The Sacred Role of the Senses
David Frawley

Our senses are the key instruments of our lives and how we use them determines how our lives unfold, whether towards health or disease, spirituality or worldliness.

Our outer lives revolve around how we use our senses, the messages they bring us and how we relate to the world through them. The mind orients itself through the information that the senses bring it, which becomes the basis of deeper thought and imagination. Our spiritual lives are based upon our ability to awaken deeper powers of perception, including connecting to the inner sound and light through ‘inner senses' that are hidden behind the outer senses.

The senses play an important part on the spiritual path, both in the negative sense as obstacles to master, but also in the positive sense of as higher sensory powers. Generally, we regard the spiritual path as requiring that we deny the senses, which are regarded as illusory or even evil in their function. However, if spiritual development was as easy as shutting down the senses, then the deaf and mute would automatically be wise and enlightened! The spiritual path requires a mastery of the senses, not simply to deny them, but to unfold their deeper potentials along with the energy and awareness within.

Running after the pleasures of the senses, which is the main way of the world, or trying by personal effort to shut the senses off, which many spiritual people attempt, are two sides of the same problem. The senses are pranas, life-forces or vital urges. They are connected to general life urges like eating, sleeping, moving, expressing or procreating. We cannot go far suppressing our senses any more than we can by suppressing our prana. We need to discover the power behind the senses and work to take it to a higher level.

The role of the senses in Classical Yoga is dealt with under the practice of Pratyahara, which is often styled ‘control of the senses', much like control of a group of wild animals with a stick. Yet it is better to compare control of the senses through Pratyahara with control of the prana or Pranayama. Pranayama is not mere suppression of the prana, or simply not breathing, but deepening of the Prana - helping us breath deeper from the core of our being, removing pranic blockages, releasing Prana to flow freely through the nadis.

So too, real Pratyahara is first of all a deepening of the senses, helping us to have better sensory acuity, removing impairments to the functioning of the senses, increasing the relationship between the senses and, above all, releasing the senses from their bondage to habitual forms and patterns of perception that create negativity within us. Pratyahara means uniting the senses with the light of consciousness, the deep sense of feeling and knowing in the heart, uniting the outer light with the inner light by uniting the senses and the core consciousness within ourselves.

How do we accomplishment this internalization of the senses? First we must honor the senses and what they reveal to us as sacred. The senses are our God given instruments of life, knowledge and expression. They reveal the world of nature in all of its beauty and glory. They are tools of worship through which we can honor the Divine in the environment around us. We must look to the light that the senses reflect and through which they perceive, not just simply attach ourselves to particular sensory forms as means of personal enjoyment. We need to connect the light that is present in what the senses reveal with the light of the Seer, the immortal witness within us.


Everything is light. In the Vedic vision, the light of colored forms on Earth is Agni or the Divine fire. The light of the clouds and the movement of forces in the Atmosphere is Vayu or wind, the Divine spirit. The light of the sky or heaven is Surya or the Sun, the supreme Divine light. But all three are forms of light or Jyoti. The Vedic way is to use the senses as powers of light, allowing the senses to perceive, increase, expand and ascend with the cosmic light that they are part of.

In the Vedic view, our senses both perceive and reflect the cosmic reality. The eye is the Sun, the ears are the directions of space, the nose is Vayu or the Wind God, and the mouth is Agni or Fire. To use the senses with a knowledge of their cosmic counterparts enables the senses to help us expand into the cosmic reality. It also helps the inner senses, the inner hearing and seeing, to awaken within us.

Closing our senses and directing our attention within is an important aid for meditation. It allows our senses, which are overworked and over stimulated, particularly in this mass media age, to rest and align themselves with the inner light of consciousness. Once we have rested our senses, we will find our field of perception cleansed and clarified once we open our eyes again and the world will appear fresh and revitalized as well.

Opening our senses wider is part of the awakening of our inner being, seeing the beauty of nature, contacting the wonderful tanmatras or essences of sound, touch, sight, taste and smell in the world around us.  Nature is the highest work of art and the greatest scripture. Our senses are part of the worship of Nature which is the gateway to the Spirit.

