“Desire is storm, Greed is whirlpool, Pride is precipice, Attachment is avalanche, and Ego is volcano.” Sri Satya Sai Baba
*When we think, "I just want peace of mind above all else," we overlook the fact that the very first word in the sentence is an 'I' that is trying to get something for itself. Its desire is noble, but it's still a desire for the mind made self-image. True peace can only exist in the 'I'’s absence. The peace's loving stillness has been obscured by the 'I'’s very presence!*
“I” stands for “Ego” in worldly sense, which inspires “Desires” in us to arouse our six inner foes within us that activate our “Indriyas” loosely translated as senses as we shall see later. To satiate our Indriyas, we take the low roads in the labyrinthine world appearing falsely “True”. It is the Indriyas that incite us (our body) to commit the crimes to satiate its passion relentlessly. Desires are two edged weapons. On fulfilling, they lead to more desires; if not fulfilled - they invite its army of our inner foes - greed, jealousy, pride, delusion, hatred, anger, ego etc. There would be no reprieve but ruin, in desires, both ways.
“Indriyas” is a term that is not in the western concept. Though it has been translated loosely as senses but it goes beyond the mere sensory level. It involves a many more faculties and we shall explore its true dimension as we go. At the same time, we shall also relate its role in Pratyahara and how does it affect it?
Indriya, etymologically is derived from two words viz Indra + aayaa. Indra is the god of thunder and rain and a great warrior, a symbol of courage and strength. “Indra" in the Sanskrit and Pali term stands for physical strength or ability also in general, and for the five senses more specifically. He is the chief deity in the Rig Veda and lord of Tāvatiṃsa heaven, is the king of the gods; hence connoting supremacy, dominance and control, attested in the general meaning of "power, strength" in the Rigveda. And aayaa means a maid or midwife. The term literally means "belonging or subservient to Indra".
In Buddhism, the term refers to multiple intrapsychic processes and is generally translated as "faculty" or, in specific contexts, as "spiritual faculty" or "controlling principle."
More at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indriya
Indriyas consist of three parts and all of them are intricately inter-related:
(1) Karmendriyas = Senses of Action or expression
(2) Gyanendriyas or Jnanendriyas = Senses of Knowledge or cognition
(3) Manas = Mind (guardian, custodian or gate keeper on above two)
They also form Manomaya Kosha. The body consists of five koshas or sheaths in Yogic terms. Besides this, there is another Kosha called Vigyanmaya Kosha: denoting Intellect or Intellectual Sheath, Buddhi or Higher Mental Body. In central core of koshas lie the “Self” peacefully.
There are three more Koshas. I enlist them in orderly fashion for the sake of my readers hereunder as body and indriyas are inextricably interwoven.
The Yoga path of Self-realization is one of the progressively moving inward paradoxically to view the outward more vividly, through each of those lampshades, so as to experience the purity at the eternal center of consciousness, while at the same time allowing that purity to reflect through our individuality. These five levels are called koshas or covering or sheaths narrated hereunder from outside in:
Physical - Annamaya kosha
Energy - Pranamaya kosha
Mental - Manamaya kosha
Wisdom - Vijnanamaya kosha
Bliss - Anandamaya kosha
Self - Atman
Koshas are like the lampshades covering the light. Maya means shadow or appearance, as if something appears to be, but is not in reality. The Advaita Vedanta suggests that you imagine a dark night in which you think seeing a man, only to find an old thick post that was hard to see at first; that is maya or a shade or false appearance.
Here, it means that each of the sheaths or koshas is only a maya or an appearance. In truth, all of the levels, layers, koshas, or sheaths of our reality are only a shadow or appearance or maya (while also very real in the sense of dealing with the external world), and that underneath all those appearances in its central core, we are divine, pure, eternal consciousness, or whatever name you prefer to call or give it. This is one of the fundamental principles of Advaita Vedanta philosophy.
Now we get back to our initial discussion on Indriyas.
