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Karma Indriyas

by Swami Sivananda

A description of these organs will not be out of place here. A Karma Yogi should have a detailed knowledge of the nature and workings of these Indriyas. Vak (organ of speech), Pani (hands), Pada (feet), Upashtam (organ of generation) and Payu or Guda (anus, the organ of excretion) are the five organs of action. The real Indriyas are in the astral body (Linga-Sarira). They are very subtle (Sukshma): They have corresponding centres or counterparts in the brain (nerve centres). What you see outside-mouth, hands, feet, organ of reproduction and anus are mere Bahya-Karanas or external instruments. The Karma Indriyas are located in the Pranamaya Kosha or vital sheath of the astral body. The Karma Indriyas are the five soldiers. The commander-in-chief is the mind. The mind extracts work from these soldiers when it desires to get sensual objects for its gratification. Mind also works in unison with these five organs. Mind is the leader or the big dacoit. These five organs are his assistants. These Karma Indriyas execute the commands of their leader (mind) immediately. The Karma Indriyas cannot work independently without the healthy and willing co-operation of the mind. It is the mind that really works through these organs. It is the mind that really plans, schemes and suggests in all activities. During sleep these Indriyas get Laya (involution) in the mind temporarily. During Samadhi or the superconscious state they are absorbed in the mind.

The Karma Indriyas are born of the Rajasic portion of the Tanmatras. They are moved by Prana. Without the Prana, they cannot move even a fraction of an inch. The Jivatma or the individual soul, a reflection of Chaitanya in the mind-mirror is a constant companion of the mind. It is he who reaps the fruits of actions, pleasure or pain.

You will find in the Gita: "These five causes, O mighty-armed, learn of Me as declared in the Sankhya system, for the accomplishment of all actions. The body, the actor, the various organs, the diverse kinds of energies and the presiding deities, also, the fifth-whatever action a man performeth by his body, mind and speech, whether right or the reverse, these five are the cause thereof." Ch. XVIII-13, 14, 15.

"That being so, he verily, who owing to untrained reason looketh on his Self, which is isolated, as the actor, he of perverted intelligence seeth not." Ch. XVIII-16.

"He who is free from the egoistic notion, whose reason is not affected though he slay these people, he slayeth not, nor is he bound," says the Lord. Krishna is known as a Nitya Brahmachari though He lived with Sri Radha, Rukmini, Satyabhama, etc., and had children. He was fully resting in His own Svarupa-Nirguna Brahman. Lord Krishna separated Himself from the body, mind and Indriyas and identified Himself with Satchidananda Svarupa. So He was called a Nitya Brahmachari. Durvasa ate a large quantity of food at a feast and proclaimed to his disciples: "I have eaten nothing. I am Nitya Upavasi. Tell this to the River Yamuna, she will give way to you all. You can cross the river without a boat." Tiruvalluvar, a sage of South India gave the same instructions to his wife to cross a river as Durvasa did. She was quite astonished to see that the river gave way when she uttered the words of her husband. The state of Jnanis is indescribable and incomprehensible.

The presiding deity of the Vak Indriya is Agni; that of the hand is Indra; that of the feet is Upendra or Vishnu; that of Upastham is Prajapata; and that of Payu or anus is Mrityu.

You will find again in the Gita: "Knowledge, the knowable and the knower form the threefold impulse to action; the organ, the action and the actor form the threefold constituents of action." Ch. XVIII-18.

You will find in Nyaya philosophy the terms Jnana, Iccha and Prayatna. Jnana is knowledge of objects. Iccha is desire. Prayatna is effort to obtain the desired objects. At first the Jiva or the individual soul has knowledge of the objects. Then a desire arises in the mind to get possession of the objects for his enjoyment. Then he applies himself diligently and exerts to obtain these objects. Desire is the motive force that moves the mind to action. Man muses or thinks of the objects of the senses. Then he develops attachment to them. From attachment there springs desire. Thought is the fuel. Desire is the fire. If you can stop the Sankalpas, the fire of desire will be extinguished by itself, just as a lamp is extinguished when the supply of ghee or oil is withdrawn.

There is at first attraction for objects. Then comes attachment. Even if the attraction dies, the longing (Kamana or Spriha) or hankering for the object will continue to remain. This is Trishna-tantu or the thread of hankering. Then there is the preference for objects. This is still more difficult to be eradicated. Destroy attachment first. Then the longing and preference will slowly die.

There are three kinds of impulses, viz., the impulse of thinking, the impulse of speech and the impulse of action. A Karma Yogi should not be impulsive. He must not be carried away by emotions. He must calm the surging, bubbling emotions and the impulses. He must purify the emotions. Then he can turn out real solid work. He must destroy all unnecessary, useless or vain thoughts. This will add to his reserve energy. This will conserve his energy. Energy is wasted in useless thinking.

Energy is also wasted in idle talking and worldly gossiping. A Karma Yogi should observe Mauna or silence for two hours daily and for six hours on Sundays and holidays. Mauna will destroy impulses of speech. He who observes Mauna can use measured words during speaking. He can control anger and falsehood. He will be peaceful. He will have a strong will. There are people who talk like a machine at a tremendous speed, without a full stop. The greatest punishment for such people is to put them in silence for three days. They will be in a great fix. He who talks much, thinks little and does little. He is a very restless man. The organ of speech brings great distraction of mind. Control of speech really means the control of the mind. There is a sharp sword in the tongue. One harsh word or a mild rebuke breaks a longstanding friendship and results in fighting and actual bloodshed. The restlessness of the world is due to too much talking, gossiping, backbiting and scandal mongering. Ladies are more talkative. They disturb the peaceful atmosphere of their homes. If all people of the world practise Mauna for two hours daily this will undoubtedly contribute to the peace of the world to a considerable degree.


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