For experience to occur you need to have an object(sound or speaking man?), a sense faculty(ear) and a sense consciousness(hearing). If a sound is an object, what is then an experience?

5 Answers 5


According to MN 18:

Dependent on the ear and sounds, ear-consciousness arises.


  • Ear = the sensitive part of the ear that is able to detect sound
  • Sound = vibration
  • Ear-consciousness = the Thought Moment that is aware of sound

This is the sensing process by which a vibration is registered by the mind. Later thinking processes may combine multiple vibrations into a syllable and multiple syllables into a word. Later thinking processes may recognize the word and start associating a meaning with the word.

So when you "hear a person speaking", it is actually a large number of sensing processes followed by a much larger number of thinking processes.

The sensing process is "impersonal"; a mechanical process that would be the same for you and for me. The thinking process is "personal"; your thinking sequence and my thinking sequence will be different based on our individual past experiences (for example, if the word is in a language that you know but I do not know, then obviously your associations will be very different from my associations).


From a Tibetan point of view, it concerns what is referred to as Lo Rig (epistemology), 'Awarenesses and knowers' and 'Minds and mental factors'.

Strictly speaking, experience refers to a characteristic of the 'feeling' mental factor. As in Yeshe Gyeltsen's Necklace for Those of Clear Awareness:

QUESTION: What is the defining characteristic of feeling?
RESPONSE: It has the characteristic of experience through the entity of experience, it experiences individually the fruitional results of virtuous and non-virtuous actions.

Also, from a Sautrantika point of view (Dignaga's Compendium of Valid Cognition, Dharmakirti's commentary, Purbuchok's Explanation), sound would be the observed object condition, casting its aspects onto the ear-consciousness apprehending it.

Sound is an object of a sense direct perceiver (ear-consciousness). As such, it is form. Sautrantika characterize form as being “atomically established”, contrary to Yogacara.

Thus, if you states that “sound is [an] experience”, if absurdly follows that “experience is form... experience is atomically established... experience is an object of a sense direct perceiver... so experience must be seen, heard, tasted, touched or smelled”. As it is not so, experience is not form, and sound is not an experience [because sound is form].

One might assert that the ear-consciousness, “perceives its object” or “experiences its object”, and in this way “has an experience” or “possesses an experience” and is an object-possessor of both the sound and the experience. It would probably not stand in debate, but we might present things like that generally.


"Sound" is an oject and an experience. "Sound" is a certain experience that is an object. Anything or anybody can be the object of experience. The object is the part of the experience that is being experienced.

The subject is what is experiencing or witnessing the object of experience.


Sound is an object.

When the mind directs itself towards an object, that is the experience. What is the experience? Whatever arises when the mind directs itself towards an object. What arises? Senses and consciousness. Then, thoughts.

  • I agree with this simple answer. Some of the others seemed to go round in circles. I would say that if a physical cause strikes an inanimate object, that is an 'event'. If it occurs to a simple living thing, like a fish, that is a 'happening'. To something with self-awareness like a dog, it is an 'experience', and people ascribe 'meaning' to things that occur. Sound would have a different context in each of these cases. For an anesthetized person, sound may well cause no mental effect at all, so it would be an event or happening rather than an experience.
    – user2341
    Sep 28, 2015 at 0:56

As Master Dogen said:

The ways of viewing mountains and waters are different depending upon what kind of beings we are. There are some beings that view water as a jewel. However, this does not mean that they view a jewel [for human beings] as water. How do we see what they view as water? What they see as a jewel is what we see as water. Some beings see water as wondrous flowers. But they do not use flowers [for human beings] as water. Hungry ghosts view water as raging fire or as pus and blood. Dragons and fish view it as a palace or a lofty building. [Some beings] see it as the seven treasures or the mani jewel. [Others] see it as a forest or walls, or as the dharma nature of immaculate liberation, or as the true human body, or as body as the form and mind as the nature. Human beings view it as water. And these [different ways of viewing] are the conditions under which [water] is killed or given life.

Some beings (dogs) perceive vibrations of higher frequencies that other beings do not perceive as sound at all. For some (tiny) beings, the vibrations we perceive as sound are perceived as physical movement. Some beings, like bats, perceive sound as vision.

There is nothing inherent in the vibration that makes it sound. Very slow vibrations (< 1Hz) are not perceived as sound at all. Vibration itself is not an entity either - it is a process of cause-and-effect propagating through various media.

The point here is that phenomenal reality is projection, an interpretation that depends on the point of view. Because experienced reality is projection, we can control it by controlling our point of view.

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