Samkhya Karika 32

Samkhya Karika 32, Sense Organs are 13 & Their Objects are 10 in Number


Karanam trayodashvidham tad aaharana dharana prakashkaram I

Kaaryam ch tasya dashadhaa aahaaryam dhaaryam prakashyam ch II


Karanam – the sense organs

Trayodashvidham - of thirteen kinds

Tad – that

Aaharana – to Apprehend, or knowing

Dharana – sustaining, holding, concentrating

Prakash – illuminating

Karam – does, performs

Kaaryam – results

Ch – and

Tasya – its

Dashadhaa – ten-fold

Aahaaryam – known, apprehended

Dhaaryam – the supported, sustained

Prakashyam – the Illuminates

Ch – and


Samkhya Karika 32 further clarifies the purpose and functions of the sense faculties, organs.  All the sense organs when taken together add up to 13 in number.


5 Jnanendriyas - sight, hear, smell, touch, and taste

5 Karmendriyas – speech, grasp, motion, excrete, and procreate

Manas – mind

Ahamkara – Ego

Buddhi – Intellect


All the sense organs, internal as well as external, have different functions to perform. The objects of the sense organs are 10 in number,  as per one interpretation - five objects of karmendriyas, and five objects of jnanendriyas. The functions of all the 10 organs of perception can be placed under three main categories: seizing, retaining, and illuminating. Seizing and retaining is done by karmendriyas, and illumination is the function of jnanendriyas.


Another interpretation of the 10 objects, of 13 sense organs as mentioned in this Samkhya Karika could be the 5 tanmatras  and the 5 mahabhutas ( basic 5 elements of which the objects comprising the entire material universe are made up of). This interpretation of the 10 objects  of 13 sense organs as mentioned here seems to be more accurate, as out of the 13 objects we are talking about, three – buddhi, ahamkara, and manas – can only apprehend subtle objects and not gross objects, Whereas the 10 objects of karmendriyas and Jnanendriyas (as per first interpretation) are all gross by nature. 

So, if we take into account the objects of the internal sense faculties – buddhi, manas, ahamkara – , they have to be subtle by nature, and tanmatras are subtle by quality. Thus, accepting the second meaning of 10 objects  of 13 sense organs – 5 tanmatras and 5 mahabhutas – makes more sense. 


The Purpose of all Sense Organs is Liberation


All the senses are engaged in their respective work. To provide an experience or an opportunity for emancipation (liberation) is the purpose of these 13 organs. Whatever they do it is basically for liberation. When a person suffers, he learns from it and rises above. However, we commit many mistakes and we have to suffer a great deal. It takes a long time to come to the right understanding. But when aspiration is intense, everything works out fine. If there is a clear understanding and the determination is strong, then one grows. 


There is a story of Eklavya. When he watched Guru Dronacharya teaching the princes, he approached the Guru to accept him as a student, driven by a strong urge to master the bow.

But the Guru refused him as he was not a kshatriya. He, however, did not give up. He made an idol of the Guru and practiced hard. When Guru Dronacharya and his disciples went for a stroll, they witnessed Eklavya stitch the mouth of a dog with his arrows. The Guru was amazed, seeing his exceptional skills. If the determination is strong, aspiration is intense, growth is inevitable.


We are all living but the force which is there, we are not aware of it. Animals are engaged in experiences and enjoyments coming from their sense organs. They live in that; if they feel hungry, they eat, if feel tired they take rest and so on. It is their basic nature. But for man, they have to rise above these experiences and enjoyments. By using the mind, ego and intelligence, he can foresee and visualize the past, present and future. The way forward is to always be conscious of the Divine and not be engrossed in the materialistic world viz. cars, bungalows and personal beatification. We have to live with a clear understanding and learn from mistakes and for this we have to work hard.