Literally translated, karmendriya means ‘organ of action’ – that which facilitates our sensory contact with the outer world — or that which enables us to interact with the material objects of the world. These five exit doors are five means of expression or exporters (means to send us to outside world), which are called karmendriyas. (Karma means action. Indriyas are the means or senses.) These 5 organs of action are:
Pada (feet, motion) — for locomotion
Pani (hands, act, grasping) — for dexterity
Payu (rectum and urinary passage,) — for excretion, elimination
Upastha (genitals,) — for reproduction
Vak (word, mouth) — for speech
Jnanendriya comes from the roots jnana (wisdom), and Indra who was the God of the ‘sensory’ heaven in Hinduism. These are the 5 lower sense organs — those which allows one to perceive the world around them. The five entrance doors are five cognitive senses or importers (means to send or refer us to inward world), which are called jnanendriyas. (Jnana means knowing or knowledge. Indriyas are the means or sense organs.) They are:
Shotra (hearing) — ears
Chakshu (vision, seeing) — eyes
Grahna (smell) — nose
Jivha (taste) — tongue
Tvak (touch) — skin
Sri Satya Sai Baba: The Body (Koshas) and the Indriyas -
In an excellent enlightening session of questions and answers format with Sri Satya Sai Baba; I hereby reproduce the entire interview that explains the composition of Body and Indriyas relative to each other briefly --
Q. Why is the human body said to be composed of “Five Elements” - the “Panchabhuthas”?
A. Since it is a product of the Five Elements.
Q. What exactly are the Five Elements?
A. Akasa, Vayu, Agni, Jala and Prithvi, which are usually referred to as ether, air, fire, water and earth respectively.
Q. From where did these originate?
A. Each subsequent element originated from the previous one.
Q. Which is the cause of the first and therefore of all the five?
A. Brahmam (or Supreme Consciousness), the unmodified, the fixed, the Basis.
Q. What is the relationship between these Five Elements and this human body?
A. From Brahmam originated Yathna and Mahath (Effort and Cosmos); from these was born Akasa, from Akasa was born Vayu, to Agni; from Agni, Jalam; and from Jalam, Prithvi. The human body is the result of the combination of all these five.
Q. In what form do these elements persist in the body?
A. Each element has again become five-fold and has gone into the composition of the body.
Q. The first - Akasa, what are the five which it has become?
A. The cogniser (Jnaatha), manas, buddhi, ahamkaram, panchakam.
Q. Speaking as "in the body" how are these indicated?
A. They are recognised as the "inner senses".
Q. Now, what are the five forms of the next element Vayu (air)?
A. Samaana, Vyaana, Udaana, Praana, and Apaana.
Q. And, in the body, what are they called?
A. The Pancha Praanas, the five vital airs.
Q. And Agni? - The Fire element?
A. That element became the sensory organs: the ear, the skin, the eye, the tongue, the nose.
Q. And how are they demarcated?
A. As Jnanendriyas, the organs of knowledge.
Q Tell me, what are the Jalapanchakas (Jala = water; panchakas = five), the five which the water-element became.
A. Sabda, Sparsa, Rupa, Rasa, Gandha (Sound, Touch, Form, Taste and Smell).
Q. Have they too any special name?
A. They are known as Pancha Thanmaathraas - the Five Subtlenesses.
Q. The Earth-element remains out of the Five. How does it appear in the body?
A. The vocal organs, hands, legs, genitals and the excretory organs.
Q. And they are known as…?
A. As Karmendriyas - the organs of action.
Q. Instead of considering this human body, constituted in this manner by the elements as a single unit, the Vedanthins say there are many units in it! Is that true?
A. There are not "many", but three. Some say, there are four!
Q. Oh! What are they? What are they called? The third and the fourth?
A. Sthula deha (the gross body), Sukshma deha (the subtle body) and Kaarana deha (the causal body). Some aver that there is a fourth called, Maha Kaaranadeha (the Super-Causal Body) also.
Q. What exactly is meant by Sthula deha, the gross body?
A. It means the body constituted of the 25 elemental principles mentioned by me already.
Q. What then is the Sukshma body?
A. The 5 Jnanendriyas, the 5 Than-Maathras, the 5 Praanas, the Manas and the Buddhi - these 17 categories combine to constitute the subtle body.
