Six sense bases

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The six sense bases (Skt. saḍāyatana; P. saḷāyatana; T. skye mched drug; C. chu 処), aka six ayatanas, six internal sense bases, etc., are internal sense fields which serve as the bases for the production of consciousness.

The six sense bases are identified as:

The six bases

The six bases are:[1]

  • eye base (Skt. cakṣur-āyatana; Wyl. mig gi skye mched)
  • ear base (Skt. śrotra-āyatana; Wyl. rna ba'i skye mched)
  • nose base (Skt. ghrāṇa-āyatana; Wyl. sna'i skye mched)
  • tongue base (Skt. jihva-āyatana; Wyl. lce'i skye mched)
  • body base (Skt.kāya-āyatana; Wyl. lus kyi skye mched)
  • mind base (Skt. mano-āyatana; Wyl. yid kyi skye mched)

Within the twelve links

Six sense bases
is one of the

12 Links wide icon 124px.png

The six sense bases are the fifth link in the twelve links of dependent origination.

Jeffrey Hopkins states:

...the six internal sense spheres—the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mental “sense powers,” which open the way for the production of the six consciousnesses, giving them power with respect to their respective objects...

In general, there are twelve sense spheres—six internal and six external, which are the six sense powers and the six types of objects.

Here in the twelve links, reference is made only to the six internal sense spheres and their serial development in the womb, since the six objects are always present. The internal sense spheres are not the gross organs themselves, but subtle matter within them. For instance, the faculty of taste is not just the tongue, but the subtle matter within the tongue that allows you to taste, since there are people with tongues who cannot taste and others with eyes who cannot see. Thus, there is subtle matter in the eye and the other sense organs, which, upon maturation, allows us to see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. Through the development of each of these, there is sensation in the womb. The child moves and kicks, and if the child is experiencing pain, the mother often knows.[2]

Within the twelve ayatanas

The six ayatanas are included in the list of the twelve ayatanas.

In this formuations, the twele ayatanas consist of:

  • six inner ayatanas (i.e. the six ayatanas or six inner sense bases, etc.)
  • six outer ayatanas (sights, sounds, smells, etc.)

Some teachers have suggested that, in the context of the twelve links, the term six ayatanas can be said to implicitly include both the six inner ayatanas as well as the six outer ayatanas.[3]

Relation to the six faculties

When compared to the six sense faculties that are part of the scheme of the eighteen dhatus:

  • the first five sense bases are the same as the first five sense factulties
  • the mind sense base (mano-āyatana) is distinguished from the mind faculty (manendriya) as follows. In the scheme of the eighteen dhatus, the mind sense base (mano-āyatana) is divided into seven parts: the mind faculty (manendriya) and the six types of consciousness.

Alternate translations

These six ayatanas are also referred to as:

  • six inner ayatanas (Pali: ajjhattikāni āyatanāni)
  • six sense bases
  • six internal sense bases (Buswell)[4]
  • six organs (Buswell)[5]
  • six sense faculties (Rigpa wiki)
  • six inner sources (Rigpa wiki)
  • six cognitive sensors (Alexander Berzin)
  • six sense-spheres (Bhikkhu Analayo)


  1. Translation of eye base, etc., is used by Bikkhu Bodhi; see Connected Discourses - Selections
  2. Tenzin Gyatso & Hopkins 2015, Introduction
  3. In the context of the Samyutta Nikaya's chapter entitled Saḷāytana-saṃyutta, Bodhi (2000), defines "saḷāyatana" as simply "six sense bases" (p. 2024) or, implicitly, "the six internal and external sense bases" (p. 1121). Primarily in the context of Conditioned Arising, Kohn (1991), p. 192, defines "Shadāyatana" as "roughly 'six bases or realms'; term referring to the six objects of the sense organs...." Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-25), p. 699, defines "Saḷāyatana" as "the six organs of sense and the six objects."
  4. Princeton Dict icon 166px.png Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. ayatana
  5. Princeton Dict icon 166px.png Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. ayatana


  • 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
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This article uses material from Wheel of Life, "Introduction" on Wisdom Publications website. Licensed under CC-by-NC-ND 3.0 (authored by Tenzin Gyatso and Jeffrey Hopkins). Wikimedia-logo black 35px.png