Ideals and Values/The Science of Mind and Sense Organs

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Vishal Agarwal

We learned earlier that human beings are superior to all other creatures mentally as well as physically. Even where we are inferior to other creatures,[1] our mind is able to overcome these defects due to our superior intelligence. The mind cannot act on its own. It has to act out through the sense organs that we have. Let us study a little more about how our mind acts through our sense organs.

What are Our Sense organs

We have 10 senses called Indriyas which are defined by the scripture Manusmṛti[2] very clearly as:

Ears, skin, eyes, tongue,[3] nose, anus, genitals, hands, feet and speech. These are the 10 sense organs.[4]

Of these, the first five are the organs of ‘perception or knowledge’ and the last five are the organs of ‘activity’.[5]

The Mind as the Master Sense Organ

Mind that resides in our brain controls these sense organs and causes them to act. Manusmṛti says-

The mind is the eleventh sense organ which has the nature of both perception and activity. Through the conquest of the mind, all the 10 sense organs are conquered.”[6]

This verse explains the importance of the mind in relation to the sense organs. The mind is like the President and the organs are like its officials who act on its orders. But if the President himself is weak and undisciplined, how can he control the officials. They will just do whatever they like and lead the entire country to ruin. Therefore, it is very important to control or discipline our mind in order to control our sense organs. If the mind itself is attached to bad habits and is weak, it cannot control the senses. Therefore, to control our 10 sense organs, we should first control our mind. The Upaniṣads[7] are the books which give a lot of information about the nature of our soul, of Bhagavān,[8] and ways of reaching Him. These books were compiled by our Ṝṣis several thousand years ago. No other books in the whole world give this type of information in so much detail and with so much beauty as these scriptures, which tell us about the science of our soul and the way to reach Bhagavān, say:

The mind alone is the cause of bondage[9] as well as freedom[10] of all the humans. When attached to sense objects, the mind brings bondage. When detached from objects, it brings freedom.[11]

The Science of the Soul: Relationship of Sense Organs to the Soul

Well, if the mind should control the sense organs, then who should control the mind? The Kathā Upaniṣad 1.3.3-9 explains the relationship of Indriyas with other things using the example of the chariot.

Hindu Ideals and Values/The Science of Mind and Sense Organs files/image001.png

In this chariot,

  • The chariot represents the body.
  • The horses pulling the chariot represent the senses.
  • The owner of the chariot sitting inside the canopy is the Jīva-Atman.
  • The charioteer that drives the chariot is the intellect.
  • Reins that control the horses represent the mind.


We can convey the same information in the form of the table below:

# Part of Chariot Part of the Body
1 Chariot Body (Śarīra)
2 Owner of chariot Soul (Jīva)
3 Charioteer Intellect (Buddhi)
4 Reins Mind (Manas)
5 Horses Sense organs (Indriya)


The chariot owner[12] can reach his destination Bhagavān only if:

  • His chariot is sturdy and stable which refers that the body is fit and healthy.
  • His charioteer is wise and capable which refers his intellect is pure and understanding is good.
  • The reins are held tightly and correctly by the charioteer which refers that the mind acts according to good intelligence and understanding.
  • The horses are trained which refers that they understand and follow the pull and tug of the reins and are controlled well by the reins.


Conversely, the chariot owner will get thrown off the chariot or he will never reach his goal,[13] if any of these things happen:

  • The chariot breaks down which means serious illness leading to death or some physical disability.
  • The chariot is foolish and incapable which refers that we lack intelligence and understanding.
  • The reins are not controlled well by the charioteer means that the mind acts according to its whims and not intelligently or according to any understanding.
  • The horses go wherever they want, pulling the chariot in different directions which means that the eyes, nose, ears etc., keep pulling us to satisfy different cravings.

How Can We Reach our Goal?