Q. Is this called Sukshma deha only or has it any other appellation too?
A. Why should it not have? It has. It is known also as Thaijasa.
Q. And is it marked off as belonging to any state or Avastha?
A. Yes, it is.
Q. And what is the name of that?
A. The Dream State.
Q. Do you mean to say that the Gross Body has no state assigned to it?
A. Of course, it has.
Q. Tell me the name of that state.
A. That is the wakeful state, the Jaagrath.
Q. What is the Causal, the Kaarana deha?
A. There, the Chiththam or Consciousness is in association with the Knower, the Knowing Principle, the Jnaatha.
Q. What is it known as?
A. The Praajna.
Q. And the state?
A. The state is Sushupthi, Deep Sleep.
Q. Tell me also, what they mean by the Super-Causal Body, the fourth.
A. The Pure Consciousness unmixed with any Thathwa or elemental principle, the Witness Eternal, the Self Luminous. They refer to it as the Maha Kaarana Deha.
Q. Has it a name, like the rest?
A. It is known as Hiranyagarbha.
Q. And the state?
A. It is stateless, it is beyond all states of consciousness and so it is described as A-kshara Purusha.
Q. Coming back to this Gross Body, what are the specific products attributable to the Five Elements that have united to form it?
A. Of the Earth - bone, skin, flesh, veins, hair.
Q. Of water, Jala?
A. Blood, urine, saliva, phlegm, brain.
Q. From Fire?
A. Hunger, thirst, sleep, sloth, comradeship.
Q. The element Vayu (winds or air) produces….?
A. Activity, movement, speed, shame, fear.
Q. The element Akasa (ether, sky) in the body must be responsible similarly for some consequences.
A. Yes; for lust, anger, greed, pride and envy.
Q. Man has much travail, is it not? Do these consequences of his composition have anything to do with his travails?
A. You seem to have some doubts. The reason for all his agony is this group of gross qualities. The travails, too, are not many though they may appear so. They are only of four types. They are called Vasanas.
Q. What are the four Vasanas?
A. The body, the mind, wealth and sex; though there are others, all are ultimately based on these.
Q. Man in his pride struts about blindly; what is this egoism that prods him on? How many varieties of egoism are there?
A. There are four types: vanity of clan, vanity of wealth, vanity of youth and vanity of scholarship. Though there are other types too, they can be grouped under these.
NB: I have slightly edited the eastern terminologies with their English translation for my western readers to make it comprehensible to them.
"I" is independent of actions and senses:
As we come to see that the actions and senses are only instruments (though very good at their jobs), we increasingly see that "Who am I is independent of my actions and sensory input and fulfillment". It does not mean that we do not enjoy life, and its actions and sensory experiences. Rather, these are enjoyed more fully, in a spirit of wisdom, freedom, and non-attachment.
When we see through direct experience of observation how the ten senses are subservient doors in the service of the Indweller, we thus increasingly become aware of the true nature of that Indweller.
Manas (Mind) is like a building with Ten Senses doors -
In traditional Yoga philosophy and practice, the human body is seen like a building with ten doors (senses). Five are exit (export) doors, and five are entrance (import) doors; all of them actively consciously and intently witness our Sadhana and “Sadhana in Action” through the Antarangas.
The Ten Senses are like the employees in the factory of life, and they receive their instructions from mind - their master apparent. This is an important part of the practice of meditation in action and witnessing our inner processes. Being able to see that this is how the actions and senses operate helps a great deal with the cultivation of non-attachment, vairagya, thus Pratyahara.
Withdrawing the senses and sitting still at meditation time naturally come much more easily as a result of an ongoing mindfulness of the working and activities of the ten senses or Indriyas.
Reliability of Sense instruments:
Senses cannot be relied upon for experiencing detachment from the indriyas (which pull us into worldly quagmire) to allow one to establish in pratyahara. Always remember that desire, anger, greed and hatred can never co-exist with Divinity like the beast and a man. As Satya Sai Baba observes, “A tasty dish will become inedible, if a drop of kerosene falls on it. One bad thought or action is sufficient to spoil (both) the spiritual discipline (as well as the worldly life), built painstakingly over the time. Have the Divine Name ever in your thoughts and you can brave any calamity.” - Sathya Sai Speaks, Jan 29, 1965 (slightly edited).
Awareness leads one inwards:
Realizing that the senses are unreliable to progress towards Sadhana path should lead the seeker inward to a more pure form of direct experience. Hence to turn inward in this way is better by first being aware of the senses and their modus operandi. Then the attention can be withdrawn from the senses; like withdrawing your hand from a glove or a tortoise. Since the prey and predator can’t exist together, same way the Divinity and Desires with its senses can’t exist together.
