Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Tattvabodha - Part 10

Notes on Tattvabodha
Dr. Vishnu Bapat

Dr. Bapat (72) was the co-founder of an Ayurvedic Pharmaceutical Industry and served as its Managing Director for 26 years until retirement. He is associated with several professional and spiritual bodies. He is now fully engaged in the study and practice of Vedanta.




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18. Five organs of perception

पंच ज्ञानेन्द्रियाणि

श्रोत्रं त्वक् चक्षु: रसना घ्राणम् इति पंच ज्ञानेन्द्रियाणि।
श्रोत्रस्य दिग्देवता । त्वचो वायुः । चक्षुषः सूर्यः । रसनायाः वरुणः ।
घ्राणस्य अश्विनौ । इति ज्ञानेन्द्रियदेवताः ।
श्रोत्रस्य विषयः शब्दग्रहणम् । त्वचो विषयः स्पर्शग्रहणम् ।
चक्षुशो विषयः रूपग्रहणम् । रसनाया विषयः रसग्रहणम्।
घ्राणस्य विषयः गन्धग्रहणम् इति ।।

पंच ज्ञानेन्द्रियाणि – the five organs of knowledge or sense organs. श्रोत्रं – ear त्वक् – skin चक्षु: – eye रस्ना – tongue घ्राणम् – nose इति पंच – thus ज्ञानेन्द्रियाणि – are five sense organs श्रोत्रस्य – of the ear दिग्देवता – god of space त्वचः – of the skin वायुः – air चक्षुषः – of the eyes सूर्यः – the sun रसनायाः – of the tongue वरुणः – water घ्राणस्य – of the nose अश्विनौ – Ashwini kumara इति – thus ज्ञानेन्द्रियदेवताः – the presiding deities of sense organs श्रोत्रस्य – of the ear विषयः – field of experience शब्दग्रहणम् – perceiving the sound त्वचः – of the skin विषयः – field of experience स्पर्शग्रहणम् – cognition of the form चक्षुशः – of the eyes विषयः – field of experience रूपग्रहणम् – cognition of form रसनाया – of the tongue विषयः – field of experience रसग्रहणम् – cognition of taste घ्राणस्य – of the nose विषयः – field of experience गन्धग्रहणम् – is cognition of smell इति – thus.

The five organs of knowledge are the ear, skin, the eyes, the tongue, and the nose. The presiding deity of the organ of the ear is space, that of the skin is air; that of the eye is the sun; that of the tongue is water; and the presiding deity of the nose is Ashwinis. The function of the ear is sensing sounds; that of skin is feeling or touch; that of the eye is sensing the form; and the function of the nose is sensing smell.

पंच ज्ञानेन्द्रियाणि – श्रोत्रं त्वक् चक्षु: रसना घ्राणम् इति पंच ज्ञानेन्द्रियाणि - The five sense organs are the ear, skin, eyes, tongue, and nose. These sense organs link us to the sense objects. The sense objects for each of the sense organs are: sound, touch, sight, taste, and smell. With all the five organs functioning properly, we get a clear picture of the outer world. These sense organs perceive only their own particular sense objects. There is no admixture of duties. The ears cannot see nor can the eyes hear.


Five sense organs are: श्रोत्रं त्वक् चक्षु: रसना घ्राणम्
Five sense objects are: शब्द, स्पर्श,रूप, रस गन्ध


श्रोत्रस्य दिक् देवता । त्वचो वायुः । चक्षुषः सूर्यः । रसनायाः वरुणः । घ्राणस्य अश्विनौ । इति ज्ञानेन्द्रियदेवताः ।

Each of the senses has been assigned to a deity. His job is to see that the sense organ under him performs properly. The deity for the ear is space. The sound travels in the medium of space. The deity for skin is air. So air controls touch. Sun is the source of all light on the earth and seeing is possible only in the medium of light. The tongue needs to be always wet. When we see a food of our liking the mouth secretes water. Water is the deity of tongue. The two Ashwini Kumara guide the function of smell.


श्रोत्रस्य विषयः शब्दग्रहणम् । त्वचो विषयः स्पर्शग्रहणम् । चक्षुशो विषयः रूपग्रहणम् । रसनाया विषयः रसग्रहणम्। घ्राणस्य विषयः गन्धग्रहणम् इति ।।

Each of the senses is a specialized instrument. They perform only the function assigned to them. The nose cannot hear, and the ear cannot smell. The fields of experience for the sense organs are: cognition of sound for the ear, touch for the skin, form for the eyes, taste for the tongue, and smell for the nose.


Six ways of knowing

The senses of hearing, touch, sight, taste and smell are the doorkeepers which bring knowledge of the outer world to the mind. There are five ways of knowing. The valid means of knowledge is called Pramana. These are:

    • प्रत्यक्ष प्रमाण - Direct perception You get the knowledge by using the fivefold sense organs.
    • अनुमान प्रमाण - Inference by previous experience. There is a smoke in the yonder hill. We infer by experience that there must be fire. Indirectly for this inference also senses are required
    • उपमान प्रमाण – Knowing by comparison. We know how the earth looks like. So we infer how the Mars looks like.
    • अर्थापत्ति प्रमाण – Conjuncture or postulate from significant information. If your friend is not at home you imagine that he must be in the office.
    • अनुपलभ्धि प्रमाण – Knowing by absence of a thing.

The above five or पञ्च प्रमाण, for all practical purposes can be reduced into two-- perception and inference. Now the question is which pramana should I use to gain the knowledge of self? We cannot use the five sense organs because being extroverted instruments they are capable of studying only objective world. None of these instruments is capable of studying the very subject behind these instruments. That is their inherent limitation. The eyes can perceive everything but they cannot see themselves. God is the subject but never subject to objectification; so self knowledge remains elusive to material senses.


If these standards or pramana are not going to be useful for the knowledge of self, how can we gain the knowledge of self? For this there is the evidence of Vedas. Vedas are the gift of God to mankind. This pramana is called शास्त्र प्रमाण or शब्द प्रमाण in Sanskrit. We learn about God by the testimony of Vedas. The Vedas recommend that God could be experienced by श्रवण मनन निधिध्यासन or hearing, reflection and contemplation or assimilation.

Contact Dr. Bapat at if you have any comments or questions.

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