Indriya

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Indriya (literally "belonging to or agreeable to Indra") is the Sanskrit and Pali term for physical strength or ability in general, and for the five senses more specifically. In Buddhism, the term refers to multiple intrapsychic processes and is generally translated as "faculty" or, in specific contexts, as "spiritual faculty" or "controlling principle."[1] The term literally means "belonging to Indra," chief deity in the Rig Veda and lord of Tāvatiṃsa heaven,[2] hence connoting supremacy, dominance and control, attested in the general meaning of "power, strength" from the Rigveda.[3]

In Buddhism, depending on the context, indriya traditionally refers to one of the following groups of faculties:

  • the 5 spiritual faculties
  • the 5 or 6 sensory faculties
  • the 22 phenomenological faculties

Five spiritual faculties

The five spiritual faculties (Pali: pañca indriyāni) are:

  1. faith or conviction or belief (saddhā)
  2. energy or persistence or perseverance (viriya)
  3. mindfulness or memory (sati)
  4. concentration or focus (samādhi)
  5. wisdom or understanding or comprehension (pañña).

This set of five faculties is one of the seven sets of the thirty-seven factors of enlightenment.

5 material or 6 sensory faculties

In the Sutta Pitaka, six sensory faculties are referenced in a manner similar to the six sense bases. These faculties consist of the five senses with the addition of "mind" or "thought" (manas).

  1. vision (cakkh-indriya)
  2. hearing (sot-indriya)
  3. smell (ghān-indriya)
  4. taste (jivh-indriya)
  5. touch (kāy-indriya)
  6. thought (man-indriya)

The first five of these faculties are sometimes referenced as the five material faculties (e.g., pañcannaṃ indriyānaṃ avakanti).[4]

22 phenomenological faculties

In the Abhidhamma Pitaka, the notion of indriya is expanded to the twenty-two "phenomenological faculties" or "controlling powers" (Pali: bāvīsati indriyāni)[5] which are:

  • six sensory faculties
  1. eye/vision faculty (cakkh-undriya)
  2. ear/hearing faculty (sot-indriya)
  3. nose/smell faculty (ghān-indriya)
  4. tongue/taste faculty (jivh-indriya)
  5. body/sensibility faculty (kāy-indriya)
  6. mind faculty (man-indriya)
  • three physical faculties
  1. femininity (itth-indriya)
  2. masculinity (puris-indriya)
  3. life or vitality (jīvit-indriya)
  • five feeling faculties[6]
  1. physical pleasure (sukh-indriya)
  2. physical pain (dukkh-indriya)
  3. mental joy (somanasa-indriya)
  4. mental grief (domanass-indriya)
  5. equanimity (upekhha-indriya)
  • five spiritual faculties
  1. faith (saddh-indriya)
  2. energy (viriy-indriya)
  3. mindfulness (sat-indriya)
  4. concentration (samādhi-indriya)
  5. wisdom (paññ-indriya)
  • three final-knowledge faculties
  1. thinking "I shall know the unknown" (anaññāta-ñassāmīt-indriya)
  2. gnosis (aññ-indriya)
  3. one who knows (aññātā-vindriya)

According to the post-canonical Visuddhimagga, the 22 faculties along with such constructs as the aggregates, sense bases, Four Noble Truths and Dependent Origination are the "soil" of wisdom (paññā).[7]

Other faculty groupings

At times in the Pali Canon, different discourses or Abhidhammic passages will refer to different subsets of the 22 phenomenological faculties. Thus, for instance, in the Abhidhamma there are references to the "eightfold form-faculty" (aṭṭhavidhaṃ indriya-rūpaṃ) which includes the first five sensory faculties (eye, ear, nose, tongue and body faculties) plus the three physical faculties (femininity, masculinity and vitality).[8]

See also

Notes

  1. Bodhi (2000) translates indriya as "spiritual faculty" and, at times (particularly when referring to Abhidhammic sources), "faculty." Buddhaghosa & Ñāṇamoli (1999) consistently translate indriya simply as "faculty" both in the context of the five spiritual faculties (e.g., pp. 128-9) and the 22 phenomenological faculties (Ch. XVI). Conze (1993) mentions and uses translations of "faculty," "controlling faculty" and "spiritual faculty," and refers to the five indriya as "cardinal virtues." Thanissaro (1998) uses "faculty." Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-25), p. 122-123, entry for "Indriya," (retrieved 2007-05-27) defines it as: "Indriya is one of the most comprehensive & important categories of Buddhist psychological philosophy & ethics, meaning 'controlling principle, directive force, élan, dynamis'...: (a) with reference to sense-perceptibility 'faculty, function'...."
  2. Indra is known as Sakka in the Pali Canon.
  3. Bodhi (2000), p. 1509; Conze (1993), n. 1; Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-25), p. 122, entry "indriya"; and, Thanissaro (1998), Part II, sec. E, "The Five Faculties."
  4. Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-25), pp. 122-23.
  5. Bodhi (2000), pp. 1508-1509, refers to these 22 faculties as "phenomenological faculties"; while Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-25), p. 122-3, entry on "indriya" refers to these 22 faculties as "controlling powers."
  6. The five feeling faculties are essentially an expanded scale of the three vedana, where pleasant and unpleasant feelings/sensations are divided between physical and mental experiences (see, e.g., Bodhi, 2000, p. 1510).
  7. Buddhaghosa & Ñāṇamoli (1999), pp. 442-443.
  8. See, for instance, Dhs. 709-717, 971-973 (Rhys Davids, 2003, pp. 215-217, 247); and, Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-25), pp. 122-123.

Sources

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