Witnessing the senses silently leads toward non-attachment:
Witnessing the ten senses silently is a practical tool in coordinating and stilling the mind. By witnessing the ten sense doors, try to be a neutral witness without reacting to them as long as you can, to all of the inner activities of the mind, and thus be more able to find rest in the silence and peace beyond the mind. This is an important part of our cultivating the non-attachment.
Witnessing the active senses or Karmendriyas:
Sitting still for meditation is cessation of the act of moving i.e. suspension of the use of the active sense, or karmendriya of motion.
The practice of relaxation is not an act unto itself, but it is actually a practice of cessation of that act of holding or grasping (a cup), which is suspension of one of the karmendriyas (e.g. a thought arising in mind).
At meditation time it is common complaint that mind is gossiping; often people getting into quarrel with the mind over this. The act of quieting the mind is not actually an act in itself. Rather, it is the absence of an act i.e. suspension of the act of speaking and cessation of articulating words.
Same way abstinence or diversion from the sexual desire and ensuring an empty bowel and bladder will also be helpful exercises for concentration.
By being aware of each of the five active senses, karmendriyas, one at a time, and that you are temporarily ceasing to use those abilities for now, attention will naturally move inward, in the direction of concentration. As your attention moves through the five active senses, your attention might naturally be drawn to the physical parts of the body that symbolizes the particular karmendriya but only to ignore them as a silent witness.
Witnessing the cognitive senses or jnanendriyas:
The section above described the witnessing of the active senses. In the similar way, you can also practice witnessing the five cognitive senses. The ability of sense of smell draws attention to the nose and the sense of smell itself. One is not trying to smell anything in particular, but by awareness of the smell, set it aside.
The sense of taste draws attention to mouth, where the taste buds are located. As one become aware of the ability to taste then set it aside.
Awareness of the sense of sight including the inner eye; draws the attention to eyes. You become aware of the ability to see then set it aside.
On becoming aware of the sense of touch, the sense draws attention to some part of the skin. As one become aware of the ability to feel the touch then set it aside.
The sense of hearing draws attention to ears. As you become aware of hearing, then set it aside.
Thus set aside the cognitive or passive jnanendriyas also to move ahead.
Truth is beyond the indriyas:
With a little reflection on this, you can understand the way in which the yogis are asserting that the senses are not really the accurate perceptual instruments. Because their field of action is diametrically opposite and work in a centrifugal fashion, incompatible to Yoga experience. The best example is mistaking a rope for a snake in dark or caught into it unawares. Knowing this defect of indriyas may help to clarify the varieties of ways in which the senses might operate, and experience reality differently. This can further help to understand how it is that the yogis say that Truth must be found within, or beyond the senses which are inferior grade gadgets; hence the practice of pratyahara will be easier.
Interplay between active and cognitive senses:
The two sets of Indriyas, the active and cognitive senses, have a great deal of interplay between them. Once the active expressions are stilled somewhat, the cognitive senses seem to be more noticeable. On the other hand, often the active senses of expressions (karmendriyas) are so busy, that the cognitive senses are subdued and less easily witnessed. In other words, if you're having trouble sitting still and the mind is wandering, it is hard to sit quietly and work with the practices of seeing, feeling, hearing, and observing sensations internally; thus concentrating (Dharana).
Some meditation schools emphasize one Indriya over others:
One currently popular school of meditation places its main emphasis on this sensory awareness of touch, and how this is experienced in the physical body as a reflection of the mental process. Some other well known schools of meditation emphasize the sense of touch of the air at the nostrils when breathing. Still others emphasize using the senses to see some visualized object or hear an internal mantra. Or, some teach the practice of seeing into the no-thing-ness, or listening into the silence. In the Yoga meditation of the Himalayan tradition, all of these uses of the jnanendriyas are practiced, and are considered natural stages along the inner journey to the center of consciousness. While exploring them all, an individual practitioner may emphasize a particular sense, following his or her predisposition. The message is, any technique that suits you is the best as long as you can concentrate. But stick to it once selected. This is highly important; today touch and tomorrow hearing and yet another sensation next day, will be highly detrimental and unproductive.