Using the above example of the chariot, we can conclude that we have the best chances of reaching our goal if all the four things happen:

  • Sturdy Chariot[14]: We have a fit and a healthy body. This can be achieved by good eating habits, exercise and healthy lifestyle.[15]
  • Good Charioteer: Good Intelligence and Understanding. This can be achieved by following good spiritual values.
  • Strong and Disciplined Mind: Our mind should be strong and disciplined which can be achieved through meditation,[16] following good ethical values[17] and staying away from the six enemies and other evils.[18]
  • Sense Organs are Under Control: Our sense organs should be trained and under the control of a disciplined and a strong mind. This is achieved by having a disciplined mind and by enjoying things in moderation.[19]

Example of Water-pot: How the Sense Organs ‘drain’ our intellect

Our saints give several useful examples of how obsession with pleasure of even one sense organ can lead to total ruin. The deer, elephant, the moth, the honey bee and the fish - these five are destroyed due to addiction to their five sense organs. It can be illustrated as follows:

  1. Deer - ear which listens to sweet music and gets caught by the hunter.
  2. Elephant - touch through which it is caught through she-elephants.
  3. Moth - eyes are attracted by the flame and gets burnt
  4. Honey bee - smell by which it is attracted by fragrance of lotus and caught within.
  5. Fish - taste by which it nibbles at the bait and gets caught.

Even one of the sense organs is also very destructive. Then how can a man addicted to all five senses escape destruction?[20]

Hindu Ideals and Values/The Science of Mind and Sense Organs files/image003.jpg

In Sanskrit, this is also explained by using the example of a ‘pot’. Consider a pot filled with water. If we were to make a hole in it, the put would drain out soon. If we were to make several holes, the pot would drain out in an instant. Our senses are like the holes through which our intellect can drain out. Manusmriti says:

If a man indulges excessively in the objects of enjoyment of even one of his sense organs, his intellect gets destroyed – just as a leather bag filled with water gets drained completely if it has even one hole.[21]

Instead of projecting ourselves outwards through these openings[22] and let ourselves get drained, we should plug our senses and reflect on the soul within us. Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa says very beautifully in the Bhagavad Gitā:

When, like the tortoise which withdraws its limbs from all sides, a person withdraws his senses from the sense-objects, his wisdom becomes steady.”[23]

Vedic Prayers for the Mind

“May this mind of mine, which travels to great distances, which is the light of lights, the only source of wisdom; which wanders in all directions, whether I am awake or asleep – Resolve on what is noble.[24]

May this mind of mine, by which assiduous and intellectual persons perform their God-assigned tasks in all social assemblies and congregations; the spirit that lies in all creatures – Resolve on what is noble.[25]

May this mind of mine, which is the source of the highest knowledge, the source of wisdom, the source of the power of memory, the immortal flame of life within all living beings, without which no action whatever is possible – Resolve on what is noble.[26]

May this mind of mine which guides men like a good charioteer who controls fleet-footed horses with the reigns, that which abides in the heart, most swift and vigorous – Resolve on what is noble.[27]

May this mind of mine, that immortal spirit by which all the past and present world is comprehended; by which all the benevolent works are promoted and conducted through the seven sense organs – Resolve on what is noble.[28]

May this mind of mine which imbibes and holds the teachings of the Vedas like the spokes in the nave of a chariot wheel; in which all the thoughts of the living world are interwoven – Resolve on what is noble.[29][30]

Some Modern Temptations of Sense Organs to Avoid:

  1. Drugs
  2. Smoking
  3. Alcohol
  4. Too much sweets
  5. Snuff
  6. Beautiful clothing, shoes etc.
  7. Psychedelic Music

Notes & References

  1. For e.g. dogs have a superior smell of sense than we have.
  2. Manusmṛti 2.90-92
  3. Tongue is for taste.
  4. Manusmṛti 2.90
  5. Manusmṛti 2.91
  6. Manusmṛti 2.92
  7. There are several different Upaniṣads called by different names, like the ‘Kathā Upaniṣads’, ‘Ishā Upaniṣads’
  8. He is called Brahman in these books.
  9. Bondage denotes separation from God.
  10. Freedom from being with God.
  11. Maitrayaṇiya Upaniṣad 4.6
  12. It denotes the soul.
  13. It means means Bhagavān.
  14. It denotes Body
  15. It includes good sleeping habits.
  16. It is in Section 5 of this book.
  17. It is in Section 4 of this book.
  18. It is Section 3 of this book.
  19. Sections 2,3,4 of this book.
  20. Garuda Purāņa 2.12.18
  21. Manusmṛti 2.99
  22. Here openings refer to senses.
  23. Gitā 2.58
  24. Śukla Yajurveda 34.1
  25. Śukla Yajurveda 34.2
  26. Śukla Yajurveda 34.3
  27. Śukla Yajurveda 34.4
  28. Śukla Yajurveda 34.5
  29. Śukla Yajurveda 34.6
  30. Pandit Satyakam Vidyalankar, pp. 110-111