Our True Nature
Phenomena and Illusions
What is a Phenomenon ?
The dictionary defines it as "An immediate subject of perception, distinguished from the thing in itself" an "appearance".
Examples of phenomena would be a mountain that was seen, a piece of music that was heard, a scent that was smelt, a fur coat on a cat that was felt, and a flavor that was tasted.
All are phenomena as they were subjects of perception. Phenomena are perceived as they "appear to be", which may or may not be what they actually are in their essential nature.
What is Illusion?
The dictionary defines it as "an appearance that is not real - a misleading appearance. It applies to something that appears to be real and true but actually is not existing at all or being quite different from what it seems.
Classic examples are the piece of rope that is mistaken for a snake, and the heat mirage of some apparent water across a road.
What is Perception?
Perception is defined many ways that range from the taking in of sensory input, through the formation of concepts and abstractions, to the organization and structure of mental models.
The original definition of the word perception 'to thoroughly grasp' (from the latin roots) is the meaning of the word that will be used in this web page.
In more detail it means, for the purposes of this web page, full and complete receipt of sensory input and excludes labeling, interpretation, judgments, concept creation and abstraction building and other mind functions. This use of the word is about as 'direct' as you can get.
Perception, however, even direct Perception, is anything but direct.
Visual Perception is immensely complex and the part of the brain set aside for visual processing is very large. (It does not matter if you do not follow the detail in what follows.)
Light enters the eye, is focused on the retina and nerve impulses go via the Optic Nerve to the Brain. However, the nerves from the left half of both eyes go to the right side of the brain and those nerves from the right side of both eyes connect to the left part of the brain. This crossover occurs in the Optic Chiasma.
The very large visual center in the brain constructs a seamless 'view' for us that is not split as a result of having two eyes, or as a result of the crossing of the nerve fibres at the Optic chiasma. Furthermore, the image that we see is three dimensional. It is a truly masterful piece of computer generated graphics.
What we take to be 'direct sight' is in fact computer generated. It is Awareness that is Aware of the result of this computing masterpiece - just as you read these words right now.
Other sensors in the body work in less spectacular but equally marvelous ways. Stimulation of a sense cell occurs and impulses are carried by nerve cells to the brain. At this stage there is no difference at all between any of the actual nerve impulses - they are just nerve impulses. Reaching the brain - the olfactory center for example, the nerve impulses are translated into a so-called 'smell' of which Awareness is Aware. Nerve impulses from the Cochlea go to the auditory center and are translated into so-called 'sounds' of which Awareness is Aware.
So, the original sense organs generate nerve impulses when stimulated and those nerve impulses are relayed to the brain where they are translated into a form that is available to Awareness.
At the point that Awareness occurs - that is the Perception. The perception occurs IN that awareness and Awareness is not limited to that.
Awareness is aware of all that is there. Nothing is rejected, nothing is preferred - and the dualistic concept of 'acceptance' or 'non-acceptance' does not arise. There is no labeling, no assignment of concepts, no picking and choosing. Pure choiceless awareness.
The sensory information of which we are aware of in our daily life is taken as being direct - which it isn't - but it IS as direct as it could ever be.
Telescopes and Microscopes
Light Telescopes (from one bought at a department store all the way up to the Hubble Telescope) are easier to understand. They collect the light and focus it at a place where our eyes can see it. A light Microscope is similar, but obviously in the other direction.
It is more complex when Radio Telescopes and Electron Microscopes are used as the original collection of the sensory input is not light. Nevertheless the computers in the Radio Telescope and the Electron Microscope manage to generate an image that is available to our eyes - either in print form or from a screen.
So with these latter cases two sets of processing takes place - initially in the telescope or microscope and after that in our own brain. However it is still, as always, Awareness that sees the Computer Generated Images and that is the point at which perception occurs.
A mountain - Ramana Maharshi's Mount Arunachula for example - is the subject of perception and is undoubtedly a phenomenon. It appears to be there.
However - is it as it appears to be ?? At one level we can say that it definitely IS as it appears to be. Just a mountain. No problem there.
But as the magnification of the mountain increased and increased (like in the PowerPoint Presentation "Fantastic Trip" (second part) what it "appeared to be" would change markedly and regularly.
As we zoom in the mountain would appear as crystals, then it would appear as a lattice structure (crystalline structure), then be molecular in structure, then atomic, then subatomic, and maybe finally as raw energy itself, or even nothing at all. (Who knows? )
At each point you can say "this is how it is" and that would be true and correct for each of those magnification levels. But is there any level that you can stay with and say - THIS is how it is ??
One thing is clear from this, however, is that it's nature is not summed up in our particular view of it.
This is emphasized when the magnification is reduced and reduced - as we draw back from Arunachula and go into space, as per the "Fantastic Trip" (first part). At the more distant stages our planet, and even galaxy, appears like a miniscule piece of dust in the far far distance thousands of light years away.
As to the "real nature" of Arunachula - there are probably two perspectives that you can stay with
This is not suggesting that you adopt a belief that the world is "an illusion", as per the definition - although it may very well be one.
The world, the universe, is an object in Consciousness and has no substance outside that.
There are illusions a lot closer to home.......... the Illusion, the Dream of "me"
See The Two Truths , on this website, for more on the Actual and the Commonly accepted.
Part of the above is from Perception, Awareness and Concepts , on this website.
Written by Mike Graham, 7 Sept 2009