Pratyahara or sense withdrawal:
In the ladder of Ashtanga Yoga, there are eight steps, the fifth of which is pratyahara. Following that are dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (deep absorption). This withdrawal of the senses is often mistaken to mean simply the process of closing your eyes for meditation. It is actually deeper than that. In practice, one may choose one of the senses, usually seeing or hearing, and focus that one sense on an inner object of meditation. To focus sight on an external object is called external trataka. Same way if the focus of attention is directed to an internal object, it is called internal trataka.
Subtler than active Indriyas are the cognitive Indriyas:
There are five exit or export doors and five entrance import doors. The exit doors are the means of expression or active senses (karmendriyas). The five entrance doors are the cognitive or passive ‘knower’ senses (jnanendriyas). The active senses express outwardly, and the cognitive senses guide the information inwardly. In meditation we are trying to systematically bring attention inward, through the levels of our being to the center of consciousness.
First still the karmendriyas:
Therefore in the systematic process of Yoga meditation, attention is first brought to the active senses (karmendriyas) and then to the cognitive senses (jnanendriyas). Notice how naturally you first work on having the body still in a meditation posture, which means stilling the karmendriya of motion; then letting go of the karmendriya of grasping or holding on.
Then still the jnanendriyas:
Then your attention quite naturally moves inward to the awareness of sensations, both of the external sounds and the internal senses, such as little itches or pains. This is the awareness from the cognitive senses (jnanendriyas). Thus, we once again see the systematic process of our sadhana or meditation getting ever deep into the levels of our being.
Personalising to suit it to you:
By cultivating awareness of the ten senses or Indriyas, both at meditation time and in daily life; the whole of the science of Yoga meditation will be more greatly understood in your own direct experience; thus personalise it to suit you. This awareness goes a long way in serving to break old habits and to create new habits or experiences that support the whole of your individual style in spiritual life.
Chakras and the Elements -
Chakras are a totally different concept called ‘Kundalini Shakti’, though interrelated to Sadhana but it is unlike the Ashtanga Yoga Sutra; still the ultimate goal remains the same, i.e. “Self Realisation”. However I include a brief reference to it hereunder for a curious student. Kundalini Shakti is also called the “Serpentine Energy” that ascends upwards along the spine. It may be just useful to have some preliminary information on it also.
The ten Indriyas operate from the first five chakras (root, genital, navel, heart, and throat), along with the five elements: Like Pratyahara, the sixth Chakra viz Ajna or Aagyaa Chakra serves as a bridge between the five lower Chakras and the seventh highest Chakra called “Sahasrara” or its Anglised terminology - “Thousand Petalled” Chakra.
The mind, operating from the 6th chakra that is experienced in the space between the eyebrows - Ajna or Aagyaa Chakra, is the coordinating center for the lower five chakras. From this 6th Ajna chakra, the mind is the recipient of the information imported through the five doors of jnanendriyas, and their physical counterparts. From this 6th chakra, the mind is also the giver of the instructions through the five doors of karmendriyas, and their physical counterparts to its highest 7th Chakra.
Consciousness itself is operating from the 7th chakra, providing the fuel or energy for the mind to activate, and in turn illuminate the other five, through its storage battery at the base of the subtle spine.
By being ever more mindful of the ten Indriyas, or ten senses, the mind comes into greater awareness and control, which prepares the pathway upwards to the pure Consciousness. Thus mastery over one system gets you to reach the goal or achieve the aim.
The Indriyas operate with their absolute control on our sensual activities that affect us in our every endeavour in life, indirectly or directly and thus affect the practice of Pratyahara starting from our everyday ephemeral life to more enlightened higher vision of a more evolved life worthy of being called an Ascetic or a Saint or a Prophet.
With this introductory essay on the brief details on Indriyas, I shall try to relate it more in its relations to Pratyahara in the next part; although I had also tried to define the Pratyahara in its earlier version in Part VIII A. In the next part VIII C, I shall try to examine its more detailed relationship in a more pragmatic and practical considerations on Pratyahara.
(Dr. O. P. Sudrania is a senior retired teacher in surgery and a medico-legal counsellor; now also engaged in research of spiritual and socio-political analytical science as a part of service to humanity.)