Abhidhamma Series, no 15. The Sense Organs
- Dear friends,
The Sense Organs.
For the experience of objects through the senses there have to be
sense organs and these are ruupas. Visible object and also the ruupa
which is eyesense are conditions for seeing. Eyesense does not know
anything since it is ruupa, but it is a necessary condition for
seeing. Eyesense is a ruupa in the eye, capable of receiving visible
object, so that citta can experience it. For hearing, the experience
of sound, there has to be earsense, a ruupa in the ear, capable of
receiving sound. There must be smellingsense for the experience of
odour, tastingsense for the experience of flavour and bodysense for
the experience of tangible object.
Through the bodysense are experienced: the earth element, appearing
as hardness or softness; the fire element, appearing as heat or cold;
the wind element, appearing as motion or pressure. When these
characteristics appear they can be directly experienced wherever
there is bodysense. The bodysense is all over the body, also inside
the body. Thus, there are five kinds of sense organs. These sense
organs can be the doorways for the cittas that experience sense
objects. As we have seen, visible object, sound, odour, flavour and
tangible object (which consists of three of the four Great Elements)
are experienced through the corresponding sense-doors and they can
also be experienced through the mind-door.
Ruupas of the body and also ruupas outside the body do not arise
without there being conditions for their arising. There are four
factors that produce ruupas of the body: kamma, citta, temperature
(the element of heat) and nutrition. As we have seen, kamma is
actually the volition that motivates good and evil deeds. Kamma that
has been committed has fallen away, but since it is a mental activity
it is accumulated and can produce result later on.
Throughout our life kamma produces seeing, hearing and the other
sense-impressions that are vipåkacittas, cittas that are results.
Rebirth-consciousness is the mental result of kamma, vipåkacitta, but
at that moment kamma also produces ruupas and kamma keeps on
producing ruupas throughout life; when it stops producing ruupas our
life-span has to end.
Kamma produces particular kinds of ruupas such as the sense organs.
Citta also produces ruupas. Our different moods become evident by our
facial expressions and then it is clear that citta produces ruupas.
Temperature, which is actually the element of heat, also produces
ruupas. Throughout life the element of heat produces ruupas.
Nutrition is another factor that produces ruupas. When food has been
taken by a living being it is assimilated into the body and then
nutrition can produce ruupas. Some of the groups of ruupas of our
body are produced by kamma, some by citta, some by temperature and
some by nutrition. The four factors which produce the ruupas of our
body support and consolidate each other and keep this shortlived body
going. If we see the intricate way in which different factors
condition the ruupas of our body we shall be less inclined to think
that the body belongs to a self.
There are not only ruupas of the body, there are also ruupas which
are the material phenomena outside the body. What we take for rocks,
plants or houses are ruupas and these originate from temperature. We
may wonder whether there are no other factors apart from the element
of heat that contribute to the growth of plants, such as soil, light
and moisture. It is true that these factors are the right conditions
that have to be present so that a plant can grow. But what we call
soil, light and moisture are, when we are more precise, different
combinations of ruupas, none of which can arise without the element
of heat or temperature that produces them. Ruupas outside the body
are only produced by temperature, not by kamma, citta or nutrition.
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