Brahma Sutras
by Swami Sivananda


Section 4: Indriyadhikaranam: Topic 8 (Sutras 17-19)

The organs are independent principles and not functions of the chief Prana.

Ta Indriyani tadvyapadesadanyatra sreshthat II.4.17 (286)

They (the other Pranas) are senses, on account of being so designated (by the scriptures), with the exception of the best (the chief Prana).

Ta: they; Indriyani: the organs; Tadvyapadesat: because designated as such; Sreshthat anyatra: except the chief, other than the chief Prana which is the highest. (Anyatra: elsewhere, except; Sreshthat: than the best or the chief Prana.)

The distinction between the chief Prana and other Pranas (the organs) is now pointed out.

Now there arises another doubt viz., whether the organs such as eyes, ears, etc., are functions or modes of the chief Prana or independent entities.

The Purvapakshin or the objector maintains that they are mere functions on account of scriptural statement. The scripture says, "This is the greatest amongst us (the organs). Well let us all assume his form. Thereupon they all assumed his form. Therefore they are called by this name of Prana" (Bri. Up. I.5.21).

The Sutra refutes this and says that the eleven organs are not functions or modes of the chief Prana. They belong to a separate category. They are shown to be different in scriptural passages like "From Him are born Prana, mind, and all organs" (Mun. Up. II.1.3). In this and other passages Prana and the sense organs are mentioned separately. The text of the Brihadaranyaka must be taken in a secondary sense.

Therefore it cannot certainly be said that just as the chief Prana has five modes the senses also are its modes, because the Sruti describes the senses as separate. The senses are distinct independent principles. The senses and the mind are described as being eleven in number.

Bhedasruteh II.4.18 (287)

(On account of the) scriptural statement of difference.

Bhedasruteh: on account of the scriptural statement of difference.

An argument in favour of Sutra 17 is given.

The Prana is everywhere spoken of as different from the organs. In Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (I.3.2) the organs are dealt with in one section. After concluding it, the Prana is dealt with separately in the same section. This clearly indicates that they do not belong to the same category.

Other passages also referring to that difference may be quoted, as for instance, "He made mind, speech and breath for himself" (Bri. Up. I.5.3).

In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (I.3.2) it is stated that the gods in their struggle with the Asuras, i.e., the evil forces found that the senses such as the speech, the nose, the eye, the ear, and the mind were vitiated by the Asuras. So they took the help of the chief Prana. The Asuras were not able to vitiate the chief Prana. The gods became victorious over the Asuras. Here the chief Prana is spoken of as different from and superior to all the senses. For reference vide, "Then, the gods appealed to the chief Prana, the chief vital force which is superior to the senses" (Bri. Up. I.3.7).

Therefore the organs are independent principles, and not modes or functions of the chief Prana.

Vailakshanyaccha II. 4.19 (288)

And on account of the difference of characteristics.

Vailakshanyat: on account of difference of characteristics; Cha: and.

An argument in favour of Sutra 17 is given.

There is, moreover, a difference of characteristics between the chief Prana and the senses. The organs do not function in deep sleep, whereas the Prana does. The chief Prana alone is not reached by death, while the other Pranas are. The staying and departing of the chief Prana, not that of the sense organs is the cause of the maintenance and the dissolution of the body.

The sense organs are the cause of the perception of the sense-objects, not the chief Prana. The organs get tired, but not the chief Prana. The loss of individual organs does not cause death, but the passing out of Prana causes death of the body.

Thus there are many differences distinguishing the Prana from the senses. This also indicates that the senses are different from the Prana.

The Sruti which speaks, "The senses assumed the form of Prana", is to be taken in a secondary sense. The word 'Prana' is applied to the sense organs in a secondary sense. It means that their functioning depends upon Prana. It means that the organs follow the Prana just as the servants follow their master. The chief Prana is the ruler or the master or the teacher of the organs. The Sruti describes Prana as superior to the organs (Sreshtha).

Therefore the organs are independent principles and not modes of the chief Prana.