Open main menu

Read more about Refining of Senses from the works of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo.

Why Is It Important to Cultivate Senses?

People have many senses which are asleep. If all the senses they possess were awake, there are many things they would perceive, which can just pass by without anyone suspecting anything. [1]

For Knowledge

Sensations are an excellent instrument of knowledge and education, but to make them serve these ends, they must not be used egoistically for the sake of enjoyment, in a blind and ignorant search for pleasure and self-satisfaction. [2]

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 see of smell to distinguish between different odours—all these are a powerful means of education. [3]

For Expansion of Consciousness

If one approaches 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, "I like this, I don't like that", one knows 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]

For Nobility and Generosity

For one who has developed a truly refined taste will, because of this very refinement, feel incapable of acting in a crude, brutal or vulgar manner. This refinement, if it is sincere, brings to the being a nobility and generosity which will spontaneously find expression in his behaviour and will protect him from many base and perverse movements… [5]

For Self-Protection

There is a tremendous power in sensorial immobility. If one can remain like a wall, absolutely motionless, everything the other person sends will immediately fall back upon him. And it has an immediate action. It can stop the arm of the assassin, you understand, it has that strength. [6]

Importance of Educating the Senses

To this general education of the senses and their functioning there will be added, as early as possible, the cultivation of discrimination and of the aesthetic sense, the capacity to choose and adopt what is beautiful and harmonious, simple, healthy and pure. As the capacity of understanding grows in the child, he should be taught, in the course of his education, to add artistic taste and refinement to power and precision. He should be shown, led to appreciate, taught to love beautiful, lofty, healthy and noble things, whether in Nature or in human creation. This should be a true aesthetic culture, which will protect him from degrading influences. A methodical and enlightened cultivation of the senses can, little by little, eliminate from the child whatever is by contagion vulgar, commonplace and crude. This education will have very happy effects even on his character. [7]

What Are Senses?

The Twelve Senses

Precisely one sense has a relation with consciousness. For instance, who does not see, can become aware of an object at some distance through a kind of perception which is not touch for he does not feel it, which is not vision for he does not see, but which is a contact—something that enables him to make a contact without hearing, seeing or touching. This is one of the most developed senses apart from those we habitually use. There is another sense, a sort of sense of proximity: when one comes close to a thing, one feels it as if one had contacted it. Another sense, which is also physical, puts you in touch with events at a great distance; it is a physical sense for it belongs to the physical world, it is not purely mental: there is a sensation. Some people have a sort of sensation of contact with what is happening at a very great distance. You must not forget that in the physical consciousness there are several levels; there is a physical vital and a physical mind which are not solely corporeal. Foresight on the material plane is also one of the physical senses. We have, then, something that sees at a short distance, something that sees at a long distance and something that sees ahead; this already makes three. These are a sort of improvement of the senses we have; as for instance, hearing at a great distance—there are people who can hear noises at a great distance, who can smell at a great distance. It is a kind of perfecting of these senses. [8]

Ideal Sense

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. [9]

How Can One Refine One’s Senses?

To deprive oneself of sensations is therefore as harmful as depriving oneself of food. But just as the choice of food must be made wisely and solely for the growth and proper functioning of the body, so too the choice of sensations and their control should be made with a very scientific austerity and solely for the growth and perfection of the vital, of this highly dynamic instrument, which is as essential for progress as all the other parts of the being. [10]

By Intent and Discipline

The first method is to want it, to begin with, that is, to take a decision. Then you are given a description of all these senses and how they work—that takes some time. You take one sense or several, or the one which is easiest for you to start with, and you decide. Then you follow the discipline. But for each one of these things you must practise for months with patience, with a kind of obstinacy. [11]

By Detachment

The working of the senses is warped: one does not see, hear, taste, feel things as they are in reality as long as one has a preference. So long as you are attracted by certain things, and repulsed by others, you cannot see things in their reality; you see them through your reaction, your preference or your repulsion. The senses are instruments which get out of order, in the same way as sensations, feelings and thoughts. Therefore, to be sure of what you see, what you feel, what you experience and think, you must have a complete detachment; and this is obviously not an easy task. But until then your perception cannot be wholly true, and so it is not sincere. [12]

By Offering to the Divine

Each movement of thought, even of sensation, of feeling, which is normally of little importance, becomes different the moment you ask yourself, "Did I feel this as an offering to the Divine?..." If you recall this every moment of your life, the attitude becomes quite different from what it was before. It widens the field of consciousness. [13]

Content curated by Smrati Humar

Read more about Refining of Senses from the works of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo.