Distinguishing the Sense-Mind and the Reasoning Intelligence and Will

Sri Aurobindo begins the review of the purification process of the reasoning intelligence by first defining its unique characteristics and distinguishing it from the action of the sense-mind. “…first we have to make clear the distinction, ignored in ordinary speech, between the manas, mind, and buddhi, the discerning intelligence and the enlightened will. Manas is the sense-mind. Man’s initial mentality is not at all a thing of reason and will; it is an animal, physical or sense mentality which constitutes its whole experience from the impressions made on it by the external world and by its own embodied consciousness which responds to the outward stimulus of this kind of experience.”

For most people the mind is a unified experience and there is thus no ability to discern the different forms of action and levels of conscious awareness involved. Sri Aurobindo goes on to distinguish the Buddhi: “The Buddhi only comes in as a secondary power which has in the evolution taken the first place, but is still dependent on the inferior instrument it uses; it depends for its workings on the sense-mind and does what it can on its own higher range by a difficult, elaborate and rather stumbling extension of knowledge and action from the physical or sense basis. A half-enlightened physical or sense mentality is the ordinary type of the mind of man.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 7, Purification–Intelligence and Will, pg. 636