Indriyam

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By M. A. Alwar


The most popular usage of the word indriya refers to it as ‘sense- organs’. As against English, where the word sense-organ refers only to organs of sensation, the word ‘indriya’ has a wider range of meaning, covering the organs of knowledge, action and decision. Mind is said to control all other indriyas. There are a total of fourteen indriyas:

  1. Five organs of knowledge (jñānendriyas, including the Eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin)
  2. Five organs of action (karmendriyas, including the hands, legs, speech-organ, anus and generative organ)
  3. Four internal organs (mind, intellect, ego and reason)

Gender

Indriyam is a neutral form.

Origin

General

The word can be derived in three ways on a general note:

  1. "Indrasyātmano liṅgamanumāpakam" which means 'The aid to inference of Indra i.e. the self'.
  2. "Indraṇeśvareṇa sṛṣṭam" which means 'Created by Indra, the Lord'
  3. "Indreṇātmanā mama cakṣurmama śrotramityādi krameṇa jñātam" which means 'Known by Indra, the self, as ‘my eyes, my ears’ etc.'

Grammatical

Grammatically the word is derived from "indra+ghac" by nipātana which means ‘sacrificed by Indra’, etc. It has three different meanings as per the lexica. They are:

  1. The instrument of knowledge and action.
  2. Wisdom
  3. Semen virile[1]


Synonyms

In this sense, its synonyms are

  1. Hṛṣīkam
  2. Viṣayī[2]
  3. Akṣam
  4. Karaṇam
  5. Grahaṇam[3]

Types of Indriyas

Jñānendriyas

Among these, the jñānendriyas (organs of knowledge) are five:

  1. Karṇaḥ - Ear
  2. Tvak - Skin
  3. Cakṣuh - Eye
  4. Jihvā - Tongue
  5. Nāsikā - Nose

Karmendriyas

There are five Karmendriyas (Organs of action):

  1. Vāk - Organ of Speech, the larynx
  2. Pāṇiḥ - Hand
  3. Pādaḥ - Foot
  4. Pāyuḥ - Anus
  5. Upasthā - Organ of generation

Internal Organs

The internal organs are four:

  1. Manaḥ - Mind
  2. Buddhiḥ - Intellect
  3. Ahaṅkāraḥ - Ego
  4. Cittam - Reasoning faculty

Viewpoints on Indriyam in shāstra

Ṛigveda

In the sense of wisdom, Ṛgveda opines that,[4]

“So that we may live (surrounded by) vigorous descendents, such wisdom do you confer upon us for our benefit”.

Vedanta

Mind is the controller of all organs. Fourteen deities govern the fourteen organs. They are:

  1. Dik - Direction, governs the Ear
  2. Vāyuḥ - Wind, governs the skin
  3. Sūryyaḥ - Sun, governs the Eye
  4. Pracetāḥ - Varuṇa, governs the tongue
  5. Aśvinau - The twin Aśvinis, govern the Nose
  6. Vahniḥ - Fire, governs speech
  7. Indraḥ - Indra, governs the hand
  8. Viṣṇuḥ - Viṣṇu, governs the foot
  9. Mitraḥ - Mitra, governs the anus
  10. Prajāpatiḥ - Prajāpati, governs the generative organ
  11. Candraḥ - Moon, governs the mind
  12. Caturmukhaḥ - Brahman, governs the intellect
  13. Śaṅkaraḥ - śaṅkara, governs the ego
  14. Acyutaḥ - Acyuta, governs reason

Nyāya

According to Nyāya:

  1. Nose is the organ of Prithivī (Earth)
  2. Tongue is the organ of Jala (Water)
  3. Eye is the organ of Tejas (fire)
  4. Skin is the organ of Vāyu (Wind)
  5. Ear is the organ of ākāśa (Space).

Suśruta

Suśruta says:

  1. Intellect supported by Brahman.
  2. Ego supported by īśvara.
  3. Mind supported by candra.
  4. Ears supported by diś.
  5. Skin supported by vāyu.
  6. Eyes supported by Sūrya.
  7. Tongue supported by Varuṇa.
  8. Nose supported by Prithivī.
  9. Speech supported by Fire.
  10. Hands supported by Indra.
  11. Feet supported by Viṣṇu.
  12. Anus supported by Mitra.
  13. Generative organ supported by Prajāpati.

Manu

In the matter of sense-organs, Manu opined that[5]
“As the sense-objects capture the wandering organs…”

Dayānanda Saraswati

Indriya is vijñāna (wisdom), says the commentary of Dayānanda.

References

  1. As per Amara.
  2. As per Amara
  3. As per Rājanirghaṇṭa
  4. Ṛgveda 1|111|2
  5. Manu 2|88
  • Shabdakalpadrumah by Raja Radhakantdev, Varadaprasada Vasu, Haricarana Vasu