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Five Senses

I’ve always wondered why there are five senses while to me it didn’t seem like salt and sour were the same sense, or why prickly and warm were the same sense, or why dark and green were the same sense. But I’m rereading The Treasury of the Dharma Eye, and Dōgen explains it in his explication of the Heart sutra. Eyes, ears, nose, tongue, skin, and mind. I guess that’s how they organized ‘em back then.

I bristled at this teaching in grade school (in “lågstadiet”) because it felt like we were being taught an oversimplification, a falsehood, a myth.

Even as a nine year old girl I could tell that it didn’t really make sense (I had learned about taste receptors on Sesame Street, and could extrapolate that to how various sense sensations like temperature and texture also must be different). But now I feel like the mythicness of it was a point. Just as we were being taught all about Thor and Freya and Odin, or the Latin alphabet. Basically arbitrary human constructs but it helped us put a lot of other equally arbitrary human contructs in a framework where we could more easily understand and remember it.

And, if it helps us understand the Heart sutra, well, then I’m glad.


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