The beauty of the Buddha’s teaching is that the Buddha brings us back to seeing…what we are actually doing.
The goal is seeking the end of suffering. Yet we keep replicating and perpetuating it through a lack of understanding and our inability to let go of the impulses towards desire, attachment, becoming. We work to be able to pay attention, to recognize those habits and see clearly.
That’s why the Buddha gives these different structures of investigation, so we can investigate the nature of our relationship to the senses and their objects—eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, mind; sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, mental objects. We come back and pay attention to that because the process is actually quite simple, very basic, and it has been going on for a long time: The eye sees form, eye consciousness arises, there’s eye contact, the feeling arising from eye contact, and there’s the response to that, which is usually conditioned by ignorance and by desire.
This is not theory; it is not just Abhidhamma to be studied and then debated and argued over. This is exactly what we do. The eye experiences forms. The ears experience sounds. The nose smells odors. The tongue experiences tastes. The body experiences the tangible. The mind experiences objects, moods, and then the movement starts from there: Consciousness arises; contact arises; feeling arising from contact takes place.
That’s the structure the Buddha set out in the Adittapariyaya Sutta, the Fire Sermon. That’s why the Buddha teaches: “The eye is on fire, form is on fire, eye consciousness is on fire, eye contact is on fire, and the feeling arising from eye contact is on fire. With what is it on fire? It is on fire with desire; it is on fire with aversion; and it is on fire with delusion”.
This is a very strong image. We are being burned. We need to pay attention to the sense realm, particularly in terms of practice, both as a part of the meditation in investigating what that process is—how we get swept up by it— and in investigating the nature of that reaction.
Reacting to simple, natural, phenomena—sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touch, mental objects— is completely natural. The pull of becoming is not so much because of the sense contact, because that’s natural. It’s about being drawn into the feeling and about the feeling-desire link, the feeling that arises.
And, of course, we’re generally drawn to the pleasant feeling.
This reflection by Luang Por Pasanno is from the booklet, On Becoming and Stopping, (pdf) pp.14-16.