Samkhya Karika 31, Sense faculties function for the Purusha

Author: Randeep Singh / go to all Samkhya Karikas

Samkhya Karika 31 text:

Svaam svaam pratipadyante paraspara-akuta-hetukaam vrttim |

Purushaartha eva heturna  kenachit  kaaryate  karanam ||

Svaam – their own

Pratipadyante – enter into

Paraspara-akuta-hetukaam – the cause is reciprocal

Vrttim – functions

Purushaartha – the purpose is for the Purusha

Eva – only

Hetu – reason

Na – not

Kenachit – by whatever

Kaaryate – made to perform

Karanam – causal instruments, organs of perception and action

Samkhya karika 31 elaborates upon the reasons for the organs of perception and organs of action to function. 

Sense faculties function on their respective objects for Purusha

This Samkhya karika explains that each sense faculty has its respective function to perform. For example, the eyes will see, the ears will hear, the nose will smell and so forth. These functions are in response to the basic instincts of each of these sense organs and are unique to each one of them. There cannot be any interchange between the functions of the sense faculties under any circumstances.

Each sense faculty gets activated by its own peculiar stimulus which cannot be shared or interchanged with the other sense faculties. The ears can only sense and read the sound signals, the eyes can only perceive the sight and so on. Further, the karika states that all these functions and sense faculties are not for some random perceptions to take place, but are only for the need and purpose of the purusha. 

In life, the activites we perform are sometimes mindful and at other times mindless or mechanical. There are times when we are mindlessly doing things or doing actions while the mind is somewhere else. Very beautifully, this karika tells us that every sense faculty has a purpose to fulfill. 

This is an indirect way of telling us that we must immediately stop the cease-less chatter of the mind, the frenetic pace of our lives, mindless and mechanical activities and to recognize and ponder over why we possess sense faculties and what their real purpose is. All functions of the senses are and must be for the purusha which is only possible when all the functions of all senses are directed with one-pointedness of the mind towards serving the Purusha which just observes like a witness. 

Samkhya Karika 31

Have a Witness like Attitude as the Purusha | Samkhya Karika 31

It also emphasizes the understanding of the integration of the activities of all the different faculties towards a unitary experience of wholeness. What we mean to say is that Purusha does not in any way make them do anything, but driven by their own nature they are engaged in their activity (to exhibit to Purusha). Milk is insentient- Purusha doesn’t direct it to give strength but by drinking milk the calf gets nourished, for giving nourishment and strength is the inherent nature of milk. 

If we were to ask the Sun as, why does it shine so much, the Sun will say “To shine is my nature – what else can I do.” If we ask a painter to take money without painting- will an honest painter accept the money? 

There is a story of Ramakrishna Paramhamsa and a scorpion. One day Shri Ramakrishna saves a scorpion from drowning. In the process it stings him and falls in the water. Shri Ramakrishna rescues it again, only to be stung! One bites and the other still saves – both are bound by their respective natures. 

In the same manner senses and conscientiousness keep on doing their activities impelled by their respective nature. We have just to take a witness like attitude. The world goes on, just keep observing it, like in a play, the audience only watches.

We haven’t developed that type of attitude. Since birth one doesn’t know what is happening, why are we living? What are we doing? We just don’t know. Whatever is going on in life- we just refuse to go on observing it in silence. Unlike the Purusha, which is an observer- we do get entangled in this entire quarrel and this is the root cause of our misery. Being neutral, we have to do our work and we don’t have to get in to this quarrel.