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The Dangerous Six Sense Doors

If, as a Buddhist practitioner, you do not take the time to observe and analyze the cognitive processes of consciousness of which your mind is capable, the dragon of mental digression and potential obsession may bedevil and easily make a victim of you.

Even if you think you don’t have time for meditation, just as a mental exercise, in the place of unskillful restless thinking, you can try to think of all the instances in which consciousness arising through eye contact could become a mental hindrance to you, misleading you, at least temporarily from the Buddhist path to liberation. 

Then think of consciousness arising through the ear and how it could be detrimental for you . . . consciousness arising through the sense of smell . . . consciousness arising through a craving for tastes . . . consciousness arising and developing through imagined mental conditions and desired states, which might bring you to the point of delight or ecstasy. 

This is an area where you need to make a mental effort and do some work.

Indeed, you need to search out, find, isolate, and bring all your potentially conscious cravings out into the bright light of day as they gradually appear to you. You should be able to examine and observe and analyze just what it is about them that so attracts or repels you.

If you can develop the powers of analysis to learn to discern the actual root causes of why you want what you want or don’t want, and ask if the short-term result of fulfilling such wishes and inclinations would be good or bad for you in the long run—and if you know they will not be good for you, then you should decide what you have to do about it. 

Since no one else can get into your mind except you, you should become familiar with its inclinations and tendencies and know what to do when these tendencies try to catch you by surprise, when you are not careful and then gain control over you. If you can learn to gain some control over your mind’s tendencies, you can learn how to avoid letting whole hoards of unwholesome tendencies gain power over you. 

But to do this successfully, you must become a successful sentinel guarding the gates of the mind.

You have to learn to examine your mental life, so that there is nothing which can sneak in or leak out preparatory to a surprise attack that will bring harm on you, either directly or indirectly. Impulses are usually just fleeting phenomena of the moment which bring no lasting pleasure, so if you can learn to control such fleeting impulses as they arise and simply let them go by as momentary flashes, if you can learn not to grasp after what are only passing phenomenal phantasms, you will be a lot better off in the long run.

Once you feel you have gained benefit from the above mental exercise of the mind watching the mind, you can also learn to analyze the relationship in your consciousness between the six sense doors and anger, hate, and envy. 

Learn to live an examined life so that you will be prepared and better in control of the mind when such potentially arising temptations or aggravations hit you when you are not looking and momentarily blind you, thereby making it possible for you to strike out at someone on impulse—provoking an action that could potentially harm you in a way that you would regret for the rest of your life or for even many lives to come. 

The Buddhist texts tell of a farmer who killed his mother because he was stressed and hungry when she was late bringing him his lunchbox. Could this be you? Most people would not want to believe that this could be true, but think of all the other things you might do in moments of uncontrolled, rash impulsiveness.

You must learn to live a self-examined life so that you are careful about the consequences of everything you do, in any momentary act of your life, until one day you eventually have the insight that reacting to such arising psycho-physical impulses is just energy burning wastefully and most likely harmfully. 

You must learn to remain independent and detached from any such potential impulsive action arising, standing back with the mind watching the mind, dispassionately, with equanimity. Then, continue to maintain detachment and equanimity as a mental exercise in going against the stream, 

Think of potential situations that could arise and arouse anger, hate, or envy in you in a harmful way that would potentially backfire on you. Rather than thinking about what you do not like about others, ask instead what is wrong with you that you still have the latent potential to lash out in anger, or to react with intense hate, or to be so envious of another that you want to inflict or perpetrate harm upon him or her. 

Once you really get to know the potential of the mind for both harm and good, you can practice feeling compassion for yourself and for the potential harm you have done or might potentially do. Instead, you can practice feelings of loving-kindness, compassion, and sympathetic joy for others, exercising equanimity, knowing the good you can do by avoiding unwholesome harmful states and replacing then with sublime, wholesome states in which you radiate goodness toward others whom you might have potentially hated earlier had you reacted unwisely. 

Once you learn to feel love and compassion for yourself, in your own sorry state, you will not continue to hate; you will begin to feel compassion for others who are in the same state as you.

If you want to see what is wrong with the world, observe and analyze the roots of your own actions, and then ask yourself how the world would be if everyone thought, felt, and acted in the harmful way that you are capable of doing, and if you don’t want the world to be like that, the place to start changing the world is by starting with your own inclinations and actions. 

If you can start to set yourself straight because you see the potential for suffering that uncontrolled impulses of consciousness can do to others out in the world, then it is just possible that there are a few more individuals like you out there in the world, who feel the same kind of love and compassion and pity for others, and who do not want others to suffer in the way that you and he have both had to do in the past.

If you can practice controlling the six senses and this starts working for you, and you can also continue countering the five hindrances while simultaneously practicing the four sublime states, this will be very beneficial for you.

Related features from BDG

Hindering the Hindrances
The Four Sublime States
The Way of Mindfulness

More from Theravada Teachings by David Dale Holmes

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Prakash Kumar
Prakash Kumar
9 months ago

Nicely described about controlling the six senses and with good examples, as well as importance of loving kindness and compassion in life. Thanks Prof. David Dale Holmes for your essay