In Buddhism, sensation is one of the Five Aggregates:

Specifically, sensation refers to the elements of a sentient being that perceive external stimuli. This can be interpreted to include the physical sensory organs and associated mental formations, or to be composed only of the mental components of sensation, with the physical organs grouped with form. In either case, the faculty of sensation composes the way in which human beings perceive and interact with the world. At the level of the aggregate of sensation, we are given only 'raw' sensory information- sounds, sights, smells, etc. They are not yet grouped into coherant ideas- a gathering of sights, sounds, and smells is not yet apperant as 'cow' to our mind- as this function is performed by the faculty of conception. Sensation thus forms the interface between the purely physical elements of a being (form) and the purely mental attributes (conception, awareness, descrimination).

It is worth mentioning that traditional Buddhist thought considers there to be six senses instead of the standard five present in the West. No, the sixth is neither ESP nor ESPN- rather it is thought. Buddhist teaching regards thoughts as sense-objects, just as capable of being focused on and perceived as any physical object. Thought sense-objects may be conveyed by other media- most commonly, through auditory (speach) or visual (writing) faculties- but the end results are thoughts that are focused on and perceived by the mind.

Reading perhaps provides a more clear example of this process than speach, as it is devoid of any of the 'extra' carriers of information (expression, intonation, gesticulation) that are present in speach. The purpose of writing, it could be argued, is to convey thought. Because we are largely verbal creatures, much of our thought consists of 'internal speach' (though there are exceptions). When we read, despite the paucity of the visual stimulation (unless you're reading an illuminated Medieval manuscript), thoughts arise in our mind that, hopefully, parallel the thought of the author, or are at least a representation of that thought. We can create mental images, voices, sounds, smells, etc.- all in the absence of traditional sensory input to trigger these responses. Abstract thought functions in much the same way; we are dealing with purely verbal entities that have meaning that far exceeds the sounds that they form. In a sense, the mind is the sensory organ of information.

by Arthur Rimbaud

Par les soirs bleus d'été, j'irai dans les sentiers,
Picoté par les blés, fouler l'herbe menue :
Rêveur, j'en sentirai la fraîcheur à mes pieds.
Je laisserai le vent baigner ma tête nue.

Je ne parlerai pas, je ne penserai rien,
Mais l'amour infini me montera dans l'âme ;
Et j'irai loin, bien loin, comme un bohémien,
Par la Nature, heureux- comme avec une femme.

For the english translation of this poem go to Stavr0's translation just one node away. Just scroll down.

Sensation by Arthur Rimbaud

On blue summer evenings, I will travel the paths,
Tickled by the wheat, trodding the light grass :
Dreaming, feeling its coolness upon my feet.
I shall let the wind bathe my bare head.

I shall not speak, I shall not think,
But infinite love will ascend to my soul;
And I will go far, far away, as a gypsy,
Through the Land, happy - as with a woman.

The whole of the information from the world that an organism is able to detect, as opposed to perception which refers only to that sensory information of which an organism is consciously aware.

There are 5 main classes of sensation in humans:

  1. Visual
  2. Auditory
  3. Touch / kinesthetic / somatosense
  4. Vestibular sense
  5. Chemical senses
The Visual Sense:

Light is detected by photoreceptors in the eyes. The information is then transmitted to the primary visual cortex region of the occipital lobe via the thalamus.

The Auditory Sense:

Sound waves are detected by hair cells in the cochlea of the inner ear. The information is then transmitted to the primary auditory cortex region of the temporal lobe via the thalamus.

The Somatosenses:

These include skin receptors and receptors in muscles, tendons and joints. Different receptors can detect pressure, temperature, vibration and proprioception. This information is integrated in the somatosensory cortex.

Vestibular sense:

The vestibular sense is more commonly known as the sense of balance and senses the position of the head with respect to gravity. It combines with proprioception to detect the orientation of our head and body in space.

The Chemical senses:

The chemical senses are the sense of taste (gustatory) and smell (olfactory/olfaction).

The five tastes detected by tastebuds are sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami (savory, detects glutamate and other amino acids). Information is relayed to the thalamus.

The olfactory sense is detected by 50 million receptors located in the nose, and is believed responsible for our detection of pheromones. It is the only sense that is not first processed by the thalamus. It is connected almost directly, via the olfactory bulb, to the emotional centers in the brain which give smells a strong emotional component.

Sen*sa"tion (?), n. [Cf. F. sensation. See Sensate.]

1. Physiol.

An impression, or the consciousness of an impression, made upon the central nervous organ, through the medium of a sensory or afferent nerve or one of the organs of sense; a feeling, or state of consciousness, whether agreeable or disagreeable, produced either by an external object (stimulus), or by some change in the internal state of the body.

Perception is only a special kind of knowledge, and sensation a special kind of feeling. . . . Knowledge and feeling, perception and sensation, though always coexistent, are always in the inverse ratio of each other. Sir W. Hamilton.


A purely spiritual or psychical affection; agreeable or disagreeable feelings occasioned by objects that are not corporeal or material.


A state of excited interest or feeling, or that which causes it.

The sensation caused by the appearance of that work is still remembered by many. Brougham.

Syn. -- Perception. -- Sensation, Perseption. The distinction between these words, when used in mental philosophy, may be thus stated; if I simply smell a rose, I have a sensation; if I refer that smell to the external object which occasioned it, I have a perception. Thus, the former is mere feeling, without the idea of an object; the latter is the mind's apprehension of some external object as occasioning that feeling. "Sensation properly expresses that change in the state of the mind which is produced by an impression upon an organ of sense (of which change we can conceive the mind to be conscious, without any knowledge of external objects). Perception, on the other hand, expresses the knowledge or the intimations we obtain by means of our sensations concerning the qualities of matter, and consequently involves, in every instance, the notion of externality, or outness, which it is necessary to exclude in order to seize the precise import of the word sensation." Fleming.


© Webster 1913.

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