How Knowledge Is Gained Through Sense Organs?

Ayurveda explains the process of gaining knowledge through five main factors. Sense object, sense organs, mind, intellect and soul. The sense objects are related to sense organs. 

Video explanation


Five sense organs

Olfactory system – nose
Gustatory perception system – tongue
Ocular system – eyes
Somato sensory system – skin
Auditory system – ears

Object of sense organs

(aka sense objects)
smell  for Olfactory system – nose
taste for Gustatory perception system – tongue
shape, size colour etc – for Ocular system – eyes
touch for Somato sensory system – skin
sound for Auditory system – ears

Knowledge acquiring process - Ayurveda

Mind, Intellect

Mind – is only one.
Intellect – It is called as Buddhi in Sanskrit (Ayurveda). It is of five types – based on each sense organ and object.
The knowledge in sense object flows to the respective sense organ, it in turn flows through mind and intellect to reach Soul.

Mind is only one, it associates itself with any one of the sense organs to pass on the knowledge that it acquired from sense organs, to intellect. Role of mind is to just associate with sense organs and pass on the knowledge.
If the mind is concentrated and strong, based on the quality of Atma (soul), the knowledge gaining will be faster and precise.
Mind acts as the driving force for all the sense objects.Means, mind directs the sense organs to lock in with sense objects.

Intellect (Buddhi) receives the incoming knowledge (from sense organs).
Intellect processes the knowledge, analyzes, decides, stores or rejects it.

Atma or soul

Atma – Soul is the ultimate decider of quality and quantity of knowledge gained. The Past Karma, present life experiences etc that is stored in soul affects the quality and amount of knowledge gained.

reading sense organs

For example, when  eyes are aligned with an object, and mind is aligned between eyes and intellect, the knowledge about that object (shape, words, color etc) flows from the eyes to intellect and then to soul. The quality and amount of knowledge gained varies from person to person.
If a person is, for example reading with total concentration, he can process the entire information and store it in his intellect. If he is not concentrating or he is unhealthy, has headache, or has an eye problem etc, the amount of knowledge that he gains varies.

Sometimes the sense object and sense organ can be in line. But if mind is not there, between that sense organ and intellect, knowledge does not pass through.
This is the reason why, we sometimes will be looking at something but we actually do not see it. We will be hearing to something, but we totally miss it.

Mind is only one, it cannot associate with all the sense organs at the same time. Because of this reason, if we forcefully align mind only with one object, the concentration will be more and the amount of knowledge gained will be more. Hence, if you are a student, while you are reading, it is best to get rid of all distractions, keep the room quiet and look at only those books that matter most to you.

The same reasoning can be given to why multi-tasking is bad. We can do many things at a time, but we cannot fully concentrate on what we actually are doing. Read more – Do multi-tasking the healthier way

Example

How we hear and see movie together at once?
If mind is one, then we cannot see and hear together at a time, right? In a process like, watching TV or a movie, due to your extreme interest in the subject, mind will be sharp and moving between eyes and ears to grasp as much knowledge as possible. It will be moving back and forth in fractions of seconds.
This is the reason we feel tired after watching a movie, because the mind has over-worked.

The quality and amount of knowledge gained through sense organs depend on many factors such as –
Sense object falling in line with sense organ
Concentration level
Interest in the subject

Purity of mind – If the waves in the pond are calm, we can see the object in the depth of water. If waves are turbulent, objects cannot be appreciated. This is where, purity of mind by purity of thoughts and Brahmacharya (Celibacy) comes into play.
Overall health – Good health means great concentration.
Health of sense organs
Past Karma. Bad Karma makes a cloud of ignorance which affects soul, blocks intellect and deviates mind from its functions, hence no knowledge.

Perception through sense organs

Perception Through Sense Organs – Ayurvedic Perspective

By Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
Sense organs are the most important organs in our body. They perceive sensations of sight, smell, sound, taste and touch. These perceptions form major contributions to our activities of daily living.

