The 6 Sense Doors of Vipassana

Buddhist temple door
Buddhist temple door

In Buddhist philosophy, there are 6 sense doors – ways in which we allow information in. The 6 sense doors are the eyes, ears, taste, touch, body, and mind. A combination of factors are required to be at play for any stimulus to enter a sense door.

For example, the eyes. In order for an object to be allowed into the eye sense door, a few factors must exist. You must have eyes in which to detect an object, the object must be in a visible pathway, there needs to be light, and finally, you must bring awareness to this object. Similarly for the ears, but substitute air for light. We will focus on the eye and ear sense doors for now. Remove any one of these factors, and the door to this sense is blocked.

Guarding the door to the senses however, does not imply absence of the sensation, since some phenomenon are impossible to avoid. Walking down the street and rounding the corner to head into your office building, you run into your archenemy whom you haven’t seen for at least a decade. The eye sense door has been breached and there’s really nothing you can do about that.

Guarding your 6 sense doors can be the difference between being a passive character in a dream versus the lucid and in-control dreamer. The passive dreamer allows things to happen to him without any intervention. The lucid dreamer is aware of what’s happening and can make conscious choices.

The premise, according to Buddhist philosophy, is that prior to the arising of any emotion, this emotion arises as a bodily sensation, and most importantly, can be mitigated. You can increase the sensitivity to your body, and alert yourself of an upcoming emotional storm to come.

Vipassana is a Buddhist meditation practice which places attention on the observation of such bodily sensations. A common Vipassana guided meditation is a body scan. This involves starting at one end of the body – for example, the head – and observing sensations at every point in between until you reach your toes. Although you may not feel any sensation initially, you are asked to patiently observe until you do – even a faint tickle – or the sensation of the floor touching the bottoms of your feet.

Consistent and dedicated practice of this meditation, in any fashion – seated on the floor, seated on a chair or a mat, or even reclined – will gradually allow you to bring this practice to every day situations.

The Six Sense Doors As Explained by the Abidhamma by Sayadaw Janakabhivamsa (video)