I have been told that Atman doesn't perform the action of the senses. Yet we hear, speak, taste and see things. Also I have been told that the Atman is our true self and is only the witness.

So my question is : Who performs the actions of the senses(e.g hearing, speaking, tasting, seeing,smelling etc)?

1 Answer 1


Who performs the actions of the senses (e.g hearing, speaking, tasting)?

Brahman Or Atman (soul) is ultimately the performer of the actions of the senses.

But as said earlier He is just a witness. He is not the Experiencer of fruit of the action of the senses. Who is the illuminator of the senses that to say because of this atman all the senses are in action.

This is explained in the The Kena Upanishad -verse 2

श्रोत्रस्य श्रोत्रं मनसो मनो यद्वाचो ह वाचं स उ प्राणस्य प्राणश्चक्षुषश्चक्षुः ।
अतिमुच्य धीराः प्रेत्यास्माल्लोकादमृता भवन्ति ||2||

śrotrasya śrotraṃ manaso mano yadvāco ha vācaṃ sa u prāṇasya prāṇaścakṣuṣaścakṣuḥ |
atimucya dhīrāḥ pretyāsmāllokādamṛtā bhavanti || 2 ||

It is the ear of the ear, mind of the mind, tongue of the tongue, and also life of the life and eye of the eye. Being disabused of the false notion, the wise, having left this body, become immortal.

Our Mind is our sixth organ /sense , which is the actual Experiencer of the Pain and pleasure. And under whose direction Our senses work.

I.e. Our Mind is the controller of these senses ,who kept them at bay

This is explained in The Katha Upanishad - Verse 1.3.3 with the analogy of Ratha or chariot.

आत्मानँ रथितं विद्धि शरीरँ रथमेव तु ।
बुद्धिं तु सारथिं विद्धि मनः प्रग्रहमेव च ॥ ३ ॥

ātmānam̐ rathitaṃ viddhi śarīram̐ rathameva tu |
buddhiṃ tu sārathiṃ viddhi manaḥ pragrahameva ca || 3 ||

Know the âtman as the lord of the chariot, the body as only the chariot, know also intelligence as the driver; know the minds as the reins.

Shankara’s Commentary:- Know also the intelligence to be the driver, furnished with the capacity for determination, because the body is mainly guided by the intelligence, as the chariot is mainly guided by the driver; for, everything done by the body is generally done by the intelligence.

This verse from Katha Upanishad -also shows us that Mind is the controller of the senses. i.e. we can control senses through our mind.

यस्त्वविज्ञानवान्भवत्ययुक्तेन मनसा सदा ।
तस्येन्द्रियाण्यवश्यानि दुष्टाश्वा इव सारथेः ॥5॥

yastvavijñānavānbhavatyayuktena manasā sadā |
tasyendriyāṇyavaśyāni duṣṭāśvā iva sāratheḥ || 5 ||

But of him who is not possessed of discrimination, and whose mind is always uncontrolled, the senses are not controllable as vicious horses of a driver.

Although our Mind initiate the senses /organs to perform action and control senses and the senses work under our buddhi. But all these senses ultimately function or live just because of presence of Atma itself, without Atman they can’t work , which is in vedanta also equal with Prana.

Conclusion –

Senses perform actions in our body under control of Buddhi ,intellect ,mind , but this mind and all the senses are ultimately illuminated by Brahman or Atman only. I.e. Our senses perform action guided by Buddhi illuminated by Atman.

  • One clarification , you said "Brahman Or Atman (soul) is ultimately the performer of the actions of the senses." When Atman leaves the body (or the chariot) after death then is it able to perform the actions of the senses like hearing , seeing etc as a witness? Commented Sep 21, 2017 at 12:48
  • No , after death he can't be a witness because he will be witness of whom and what? . The body is no more that means no more karmas could be done. He is only witness of actions of the karmas of the body he currently is in. Commented Sep 21, 2017 at 14:02
  • Also see what adi shankaracharya says in his commentary of Katha upanishad Chapter 1 -Valli 2- Vesrse 22 - ‘Bodiless,’ the âtman being like the âkâs by its own nature; ‘bodies,’ bodies of the gods, the manes, men and the rest. " That means after death no. indriyas ,no body will be left hence he will not be a witness. - wisdomlib.org/hinduism/book/katha-upanishad-shankara-bhashya/d/… Commented Sep 21, 2017 at 14:03
  • But there are different stories in purans which tells us that , soul can hear and can talk back ,but these are only special cases of Rishies summonings particular soul. Commented Sep 21, 2017 at 14:05
  • Also please note that this answer assumes euality of Atman and Brahman i.e. from Advaita point of view. Commented Sep 21, 2017 at 14:06

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