indriyāṇi parāṇy āhur
indriyebhyaḥ paraḿ manaḥ
manasas tu parā buddhir
yo buddheḥ paratas tu saḥ
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 3.42
The working senses are superior to dull matter; mind is higher than the senses; intelligence is still higher than the mind; and he [the soul] is even higher than the intelligence.
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
The senses are different outlets for the activities of lust. Lust is reserved within the body, but it is given vent through the senses. Therefore, the senses are superior to the body as a whole. These outlets are not in use when there is superior consciousness, or Krishna consciousness. In Krishna consciousness the soul makes direct connection with the Supreme Personality of Godhead; therefore the hierarchy of bodily functions, as described here, ultimately ends in the Supreme Soul. Bodily action means the functions of the senses, and stopping the senses means stopping all bodily actions. But since the mind is active, then even though the body may be silent and at rest, the mind will act—as it does during dreaming. But above the mind is the determination of the intelligence, and above the intelligence is the soul proper. If, therefore, the soul is directly engaged with the Supreme, naturally all other subordinates, namely, the intelligence, mind and senses, will be automatically engaged. In the Katha Upanishad there is a similar passage, in which it is said that the objects of sense gratification are superior to the senses, and mind is superior to the sense objects. If, therefore, the mind is directly engaged in the service of the Lord constantly, then there is no chance that the senses will become engaged in other ways. This mental attitude has already been explained. param drishtva nivartate. If the mind is engaged in the transcendental service of the Lord, there is no chance of its being engaged in the lower propensities. In the Katha Upanishad the soul has been described as mahan, the great. Therefore the soul is above all—namely, the sense objects, the senses, the mind and the intelligence. Therefore, directly understanding the constitutional position of the soul is the solution of the whole problem.
With intelligence one has to seek out the constitutional position of the soul and then engage the mind always in Krishna consciousness. That solves the whole problem. A neophyte spiritualist is generally advised to keep aloof from the objects of the senses. But aside from that, one has to strengthen the mind by use of intelligence. If by intelligence one engages one’s mind in Krishna consciousness, by complete surrender unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, then, automatically, the mind becomes stronger, and even though the senses are very strong, like serpents, they will be no more effective than serpents with broken fangs. But even though the soul is the master of intelligence and mind, and the senses also, still, unless it is strengthened by association with Krishna in Krishna consciousness, there is every chance of falling down due to the agitated mind.
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
One should not try to conquer over the mind and intelligence first, because of the impossibility. That is conveyed in this verse.
The senses are considered superior, for they cannot be conquered even by warriors who conquer the ten directions. But the mind is superior to the senses as it is even stronger, not being destroyed during dreams when the senses do not function. But compared to the mind, the intelligence, with the form of vijnana, is stronger. During deep sleep, even the mind does not function, but the intelligence remains undestroyed, being present in general form. But compared to the intelligence, that which is superior in strength, because it exists in you even when intelligence is destroyed by the practice of jnana, is the famous jivatma, which is the conqueror of lust. After conquering the senses, mind and intelligence, the jivatma, which is the most powerful than all of them, can conquer lust. It is understood that is not an impossible task.
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
3.42 The senses are called the important obstacles of knowledge, because when the senses keep operating on their objects, the knowledge of the self cannot arise. ‘The mind is higher than the senses’: even if the senses are withdrawn, if the Manas (mind) ruminates over sense objects, knowledge of the self cannot be had. ‘The intellect (Buddhi) is greater than the mind’, i.e., even if the mind is indifferent to sense objects, a perverted decision by the intellect can obstruct the dawn of the knowledge of the self. But even if all of them upto the intellect are quietened from their activity, still when desire, identified with will, originating from Rajas, is operating, it by itself obstructs the knowledge of the self by inducing the senses etc., to operate in their fields. Thus it is said here: ‘But what is greater than intellect is that.’ What is greater than the intellect — is desire. Such is the sense of the last sentence here.
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
Sri Sridhara Swami did not comment on this sloka.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
Sri Madhvacharya did not comment on this sloka.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
Lord Krishna explains the priority of the faculties’ humans possess starting from the physical body to the senses to the mind to the intellect to the atma or soul. The senses are superior to the physical body because if the senses are agitated they will transfer this agitation to the physical body and knowledge will not arise in the mind. The mind is superior to the senses and can stop them but if the mind is intent on sense gratification then knowledge will not arise. The intellect is superior to the senses and the mind but if the senses are passive and the mind is not agitated; then if the intellect decides contrary and is inclined to enjoy, it will overrule the senses and the mind and directs them both to pursue pleasure. So knowledge will not arise there as well but when the senses are withdrawn from the sense objects this impulse subsides. So what is more powerful then the intellect? We see that it is kama or lust that is greater. All these things happen in regard to physical activity. The mind becomes clouded and the intellect is obscured by kama and reflects and contemplates actions that will gratify the senses veiling the true knowlegde of the atma. This confirms that kama is the greatest enemy of the human being because it obscures knowledge of the eternal atma or soul.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
3.42 The learned ones ahuh, say; that indriyani, the five [Five sense-organs: of vision, hearning, taste, smell and touch; five motor-organs: hands, feet, speech, and for excretion and generation-these latter five are also understood in the present context.] organs-ear etc., are parani, superior, to the external, gross and limited body, from the point of view of subtlety, inner position, pervasiveness, etc. So also, manah, the mind, having the nature of thinking and doubting; [Sankalpa: will, volition, intention, thought, reflection, imangination, etc. vikalpa:doubt, uncertainly, indecision, suspicion, error, etc.-V.S.A.] is param, superior; indriyebhyah, to the organs. Similarly, buddhih, the intellect, having the nature of determination; is para, superior; manasah, to the mind. And yah, the one who is innermost as compared with all the objects of perception ending with the intellect, and with regard to which Dweller in the body it has been said that desire, in association with its ‘abodes’ counting from the organs, deludes It by shrouding Knowledge; sah, that one; is tu, however; paratah, superior; buddheh, to the intellect- He, the supreme Self, is the witness of the intellect. [The portion, ‘with regard to which Dweller…the supreme Self,’ is translated from Ast. Which has the same reading here as the A.A. The G1. Pr. Makes the “abode” counting from the organs’ an adjective of ‘the Dweller in the body’, and omits the portion, ‘is tu, however…buddheh, to the intellect’.-Tr.]
Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:
3.42-43 Indriyani etc. Evam etc. ‘Because the sense-organs are different from the sense-objects that indicate the foe [in question]; from them the mind is different; from that too different is the intellect; what is instrinsically different from the intellect also is the Self; so due to wrath, risen at the sense-organs, how can there be a disturbance in the mind, in the intellect or in the Self ?’ Let one contemplate in this manner. This is what is meant here. This is intention of the experts of the Rahasya [literature] : The Supreme I-consciousness viz., the awareness ‘All I am’, which remains beyond the intellect, and the essence of which allows no difference-that is indeed the highest identity. Therefore no furstration (or cut) can be for That which is complete all around; hence wrath etc., do not rise [in It]. Therefore, taking hold of the Supreme Energy which in essence is Consciousness, you must slay the foe, the wrath which is ignorance in essence.
Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:
indriyani parany ahur
indriyebhyah param manah
manasas tu para buddhir
yo buddheh paratas tu sah
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
indriyāṇi — senses; parāṇi — superior; āhuḥ — are said; indriyebhyaḥ — more than the senses; param — superior; manaḥ — the mind; manasaḥ — more than the mind; tu — also; parā — superior; buddhiḥ — intelligence; yaḥ — who; buddheḥ — more than the intelligence; parataḥ — superior; tu — but; saḥ — he.