Samkhya Karika 34, Nature of The Objects of 10 Sense Organs

Samkhya Karika 34 text:

Buddhi indriyani teshaam pancha vishesh-avishesh-vishyaani I

Vak bhavati sabda-vishayaa seshaani tu pancha-vishyaani II

Buddhi indriyani – the senses of perception or knowing, cognition

Tesaam – of these

Pancha – five

Vishesh avishesh – special and not special

Vishyaani – objects

Vak – speech

Bhavati – happens, possesses

Sabda vishayaa – sound as an object

Sheshaani – the remaining

Tu – but

Pancha vishyaani – having five objects

Samkhya Karika 34 describes the nature or the quality of the objects of the 5 senses of perception (eyes, nose, skin, tongue, and ears) and the five senses of action (speech, hands, legs, organs of excretion, and organs of reproduction)

The purpose of the sense organs is to sense the surroundings, made up of the material objects which form the part of Prakriti, from each of their specific angles and feed that information to the internal sense organs for their interpretation and evaluation.

Truly speaking they are involved in their objects. The collection of data in this manner is meant to present the experience of the material world surrounding an individual to the associated Purusha via the Intelligence, or Buddhi.

Now it is for the antahkaranas, especially the intelligence, to retain the essential and let go of the non-essential. For the intelligence to be able to filter only the essential data, to be presented to the Purusha, it needs to consistently maintain a high degree of awareness of the same.

A dancer, with a pitcher on her head, performs various twists and turns, does various steps and mudras but her attention is always on pitcher. This type of awareness, subtlety we have to always keep.

By just living on the surface, at the gross level and listening and doing things because someone has said so will not bring about desired awareness. We must take decisions using our discriminative intelligence and be ever conscious of the Divine

Samkhya karika 34 – Special and Non Special Objects of Sense Organs

Going by the principles of evolution of Prakriti, all the objects of the 10 sense organs form the entire material world or Prakriti. The evolution of Prakriti takes place through a systematic chain of production wherein a subsequent product or element of prakriti emerges / evolves from the element present just before it in the hierarchy of evolution.

For example, Ahamkara evolves from Buddhi (the first evolute of Prakriti) which is present just before it in the chain of the evolution of Prakriti. Matter, or material world which can be senses by the 10 sense organs is located at the end of this chain of evolutions is it is the grossest of all the evolutes present above it and thus contains maximum of tamas guna within it.

The present Samkhya Karika 34 clearly distinguishes between objects which are capable of begetting the next level of evolutes in the chain of evolution, and the objects which form the dead end of this chain of evolution as they do not evolve into anything further.

This Sankhya Karika text distinguishes the former as the non special objects and the latter as the special objects of the material world which are meant to be sensed by the sense organs. The non special objects are the cause of the products they produce, as well as the effect of the product present just before them in the chain of evolution.

The special objects on the other hand are only the effects of the causes (objects) present just before them and are incapable of being the causes of any further production to take place. Moreover, the properties of the effects (objects) are different from their causes (objects which produce the effects), though these properties were very much present but were lying latent within the causes.

Here, one needs to understand the fact that the sensing capabilities of the sense organs of an ordinary man are limited to the grosser objects only. These capabilities are majorly limited to the products of evolution present at the end of the chain: 5 Tanmatras and 5 Mahabhutas, since Prakriti evolves from the subtlest to the grossest products or evolutes.

Thus, here, 5 Tanmatras are being referred to as non special objects and the 5 Mahabhutas ( gross elements) as the special objects.

Nature of Objects of Jnanendriyas – Organs of Perception

Samkhya Karika 34

Out of the 10 senses, 5 senses of perception, Jnanendriyas, have both gross and subtle objects which they are able to apprehend, or scan. The senses of perception can thus perceive the gross objects like easily visible matter (earth, metals, water etc.).

So, the eyes can perceive form, color and shape of these objects, the ears can hear the sounds ( coming from the material world) with frequencies meant to be perceived by normal human ears, can taste, smell, and touch all the grosser elements of which the material world or the universe as a whole is composed of.

In short these 5 senses in general are capable of comprehending the five experiences – touch experience, hearing experience, taste experience, smell experience, and sight experience – of the Puncha Mahabhutas ( space, air, fire, water, and earth). These 5 elements are the gross objects of the 5 jnanendriyas.

As the practitioner of yoga progresses on its path, his 5 Jnanendriyas (senses of perception) acquire the ability to even perceive the subtle objects, or the Tanmatras, which are the raw material out of which the Pancha Mahabhutas are made up of. This happens because the progress on the path of spirituality / Yoga purifies the matter part of which the individual is made up of and makes it subtler.

The evolution of Prakriti moves from the subtler to the grossest element / evolute, whereas spirituality helps retrace the same path backwards – from grossest to the subtlest – in order to free the soul, or the Individual Purusha from the shackles of matter or Prakriti.

Such a person can hear subtle sounds, much beyond the frequencies a normal human ear can hear, can touch invisible objects, see entities not visible to the normal human eye, and taste (rasa) of devine objects and have a vey sensitive sense of smell. These are the Tanmatras.

So the 5 Jnanendriyas can experience and know both the gross and subtle objects.

Nature of Objects of Karmendriyas – Organs of Action

On the other hand, out of the 5 organs of action (karmendriyas) its only speech which has a subtle object that is the sound, all the other four Karmendriyas have all the Pancha (five) Mahabhutas (gross elements as their objects.

Here, the critical point to understand is that sound here is the object which is created by the action of speech on the vocal cords, that is in meant to be heard by the ears (one of the Jnanedriyas). The object of speech is to create sound, or sabda which is a subtle object, one of the Tanmatras.

Sabda, or sound is the only Tanmatra which gives rise to the grosser element (Mahabhuta) Akasha or space on its own, without combining with any other Tanmatras. All the remaining 4 mahabhutas evolve by the various combinations and permutations of the five Tanmatras. Samkhya Karika 24 explains this process more clearly.

Finally all these sense organs need to be understood as psycho-cosmic forms that enable knowing and experiencing. The process of Sarga, or the evolution of Prakriti is a descent towards the grosser aspects of the material world, whereas the process of liberation is the ascent towards the subtlest principle of Mahat, or Buddhi.

Knowing and understand this process becomes imperative on the student of Yoga, Samkhya philosophy so that he, she can work towards his, her liberation from the pain stricken material world or the Prakriti.

The entire purpose of explaining Sankhya Darshan is to reveal the process of evolution from subtle to gross and the necessity of reversing this process for returning from the gross to the subtle.

One should function as a separating machine, or a filter between the real and the unreal. One must direct the senses towards the right objects by using one’s intelligence, or discrimination power. One must have faith and develop the ability to notice the non obvious things and aspects to an object as well.

With practice the intelligence become sharper and more adept at identifying the changeful from the changeless. Majority of us remain entangled in the unreal, we have to take a call on this now, and begin training our internal senses on the external ones in order to intake only what is right and useful for our spiritual progress.