“Perception” may have diverse meanings in different fields. In the field of mind and its concomitants it is an important technical word. It is a mental concomitant that takes note of sensory objects. Humans and non-humans alike, understand the world as they perceive it. Colours, forms, shapes, tastes, sounds and names are recognised through perception. In other words, perception recognises, labels and registers all sensory inputs and process them to functions as memory. It is perception that enables one to recognise an object that has once been perceived by the mind through the six senses.
Without perception we would not remember our names, our parents, our wives and our children, our houses, etc. So, it would be impossible to live in the community. The whole group of perceptions—past, present, future, one’s own and external—is designated as one of the five groups of existence. (Form, Sensation, perception, mental formations and consciousness).
Though Perception plays a key role in our life right from the beginning to the end, it also can be very misleading and inaccurate. Almost everything we perceive covers up true nature. It can change at any time. It is like a mirage. In tropical countries on warm sunny days, wild animals who are thirsty chase the mirage for water, to exhaustion and death. Farmers erect scarecrows to protect their crops from birds and animals. Animals assume them to be real humans, get scared and avoid them even if they are hungry. Sometimes, from a distance, even humans assume them to be real but as they get closer they realize it is not real. We have been ‘cheated’ on many occasions by cardboard cut-outs of policemen on roads, holograms in shopping centres or wax-works in Madame Tussauds. Magicians thrill us with illusions which scientists are not able to explain.
Everything we perceive has the same characteristic of inaccuracy. The perceptions we make in our life with regard to persons, things and ideas may seem correct and true at first glance. They may be true in the ordinary sense but in an ultimate sense, when we analyse them we realize they are not as we perceived them to be in the first place.
Therefore, a meditator treats all perceptions as a mirage, an illusion and not real. He neither rejects its application in ordinary life nor he acknowledge as real when it comes to reality. He understands the entire world as a mass of perceptions; all the names, shapes, brands, labels and colours as perceptions. Once the brightness of all perceptions recedes and dissipate there is nothing to cling onto and worry. One has to transcend not only the gross perceptions but also extremely subtle refined perceptions (In Jhānas) as well.
So, the way to find a lasting peace and liberation of the mind is to transcend all perceptions. When a perception arises in the mind the meditator treats it not as real and true but as an illusion. By doing so he not only finds tranquillity of the mind but also starts to see the emptiness.