Organs of sensory perception are called as indriyas in Ayurveda. To be precise, they are called as jgnana indriyas.

Related Reading – Indriya Pancha Panchaka: 5 Fives Of Sense Organs

Sensory perceptions of all sense organs are type of knowledge or jnana. Therefore the sense organs are called as jnana indriyas since they help in perceiving knowledge of their respective objects.

There are 5 more indriyas which are called karma indriyas i.e. motor organs. Mind is called ubhaya indriya i.e. dual organ of sensory and motor perceptions. All knowledge and information have to pass through and screened by the mind to be properly understood.

In this article we shall try to understand the physiology of sensory perception from an Ayurvedic viewpoint.
Read – Jnana and Karma Indriyas: Organs Of Sense And Function

Physiology of perception

Sensory perception takes place after coordination of below mentioned components. The involvement, coordination and integrated network of all these components are mandatory of attaining knowledge through sensory perception.

The components participating in visual perception are –

Indriya artha

Indriya artha means objects of sense organs. They are also called as sense objects or sensory objects.

  • The objects we see are the objects of ‘organ of perception of vision (sight)’e. chakshurindriya or eye. All visible forms are included in this.
  • Different forms of smell are objects of ‘organ of perception of smell’ e. ghranenidriya or nose.
  • Different types of sound we hear are the objects of shravanendriya or ear.
  • Different types of taste we relish are the objects of rasanendriya or tongue.
  • Different types of tactile sensations we feel through our skin are the objects of sparshanendriya or skin.
    Read – Shareera: Formation Of Human Body, Ayurvedic Concept

Indriya

These are five in number. They are –

When term indriya is used for sense organ, it not only explains anatomical structure of that sense organ but also includes sukshma indriya i.e. functional component of the sense organ.

Taking an example of organ of visual perception, the term indriya explains the functional part of eye. Even a blind person will have an anatomical eye, but he will not be able to perceive things. Therefore, for visual objects to be perceived, understood, its information saved and for its information to be recollected later, the functional components of sense organ of vision should be healthy and active.

Similar explanation holds good for other sensory organs also.
Read – Six Tastes Of Ayurveda: Qualities, Benefits, Therapeutic Action (Shad Rasa)

Manas

Mind, according to Ayurveda, is both sensory and motor entity. Without involvement of mind, objects of sense cannot be perceived by sense organs. When mind is associated with soul, it receives perception of sense organs.

Mind discriminates between good and bad, i.e. which type of visual objects are beneficial and which objects are harmful. Later it transforms and transmits the beneficial information to the intellect.
Read – Mind – Qualities And Functions As Per Ayurveda

Ahankara

We all have egoism. This is because we are derived from the macrocosm i.e. nature (prakriti). We have some representations of nature in us and these entities represent the microcosm of human body. Among these factors derived in human body from bigger nature, egoism is one.

Egoism or ‘feel of importance of self and authority of self on others’ is a part of cosmic egoism. This egoism of an individual will impart the dominance and claim to perceive things which have been scrutinized as good information from mind. Egoism imparts its authority on knowledge, like ‘this information is mine, I need it, it is very important for me’ just before the information is accepted or rejected by the intelligence of an individual.
Read – Purusha: Definition, Types, Characteristic Features

Buddhi

After the objects of vision have been scrutinized and categorized by mind and authorized by egoism, the intellect of an individual intervenes and becomes judgmental so as to accept the visual perception of an object or to reject it. Thus the intellect decides to accept or reject a perception based on its quality. This information is further forwarded to soul.

Atma

Atma means soul or consciousness. Soul is said to be an observer of all activities and perception. It will experience the perceptions of all organs of sensory perception after being associated with mind. The soul can do that, only after the knowledge of perception has been scrutinized by mind, authorized by egoism and accepted and forwarded by intellect.
Read – Importance Of Soul In Perception Of Knowledge: Atma Jnana

Sequence of visual perception

Jnana Utpatti Krama – Sequence of visual perception according to Ayurveda
The visual objects are perceived once the mind and soul are associated with organ of vision and visual objects.

