Brahma Sutras
by Swami Sivananda


Section 4: Saptagatyadhikaranam: Topic 2 (Sutras 5-6)

The number of the organs.

Sapta gaterviseshitatvaccha II.4.5 (274)

The Pranas (organs) are seven on account of this being understood (from scriptural passages) and of the specification (of those seven).

Sapta: seven; Gateh: from the movement, being so known (from the scriptural passages); Viseshitatvat: on account of the specification; Cha: and.

The number of the Pranas (senses) is now discussed.

The number of the organs is ascertained in this and the next Sutra. A doubt arises here owing to the conflicting nature of the scriptural passages. In one place seven Pranas are mentioned "The seven Pranas (organs) spring from Him" (Mun. Up. II.1.8). In another place eight Pranas are mentioned as being Grahas "Eight Grahas there are and eight Atigrahas" (Bri. Up. III.2.1). In another place nine "Seven are the Pranas of the head, two the lower ones" (Tait. Samhita V.3.2.5). Sometimes ten "Nine Pranas indeed are in man, the navel is the tenth" (Tait. Samhita V.3.2.3). Sometimes eleven "Ten are these Pranas in man, and Atman is the eleventh" (Bri. Up. III.9.4). Sometimes twelve "All touches have their centre in the skin" (Bri. Up. II.4.11). Sometimes thirteen "The eye and what can be seen" (Prasna Up. IV.8). Thus the scriptural passages disagree about the number of the Pranas (organs).

This Sutra gives the view of the Purvapakshin or the opponent. Here the Purvapakshin maintains that the Pranas are in reality seven in number, because it is stated to be so in some scriptural texts such as "The seven Pranas (organs) sprang from Him" (Mun. Up. II.1.8). These seven Pranas are moreover specified in Tait. Samhita V.1.7.1, "Seven indeed are the Pranas in the head."

Eight or nine organs are enumerated in some texts but these are only modifications of the inner organ. Hence there is no contradiction in the Sruti texts if we take the number as seven.

To this argumentation of the Purvapakshin the next Sutra gives a suitable reply.

Hastadayastu sthite'to naivam II.4.6 (275)

But (there are also in addition to the seven Pranas mentioned) the hands and rest. This being a settled matter, therefore (we must) not (conclude) thus (viz., that there are seven Pranas only).

Hastadayah: hands and the rest; Tu: but; Sthite: being determined, being a fact, while abiding in the body; Atah: therefore; Na: not; Evam: thus, so, like this.

Sutra 5 is refuted and the actual number of the Pranas (senses) is ascertained.

The word 'tu' (but) refutes the view of the previous Sutra. Sutra 6 is the Siddhanta Sutra.

The number seven is not correct.

In addition to the seven Pranas scripture mentions other Pranas also, such as the hands, etc. "The hand is one Graha (organ) and that is seized by work as the Atigraha; for with the hands one does work" (Bri. Up. III.2.8), and similar passages, "ten are the senses in a man and mind with these completes the number eleven" (Bri. Up. III.9.4), indicate that the hands etc., are additional organs. Therefore, four other organs viz., hands, feet, anus and the organ of generation have to be added to the seven organs already mentioned, viz., eyes, nose, ears, tongue, touch (skin), speech, and mind, the inner organ. The intellect, egoism, Chitta or memory are not separate organs. They are only modifications of the mind.

Therefore, the number of organs is in all eleven. This is the number that is fixed. They are, the five organs of knowledge (Jnana-Indriyas), the five organs of action (Karma-Indriyas) and the inner organ, mind.

To unite all the diverse activities of the organs, it is necessary that there should be an organ which must exist as a unifying agent with the memory of the past and the present together with the anticipation of the future, because without such an organ the activities of the organs would be unharmonised and discordant. This unifying organ is the inner organ or the Manas (mind). This one inner organ assumes four names such as mind, intellect, egoism and Chitta, according to the functions it performs (Vrittibheda).

In the passage "Nine Pranas indeed are in man, the navel is the tenth", the expression "ten Pranas" is used to denote the different openings of the human body, not the difference of nature of the Pranas. Because no Prana is known that bears the name of navel. As the navel is one of the special abodes of the chief Prana, it is here enumerated as tenth Prana.

There are only eleven Pranas. This conclusion is confirmed by one of the scriptural passages, "Ten are these Pranas in man and Atman is the eleventh." By the word Atman we have to understand the internal organ on account of its ruling over the organs.