The door of mind refers to our thoughts, emotions, and mental images. The Buddha taught that these six modes of perception define the totality of our experience—in other words, every moment of our lives involves experiences that are known by way of one of these sense doors. Further, the Buddha said that each experience received in this way is colored by a feeling tone, which is either pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral.
Understanding our experience in these terms reveals the importance of bringing mindfulness to every moment of our existence. Without it, we become mere creatures of mental conditioning, constantly trying to manipulate our experience so as to increase our pleasure and minimize our pain.
The Blessed Buddha once explained:
Bhikkhus, by possessing three qualities, one lives full of pleasure & Joy in this very life,
and one also has laid a solid foundation for elimination of the mental fermentations...
What are these three advantageous qualities?
I: One guards the doors of the senses,
II: One is moderate in eating, and
III: One is devoted to wakefulness...
And how, Bhikkhus, does one guard the doors of the senses?
When seeing a form, hearing a sound, smelling a smell, tasting a taste, touching a thing, or thinking a thought, one does neither get caught up by any of the general features, nor does one become as if gripped, immersed, fixated or captivated by any particular detail of this form, sound, smell, taste, touch, idea or mental state... Since, if one leaves the senses of the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body & mind uncontrolled, then evil detrimental states such as greed, lust & discontent invades & dominates the mind! Therefore does one train control of the senses, guarding the senses, holding back the senses, and one keeps in check these 6 wild-running senses... Imagine, Bhikkhus, a horse-wagon, which yoked to two full-blooded horses, was standing ready with whip & goad, on even ground at a crossroads. Any clever tamer of horses could mount it, and, taking the reins in his left hand & the goad in his right, he could drive away and return by whatever way he wanted, whenever he wanted, being in complete control of his direction... Similarly here, the Bhikkhu trains guarding these six senses, trains in controlling them, trains in taming them, trains in pacifying them. It is in this way, Bhikkhus, that a Bhikkhu possess the advantageous mental ability to guard & fully control the six sense doors...