Availability of object of sensory perception – First there is an object of sensory perception available in vicinity.
Read –3 Basic Desires Of Life – Charaka Sanhita Sutrasthan 11

Perception of information of object by sense organs After the contact of sense object and sense organ, the sense organ perceives sense objects related to them.

Information of perception passed on to the mind from the sense organs The sense object is identified, perceived and forwarded to mind by sense organs.

Discrimination of perception by mind Mind discriminates the quality of information of perception and decides what is good and what not.
Read –Achara Rasayana – Behavioral Therapy For Calm Mind And Long Life

Authorization of perception by egoism – In the process the egoism of an individual dominates the picture and imparts its authority on chosen perception. The egoism tells ‘this information and its knowledge is mine, I want this’.
Read – Aham Brahmasmi – The Most Premiere State Of Mind

Passage of information of perception from mind to intellect – This perception which has been shortlisted by mind and authorized by egoism will be passed on to intellect.

Judgment and decision making of intellect over the perception The intellect will now decide if  information of perception needs to be accepted or rejected for further processing. This is second scrutiny over the differentiating power of mind and authorization of egoism. The decision of the intellect will be final and authoritative.

Experience of knowledge of sensory perception by the soul – Now finally the soul in contact with  mind in sequence of perception would experience the filtered knowledge of perception, once it is stamped, sealed and forwarded by intellect.

Action by the doer in relation to knowledge of perception After the decision and acceptance of knowledge of perception by intellect, it is not only the soul that experiences that knowledge, the person who gets this perception right with the help of his intellect will proceed to act accordingly.

Note –

  • Contact of sense organ and sense objects in association of mind and consciousness is called indriyartha sannikarsha.
  • Knowledge of the sensory perceptions obtained and experienced by our mind and intellect is called jnana utpatti.
  • Each indriya is associated with its own buddhi or intellect and it is called as indriya buddhi i.e. intellect specific to the concerned sense organ.
    Read – Pravritti – Attachment, Meaning, Causes, Effects of Attachment

Example

We shall try to understand this with the help of an example.

The chakshurindriya or organ of visual perception will perceive an object, being associated with the mind.

  • First the eye sees an object.
  • Along with association of mind, the sense organ of vision will identify the object.
  • Mind will discriminate if the perception is necessary or unnecessary, useful or harmful (useless).
  • Egoism will impart authority over the perception or perceived object.
  • The subject is handed over to chakshurindriya buddhi i.e. the component of intellect associated with organ of visual perception. The intellect will decide on quality of perception and judge if it is beneficial or not.
  • Once the visual object is judged and decided to be helpful enough to experience, the information is transferred to soul.
  • The person who has experienced the perception of sense object will respond and act in accordance and in response to the knowledge obtained. In this instance, the person decides to act according to what he has seen and understood.

Thus, the soul, in association with mind, sense organ of vision and the sense object would experience the visual perception, after having certified by intellect and authorized by egoism.

This sequence is applicable for sensory perception through any sense organs.
Read – Improper Use Of Sense Organs: A Neglected Cause For Diseases

Pathological aspect of perception

Pathological aspect of jnana utpatti or perception of sensory knowledge 

  • Ineffective contact of sense organs with their sense objects (heena yoga)
  • Excessive contact of sense organs with their sense objects (ati yoga)
  • Perverted contact of sense organs with their sense objects (mithya yoga)

All the above said diversions of perceptive knowledge are called as Asatmya Indriya Artha Sannikarsha i.e. improper contact of sense organs and sense objects leading to defective knowledge and also manifestation of diseases of sense organs.
Click to Consult Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ayu) – Email / Skype

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