Samkhya Karika 7, Obstacles to Perception and Inference

Author: Randeep Singh / go to all Samkhya Karikas

Samkhya Karika 7 text:

Atidoorat saameepyaad indriyaghaataan mano’navasthaanaat |

Saukshmyaat vyavadhaanaat abhibhavaat samaan abhihaar achcha ||

Atidoorat – from a great distance

Saameepyaad – from a very near distance

Indriyaghaataan – through damage, defect, in the senses, 

Mano’navasthaanaat – from being fickle, weak minded

Saukshmyaat – from being subtle or very fine

Vyavadhaanaat – From hidden intervention

Abhibhavaat – from being supressed

Samaan – similar objects

Abhihaar – intermingling

Cha – and

The proofs of valid knowledge in philosophy have their own limitations, because the two types of pramana, proofs which involve perception and inference are directly and indirectly dependent upon the sense organs of the perceiver. The mind, ego, and the intellect, which interpret and collate the sensory information are evolutes of Prakriti, the presence of which is an hindrance to experiencing Purusha ( pure consciousness) the ultimate goal of Samkhya philosophy.  One can experience Purusha only when the evolutes of Prakriti dissolves back into it as these evolutes are themselves obstacles to the path of realizing pure consciousness and have their own limitations.

Samkhya karika 7 talks about the limitations of the sensory organs – last level evolutes of Prakriti – which play a crucial role in establishing the pramana / proofs of perception and inference. 

Obstacles to Perception and Inference | Samkhya Karika 7

It is common knowledge that human eye can easily miss things which are smaller than a certain size, one struggles to locate a small pin on the floor after it has slipped from one’s grip though the pin remains within close vicinity. A blind person cannot see things present right in from of him, some one on the other side of the wall cannot know what is present on this side. These things do not exist for these people even though they are present in reality. 

Similarly, as per Samkhya, the existence of Purusha and Prakriti, the two entities from which the entire evolution takes place, is a reality but we can’t perceive them as our organs of perception are unable to detect such subtle presence. Samkhya has numerous proofs of their existence. Samkhya karika 7 delves into the details of the obstacles if present can distort the functioning of our perception and the ensuing inference there from. 

Atidoorat – This term stands for the object being out of the range of the perception of the senses.  Since the range of distance from which  one’s senses can detect the presence of the objects around one is limited for each sense organ, one cannot know the presence of objects which are located very far away distance. One needs a telescope to see the planets of the Solar system in the sky, and one cannot perceive the presence of micro-organisms without the help of a microscope. Same goes with the sound, humans can only hear sounds which are within the range of 20 – 20000 Hz frequency.  Our ears cannot pick up sound frequencies which are below or above this range, though sound signals which fall out of this range are present around us. 

Samkhya Karika 7

In the same manner the olfactory cells present within the inner lining of the nose are unable to pick up scent of a rose kept in another room. This proves that our sense organs are unable to perceive everything that exists in and around us. 

Saameepyaad – Objects if placed to close to eyes will appear distorted as in order to focus properly the eyes need to be at an appropriate distance from the object. Anything that is placed too near to the sense organs would not be read correctly. Being too close will distort our opinion, or perception of not only physical objects but also about other non- material entities, parents being too close to their kids often lack the ability to evaluate them objectively. Close proximity, thus can be an obstacle to gathering correct knowledge about anything. 

Indriyaghaataan – This term stands for the internal defect in the proper functioning of the sense organs. A digital camera with a botched-up lens can never capture a clear image of anything. Any functional defect in the eyes, ears, or other organs of perception will not be able to catch the correct information about their objects. For valid and correct knowledge to be gained the organs of perception must be fit to function to their maximum possible capacities. 

Mano’navasthaanaat – In the event of the proper functions of the mind being impaired, instability, confusion, prejudice etc., it will lack the ability to properly, objectively interpret the information coming from the senses even though the senses are working perfectly. External factors can influence the state of mind and which can affect the thinking process. The mind has a two-way relationship with the senses, it receives information from the sense organs about their objects and also control, manipulate their working. A dysfunctional mind lacks awareness and is not fit to properly register or understand anything. Such a mind is as good as being absent with regards to its functions and this state is known as absent mindedness. 

Thus, absent mindedness can be a massive obstacle in the path of gathering right knowledge about anything. 

Saukshmyaat – In case the objects about which the knowledge needs to be gained are too subtle, small for the senses to detect they will remain completely incomprehensible. One may be aware of the presence of gravity, but how it works remains beyond one’s comprehension. Samkhya karina 7 directs one’s attention to the fact that there is a large part of the aspects of the universe which is beyond the perception of the senses. One must not believe that the extent of the world is only what one can perceive or infer with its senses aided by the mind.

Vyavadhaanaat – This term stands for the obstructions which can impede one’s comprehension of the objects other than the one’s mentioned earlier in this Samkhya karika 7. One may be discouraged to travel to an object to be known on account of the length of the distance involved. In modern times a complex of protocols, or bureaucracy is seen as a serious obstruction to knowing, meeting the officials sitting at higher rungs in the government. Lack of proper scientific instruments can be a obstruction to knowing about the other planets and stars of the cosmos.

Abhibhavaat – A lot of times some other objects keep the object we desire to know about concealed from us. These objects act as obstructions to gaining information about the intended object.  One is almost blinded by the beaming lights of the vehicles approaching from the opposite direction while driving at night.  The overcrowding of the sky due to the presence of too many high rising building in our metro cities keeps the  stars, moon, and other planets from our coming into our view. 

Samaan Abhihaar –  A lot of times it is difficult to differentiate between two objects which are of same nature but different forms. Many a times when such objects mix with each other it becomes a challenge for the senses to tell them apart. One cannot tell the presence of salt which remains dissolved in water just by using any of the five sense. Similarly water mixed in milk remains un detected to the senses of perception. 

Thus, man is limited in his ability to know the gross as well as the subtle secrets of his existence as well as of the universe around him. Inspite of this he remains blinded by the confidence in his ability to perceive, infer and understand concepts which are not in the realm of his comprehension, or decode the unseen secrets of the universe. Our senses are not at all reliable in helping us know valid knowledge. We have to somewhere believe in the words of the one’s who have experienced this knowledge by transcending the scope of their sense organs.