Most of the time we hardly use and scarcely do justice to our senses and what they are capable of perceiving. We rarely smell the earth, the soil, the plants or the flowers. We rarely really taste the subtle flavors of our food, which is often too heavy with oil, salt and sugar anyway. We rarely look at the sky, the sunrise, the sunset or the stars. We rarely listen to the sounds of nature, which are usually obscured by our urban noise pollution. This lack of sensory acuity results in dullness of mind and also limits our ability to meditate.

This sensory dullness of our culture is the real suppression of the senses that we suffer from. We try to alleviate ourselves of this ongoing sensory doldrums by occasional bouts of artificial sensory indulgence through movies, games, junk food or other forms of entertainment. This only dulls our finer sensitivities further, though it may provide some momentary enjoyment.

It is a great miracle to be able to rise up in the morning and actually see the sun rise with an open mind and heart. It is God or Brahman arising in the east. We cannot perceive these spiritual wonders of nature's movements because our minds are heavy and encrusted with fears, desires, anxieties, worries, and a perpetual business and seeking that keeps us ever distracted. We are living for tomorrow and a tomorrow that never arrives! Better audio or visual equipment for entertainment will not help us escape this artificiality. It is better to go out in nature, discarding our social baggage, and learn to look directly, if it is only at the ants!

Reclaiming the senses is an important step on the spiritual path and the essence of real Pratyahara. This means using the senses as tools for recognizing the Divine presence, light, beauty and bliss in the world of nature around us. The senses belong to the light of consciousness, not to the urges of the ego or the advertising ploys of the business world. Our senses should at least be our own, able to function naturally in the present moment, not driven by external stimuli and enticements.

In the Vedic vision, the Deities or Devatas are the senses and pranas in the head. These are the mind, breath, speech, eye and ear as the five Pranas or five great Devatas ruled respectively by the Moon, the Wind, Fire, Sun and the directions of Space. In another Vedic formulation there are seven Devatas as the seven orifices in the head, the two eyes, two years, two nostrils and mouth. This means that the senses like Devatas can aid us in our inner growth and development. But only if we recognize their Divine power and use them in a sacred manner. Tantra shares this Vedic secret of the sacred nature of the senses and similarly employs them in a sacred manner.

While the cognitive senses are the Gods, the motor organs are the Asuras or anti-Gods. The senses have a natural upward moving light that connects us with the harmony or Sattva of nature. The motor organs have a natural outward and downward urge, connecting us to the body. Releasing the senses from the urges of the motor organs, using them as tools of conscious awareness, rather than instruments of instinct and desire, helps us in this process.

But even more important is to subordinate the Asuras to the Devas, to connect our motor organs to the senses and their upward movement into the light. This means first of all to speak and declare the light and the truth, as the voice is the first and foremost of the motor organs.

There is a famous Vedic Shanti mantra:

Bhadram karnebhih srinuyama Devah
O Gods, with our ears may we hear what is auspicious.

Bhadram pashyemakshabhir Yajatra
O Holy ones, with our eyes may we see what is auspicious.

Sthirangair tusthuvamsas tanubhih
With firm limbs making adoration with our bodies,

Vyashema Devahitam yad Ayuh
May we attain the life granted to us by the Divine!

If we recognize the Divine powers, the sacred presence, then we can find what is auspicious and holy through the senses. If our bodily actions are a kind of worship or adoration, then they will elevate us as well. This is the Divine life that we were meant to attain. There is no need to close our eyes only to open our hearts.

Tantra teaches us the same understanding of the sacred use of the senses as does the Vedas. It shows us that the Devatas, the Goddess and Goddesses which operate behind and through the senses, pranas, instincts and emotions, which are cosmic powers, not merely individual endowments! Tantra shows us how to use the senses as part of sacred worship. It teaches us to recognize the body of the Goddess in nature and to look for the rasa, the essences, the Somas in all that we see. It connects us to the Shakti, the Divine power of consciousness behind the senses. Increasing that Shakti, the senses function with more sensitivity, depth and acuity. Like a great artist, we learn to appreciate the finer beauties of life, extending to the beauty of space itself.

When we use our senses to find the inner light then our senses help extract the Soma or Ananda, the delight in all that we see. When the light of the senses merges into the presence of being then all that we see first reminds us of Brahman. That is also the natural state of Samadhi, in which we can function in the world as truly aware and sensitive human beings. Then all the senses work to open the crown chakra or thousand petal lotus of the head.

Partilhe este artigo: 
| Mais



Desenvolvido por pontodesign