Samkhya Karika 28

Samkhya Karika 28, Obvious functions of Jnanendriyas and Karmendriyas


Rupaadishu panchaanaam aalochanamaatram isyate vrittih |

Vachana adaana viharana utsarga aanandashcha panchaanaam ||


Rupaadishu - with respect to sound, form (rupa) and others

Panchaanaam – the five senses

Aalochanamaatram – just knowing, observation

Isyate – is considered

Vrittih – their respective funtions

Vachana – speech

Adaana – management

Viharana – movement

Utsarga – excretion

Aananda – reproductive generation

Cha – and

Panchaanaam – of the five senses


Samkhya Karika 28 is merely stating the obvious functions of the ten sense organs (indriyas). The nature of the eleven sense organs has already been delved upon in the previous Samkhya karikas.  The real intension of Ishvar krisna in merely stating the functions of the five sense organs and the five organs of action in this karika is to emphasize upon the fact that all the ten sense organs have their obvious, pre-determined, individual functions as they had evolved from Prakriti and not the pure conscious self, Purusha, as will be explained in subsequent karikas. 


The mere availability of these functions, which form the part of the material world, doesn’t mean that all these must be executed without the involvement of the intellect. The individual does have the choice to either restrain these functionalities available to the instrument of the physical body.


Functions of Jnanendriyas and Karmendriyas


There are five instruments of knowledge (jnanendriya) and five instruments of action (karmendriyas). The functions of each of the five sense organs (jnanendriyas(are for observation, and thus knowing about their objects. The respective functions of the five senses of action (karmendriyas) are speech, management (grasp), movement, excretion, and reproduction (generation). 


Individual function of each sense (vritti) has been explained in this Samkhya karika. Each faculty has its own specific function: the form will be apprehended by sight (eyes), sound by ears and so on.   Eye is only for form and not for taste. Likewise, the reproductive organs cannot aid in movement. Each one is engaged in its own work. 


We Should Restrain our Senses


They all do their work but we have let them loose. Not engaging them (like living without food) is not so difficult. Just as a tortoise draws in its limbs, one can also draw in the senses and use them when necessary. It is a restraint; it is difficult but possible with practice and detachment. Just as the wind drifts a rudderless boat so do the senses lead the mind and intelligence astray. We have to restrain them and leverage them to reach our goal.


We have to work on improving ourselves. If we are learning Yoga and Samkhya then we have to learn to restrain our senses and mind and apply them appropriately. We are made in a way that whatever is shown (sensed) to us in this world, we observe and get caught there, unable to restrain ourselves. If we focus our senses on yogic things then we will start becoming like that. If mind is stuck up in something, it is unlikely to come back.


A parable: a man goes to a race course and gets so engrossed there that he loses all his senses and gets his pocket picked. Same is with us – we read, we listen but don’t apply to our lives whatever we read and listen. Begin with small things –going forward we will be able to achieve bigger things. 

Valmiki (the author of the epic Ramayana) was earlier a dacoit. He was asked by a passing saint to chant mara, mara. He followed the advice and, in the process, got so deeply involved that he didn’t realize when his chant turned to Rama-Rama.  


Our body, mind and intelligence are framed in a way that we get lost in them. We have made no efforts to go deep within and have control over the senses. To restrain it is not so difficult, but we do not put the required efforts. We have accumulated many wrong impressions - remove them and keep the mind focused (on the Divine). Keep the senses restrained and slowly get hold of the mind. Unfortunately, we have never made any significant effort and keep suffering for not having done so.