The Yoga Tutor

Indriyas - The Sense Organs

[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 475 ]

Sensory Perception

Our perception of objects or beings in the tangible world around us occurs as soon as the various forms of vibrations that emanate from them somehow affect our sense organs.

We have already seen that the practice of asanas and of pranayama techniques are valuable in helping to rally the whole being towards unity of thought, allowing one to achieve fast progress in the art of concentration and Self-mastery. Generally, by its nature, the mind is in permanent motion and is affected in every moment by images, sounds and other messages, which it perceives through the senses.

The sensory organs through which we receive input from our external environment, are known as indriyas. According to yoga, these sensory organs are 11 in number, comprised of five jnanendriyas, five karmendriyas, and manas (mind).

Pancha Jnanendriyas

The word jnanendriya comes from the roots jnana, which means “wisdom,” and Indra, who was the God of the sensory heaven in Hinduism. These are the 5 lower sensual perception organs -- those which allow one to perceive the world around them. They are:
  1. Shotra - ears
  2. Chakshu - eyes
  3. Grahna - nose
  4. Jivha - tongue
  5. Tvak - skin
The real nature of these senses, which are the particular sensations themselves that result from the interaction of the jnanendriyas with the pancha maha bhutas (the five elements which underlie the material world), are referred to as pancha tanmatras. They are shabda (hearing), rupa (sight), gandha (smell), rasana (taste), and sparsha (touch), respectively.

Pancha Karmendriyas

This term derives from the roots karma (action), and Indra. Literally, it translates to mean “organ of action,” which signifies that which facilitates our direct contact with the outer world -- or that which enables us to interact with the material objects of the world. These five organs of action are:
  1. Pada (feet) - for locomotion
  2. Pani (hands) - for dexterity
  3. Payu (rectum) - for excretion
  4. Upastha (genitals) - for reproduction
  5. Vak (mouth) - for speech

NOTE: This yoga article is an excerpt from The Science of Yoga, an online yoga training program with streaming yoga videos and 600 pages of step-by-step yoga instruction.

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