This question is related to this one (and its comments) I made before: In the Dependent Origination formula, shouldn't perception precede craving instead of feeling?

According to the Khajjaniya Sutta, sañña is perception "because it perceives yellow... blue... red... white". So, it seems that it allows the mind to give a concept or label to whatever it's contacting and feeling. (https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn22/sn22.079.than.html)

To label and to recognize "such as such", one has to process enough contextual information to know that any object is that object and not other object. In the gestalt psychological theory of processing of stimuli, one identifies phenomena not because the perception of a single trait but rather the perception of a set of characteristics in a context. In between those perceived features, one may find even subjective labels, such as "good", "bad", "better", "worst", "beautiful", "ugly", etc. The nature of such concepts is that their criterion for definition is not at face value, but defined by every individual person. Those labels are ambiguous until specified by the speaker. But despite their subjective nature, they're may be included in a person's definitions of an object and its features. As an example, one might think that in the definition of an X race is the concept of inferiority in Y activity of life, such as intelectual learning.

Understood under this perspective, subjective qualities may fall under the definition of perception (at least as understood in modern psychology).

Is this also valid for Buddhism? Or do they have their own specific category? What is the perspective on this point in the myriad of traditions and sects? What do the suttas say? What is your personal opinion?

Thank you in beforehand for your time and patience!

up vote 1 down vote accepted

According to the Khajjaniya Sutta, sañña is perception "because it perceives yellow... blue... red... white". So, it seems that it allows the mind to give a concept or label to whatever it's contacting and feeling.

Is perception giving a concept or label? Or is it more primitively discerning differences between shapes, colors, contrast, etc?

In between those perceived features, one may find even subjective labels, such as "good", "bad", "better", "worst", "beautiful", "ugly", etc.

These labels are definitely not perception. They are sankhara or themes (nimitta). The suttas say:

Avoid the sign/theme (nimitta) of the beautiful connected with passion

Sn 2.11

Passion is a making of themes. Aversion is a making of themes. Delusion is a making of themes.

MN 43


The nature of such concepts is that their criterion for definition is not at face value, but defined by every individual person.

Yes & no. For example, all arahants will view good & bad the same.

Those labels are ambiguous until specified by the speaker. But despite their subjective nature

They are often but not always subjective. Suffering is the same for everyone thus it is "bad" for everyone.

Understood under this perspective, subjective qualities may fall under the definition of perception (at least as understood in modern psychology).

I would focus on 'sankhara' as subjective (rather than perception).

For example, unless a person is colorblind, "blue", "green", "yellow", "white", "red", etc, is the same for everyone. The quote itself from the Khajjaniya Sutta appears to show that perception is not "subjective" because colours are not subjective.

  • I understand and agree with most of your answer. However, I'm not so sure with that about colors being subjective. Colors don't exist outside our brains; they are just the way our brain interpret some part of the electromagnetic spectrum. And that can be said about almost every experience of the outside world. Are brains are not wired the same for all of us. And even if they were, there's no way to know whether we all see and understand colors the same way. That's exactly why the line between subjective and objective labels seems so blurry to me. – Brian Díaz Flores Dec 5 at 15:12

I think this is what you call Sankara. This is a very complex word with different meaning but you can learn about this in Abhidhamma.

==========

Saṅkhārā is a collective term for the other fifty cetasikas. These fall into four groups: 1) Universal mental factors (sabba citta sādhāranā). 2) Particular mental factors (pakiṇṇakā). 3) Unwholesome mental factors (akusalā). 4) Beautiful mental factors (sobhanā).

http://103.242.110.22/theravadins/English-articles/abhidhamma-in-practice.pdf

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.