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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Pratyaksa

Sanskrit for “perception.” Most systems of Indian philosophy make a distinction between normal (or “worldly,” laukika) and yogic or paranormal (“non-worldly, alaukika) perception, the latter including the Sanskrit equivalents of telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, retrocognition, etc. The five physical senses are correlated with the five elements: smell with earth, taste with water, sight with fire, touch with air or wind, and hearing (generally considered the highest of the senses) with ĀKĀŚA, or space (considered to be a kind of substance). The five physical senses apprehend external objects and events. The mind (manas) is the organ which perceives internal states (pleasure, pain, memories, etc.). It also coordinates information from the other senses into a coherent sense-world, i.e., is the “common” sense. Most Indian philosophic systems further differentiate between indistinct and distinct perception; only in the latter does a judgment (such as “This is a pot”) occur. For Nyāya-Vaieika, distinct perception is the only type which gives us truth about reality. For Buddhism and Advaita Vedānta, distinct perception (i.e., that the object of perception is, for example, a pot) falsifies reality. Theosophy tends to agree with the latter point of view, since our normal way of conceiving the world is considered to be dominated by māyā or illusion.

R.W.B.

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