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." The term literally means "belonging to Indra," chief deity in the Rig Veda and lord of Tāvatiṃsa heaven, hence connoting supremacy, dominance and control, attested in the general meaning of "power, strength" from the Rigveda.
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:
This set of five faculties is one of the seven sets of the thirty-seven factors of enlightenment.
5 material or 6 sensory faculties
- vision (cakkh-indriya)
- hearing (sot-indriya)
- smell (ghān-indriya)
- taste (jivh-indriya)
- touch (kāy-indriya)
- thought (man-indriya)
The first five of these faculties are sometimes referenced as the five material faculties (e.g., pañcannaṃ indriyānaṃ avakanti).
22 phenomenological faculties
- six sensory faculties
- eye/vision faculty (cakkh-undriya)
- ear/hearing faculty (sot-indriya)
- nose/smell faculty (ghān-indriya)
- tongue/taste faculty (jivh-indriya)
- body/sensibility faculty (kāy-indriya)
- mind faculty (man-indriya)
- three physical faculties
- femininity (itth-indriya)
- masculinity (puris-indriya)
- life or vitality (jīvit-indriya)
- five feeling faculties
- physical pleasure (sukh-indriya)
- physical pain (dukkh-indriya)
- mental joy (somanasa-indriya)
- mental grief (domanass-indriya)
- equanimity (upekhha-indriya)
- five spiritual faculties
- three final-knowledge faculties
- thinking "I shall know the unknown" (anaññāta-ñassāmīt-indriya)
- gnosis (aññ-indriya)
- 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).
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).
- Ayatana (sense base)
- Bodhi (awakening, enlightenment)
- Bodhipakkhiyadhamma (37 enlightenment qualities)
- Five Powers
- Four Right Efforts
- Prajna (wisdom)
- Salayatana (six sense bases)
- 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'...."
- Indra is known as Sakka in the Pali Canon.
- 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."
- Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-25), pp. 122-23.
- 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."
- 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).
- Buddhaghosa & Ñāṇamoli (1999), pp. 442-443.
- See, for instance, Dhs. 709-717, 971-973 (Rhys Davids, 2003, pp. 215-217, 247); and, Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-25), pp. 122-123.
- Bodhi, Bhikkhu (trans.) (2000). The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Samyutta Nikaya. Boston: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-331-1.
- Buddhaghosa, Bhadantacariya & Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli (trans.) (1999). The Path of Purification: Visuddhimagga. Seattle, WA: BPS Pariyatti Editions. ISBN 1-928706-00-2.
- Conze, Edward (1980, 1993). The Way of Wisdom: The Five Spiritual Faculties (The Wheel Publication No. 65/66). Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society. Retrieved on 2007-05-27 from "Access to Insight" at: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/conze/wheel065.html.
- Nyanaponika Thera & Bhikkhu Bodhi (trans.) (1999). Numerical Discourses of the Buddha: An Anthology of Suttas from the Anguttara Nikaya. Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society. ISBN 0-7425-0405-0.
- Rhys Davids, Caroline A. F. (, 2003). Buddhist Manual of Psychological Ethics, of the Fourth Century B.C., Being a Translation, now made for the First Time, from the Original Pāli, of the First Book of the Abhidhamma-Piṭaka, entitled Dhamma-Sangaṇi (Compendium of States or Phenomena). Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 0-7661-4702-9.
- Rhys Davids, T.W. & William Stede (eds.) (1921-5). The Pali Text Society’s Pali–English Dictionary. Chipstead: Pali Text Society. A general on-line search engine for the PED is available at http://dsal.uchicago.edu/dictionaries/pali/.
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu (1996, 1998). Wings to Awakening: An Anthology from the Pali Canon. Retrieved 2007-05-27 from "Access to Insight" at: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/wings/index.html.
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (1997a). Indriya-vibhanga Sutta: Analysis of the Mental Faculties (SN 48.10). Retrieved 2007-05-27 from "Access to Insight" at: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn48/sn48.010.than.html.
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (1997b). Sona Sutta: About Sona (AN 6.55). Retrieved 2008-04-15 from "Access to Insight" at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an06/an06.055.than.html.
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