Senses

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“The senses should be capable of enduring everything without disgust or displeasure, but at the same time they must acquire and develop more and more the power of discerning the quality, origin and effect of the various vital vibrations in order to know whether they are favourable to harmony, beauty and good health or whether they are harmful to the balance and progress of the physical being and the vital. Moreover, the senses should be used as instruments to approach and study the physical and vital worlds in all their complexity; in this way they will take their true place in the great endeavour towards transformation.”[1]


“It is by educating the vital, by making it more refined, more sensitive, more subtle and, one should almost say, more elegant, in the best sense of the word, that one can overcome its violence and brutality, which are in fact a form of crudity and ignorance, of lack of taste.”[2]


“You have said: “Sensations are an excellent instrument for knowledge and education.” How?

How? But it is through sensations that you learn: by seeing, observing, hearing. Classes develop your sensations, studies develop your sensations, the mind receives things through sensations. By the education of the senses the growth of one’s general education is aided; if you learn to see well, exactly, precisely; if you learn to hear well; if you learn through touch to know the nature of things; if you learn through the sense of smell to distinguish between different odours — all these are a powerful means of education. In fact, they should be used for this, as instruments of observation, control and knowledge. If one is sufficiently developed, one can know the nature of things through sight; through the sense of smell one may also know the value, the different nature of things; by touch one can recognise things. It is a question of education; that is, one must work for it.
         For example, there is a considerable difference between the vision of ordinary people and that of artists. Their way of seeing things is much more conscious and complete than that of ordinary people. When one has not trained one’s vision, one sees vaguely, imprecisely, and has impressions rather than an exact vision. An artist, when he sees something and has learnt to use his eyes — for instance, when he sees a figure, instead of seeing just a form, like that, you know, a form, the general effect of a form, of which he can vaguely say that this person resembles or doesn’t much resemble what he sees — sees the exact structure of the figure, the proportions of the different parts, whether the figure is harmonious or not, and why; and also of what kind or type or form it is; all sorts of things at one glance, you understand, in a single vision, as one sees the relations between different forms.”[3]


“And if you approach things with this idea — of studying, of wanting to develop exactitude of perception and the relation between things — then, instead of living in sensations for sensations’ sake (that is, “Oh, this is pleasant” or “this is unpleasant”, “I like this, I don’t like that” and all this kind of foolishness), you know the quality of things, their use and their interrelations through this study of the senses. This puts you in contact with the world in a completely conscious way.”[4]


“You see, you can begin the training when quite small, quite small, and you can continue for more than a hundred years. And then, truly, within yourself to begin with, you never grow old because it is always interesting and always you make progress; and finally, after some time, not very long, something like about twenty years — that’s not much — you succeed in using your senses in a logical, rational, useful way and this helps you to enter into contact with the world consciously. Otherwise you go like half-blind people groping in the darkness there, like this (gesture), trying to find your way and at every step bumping into something. Or maybe, you mistake the road and then you must begin again. You make a mistake, you must correct it. And I tell you, it is like a small exercise you can do, which can be done during any... “Why is it like that? Why have you done that?” — “I don’t know.” — “Why have you arranged this in this way?” — “I don’t know.” If you are honest to yourself, you will be obliged to say to yourself a hundred times a day, “I don’t know.”
         I don’t think there’s one in a hundred who does things consciously and deliberately and who is in tune with an inner principle of taste or sense of harmony. There are people like that, but not many, not very many. And even those who have an innate taste (there are people with an innate taste, whose senses are refined from birth — they should show some gratefulness to their parents always, for it is something very rare and they must have been born under a lucky star), even these can reach through education an extraordinary perfection.”[5]




  1. On Education, p.56, “The Four Austerities and the Four Liberations”
  2. On Education, p.56, “The Four Austerities and the Four Liberations”
  3. Questions and Answers 1954, p.82
  4. Ibid., p.84
  5. Ibid., p.88


See also