Observation, Experience and Looking

Observation is the activity of receiving knowledge of the outside world through the senses.

Experience is observation of some thing or some event gained through involvement in or exposure to that thing or event.

Looking is the use of sense organs (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind) to observe and experience what is there.


Please note that mind is defined here as a sense organ and not as a computing machine.


From What Buddha Taught:

A word about what is meant by the term “Mind’ (manas) in Buddhist philosophy may be useful here. It should clearly be understood that mind is not spirit as opposed to matter. It should always be remembered that Buddhism does not recognize a spirit opposed to matter, as is accepted by most other systems of philosophies and religions. Mind is only a faculty or organ (indriya) like the eye or the ear. It can be controlled and developed like any other faculty, and the Buddha speaks quite often of the value of controlling and disciplining these six faculties. The difference between the eye and the mind as faculties is that the former senses the world of colours and visible forms, while the latter senses the world of ideas and thoughts and mental objects. We experience different fields of the world with different senses. We cannot hear colours, but we can see them. Nor can we see sounds, but we can hear them. Thus with our five physical sense-organs-eye, ear, nose, tongue, body-we experience only the world of visible forms, sound, odours, tastes and tangible objects. But these represent only a part of the world, not the whole. What of ideas and thoughts? They are also a part of the world. But they cannot be sensed, they cannot be conceived by the faulty of the eye, ear, nose, tongue or body. Yet they can be conceived by another faculty, which is mind. Now ideas and thoughts are not independent of the world experienced by these five physical sense faculties. In fact they depend on, and are conditioned by, physical experiences. Hence a person born blind cannot have ideas of colour, except through the analogy of sounds or some other things experienced through his other faculties. Ideas and thoughts which form a part of the world are thus produced and conditioned by physical experiences and are conceived by the mind. Hence mind (manas) is considered a sense faculty or organ (indriya), like the eye or the ear.


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  • Chris Thompson  On December 10, 2011 at 11:30 AM

    Hi Vin, Good post. When you write: “Experience is observation of some thing or some event gained through involvement in or exposure to that thing or event,” you mean after the event of involvement, right?”

  • vinaire  On December 10, 2011 at 12:05 PM

    It could be simultaneous to the event if one is being that event or phenomenon.


  • Chris Thompson  On December 10, 2011 at 3:57 PM

    Yes I see. I meant the other meaning of experience, as in “how much experience do you have?”

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