Week 27: The Six Sense Spheres

This week’s chapter and talk on the five aggregates focus on how the aggregates enable us to understand and utilize our concept of “self”. Joseph initially discusses impermanence and dukkha as understood through knowledge of the aggregates. He goes on to elaborate on the ways in which we identify with our sense of self. He speaks of the “complacency” in our observation of and identification with the body: he points to the seduction of thoughts and feelings. Finally he leads us to the Buddha’s teachings on deconstructing the concept of “self”. 


Joseph suggests that sense consciousness is dependent on a sense object, it’s sense base, and attention.  Yet, can we experience any sense consciousness without including the Mind Sphere? The Tongue + Lasagna + Attention = Taste-Consciousness. Yet what about our mind's memories and references with Italian food, spices, pasta, cheeses? Do these not play a key role in our knowing, our consciousness, of this present-moment taste? Also, from personal experience, under what circumstances can sense-consciousness happen without the mind sphere?

Joseph suggests that the way to let go, to unclench, is to essentially feel the hot coal burning in our hand - and you will drop it automatically.  When we are mindful of a sense door opening and the fetter we attach to it, he says to go deep into our energetic experience to find the hot coal. Question: What tricks do you use, what mechanism do you have to avoid going deep, to satisfy your aversion to feeling the burn of this particular moment?

Announce them as present on the site. They are personally challenging and very practical.  Try just one.... or more.


1. Dharma Scavenger Hunt.  Make a checklist of the 6 Sense Spheres.  Include room for the object and base, and the fetter (the shackle) that arises.  This week, be sure to be mindful of both a pleasant and unpleasant occurrence for each sphere. Note what arises as consciousness, as your knowing, and also what Mind factors come to play.  You can set up these experiences: a favorite delicacy followed by something truly awful (cold refried beans!). Something lovely, and something almost painful. A hot shower… then an icy cold shower. Notice 1 minute after the experience has passed if what had arisen is now completely gone, perhaps replaced by an unexpected thought or sensation.  What are your fetters as you just imagine doing this?

2. Practice letting the River be on it’s own, without pushing it.  This week try three times to NOT contribute, to not speak up in conversation or not put in your two cents. Notice how things go for the conversation or activity, and what you experience for yourself at that moment and at the end of the conversation or activity.

3. Find the Burning Coal. Five times this week, become mindful of a fetter, a shackle, and feel that experience physically and energetically. Do not just label it, do not just identify it, do not just judge it in order to avoid experiencing it. Stay with the energetic feeling of it, however uncomfortable or pleasing. What is that feeling? How many times have you felt it before? What's below it? Can you find the deep suffering that it really is? Can you admit its impact on your life? Can you let go of this burning, can you drop the knife? If you find yourself not going deep, what did you use to end the search?