The Mind and the Action of Sense-Awareness

Ordinarily we look upon the action of the 5 senses as the first line of receiving the sense impressions and delivering those impressions to the mind where they undergo a process of sorting, focus, organization and comparison to memory to provide the mind’s judgment on the impressions received.  This, however, is an incomplete and inaccurate understanding of the process.  The sense organs, while undertaking this role, are aids, but not required for the action of the mind in its outreach and understanding of external stimuli.  Without straying too far into the field of paranormal psychology, it must be noted that the mind may dispense with the operation of the senses and nevertheless, under certain conditions or with systematic training, gain its own direct perceptions.

Sri Aurobindo describes the mind as the true sense-organ:  “…we have to realise first that the mind is the only real sense even in the physical process: its dependence on the physical impressions is the result of the conditions of the material evolution, but not a thing fundamental and indispensable.  Mind is capable of a sight that is independent of the physical eye, a hearing that is independent of the physical ear, and so with the action of all the other senses.  It is capable too of an awareness, operating by what appears to us as mental impressions, of things not conveyed or even suggested by the agency of the physical organs,– an opening to relations, happenings, forms even and the action of forces to which the physical organs could not have borne evidence.  Then, becoming aware of these rarer powers, we speak of the mind as a sixth sense; but in fact it is the only true sense organ and the rest are no more than its outer conveniences and secondary instruments, although by its dependence on them they have become its limitations and its too imperative and exclusive conveyors.  Again we have to realise– and this is more difficult to admit for our normal ideas in the matter– that the mind itself is only the characteristic instrument of sense, but the thing itself, sense in its purity…exists behind and beyond the mind it uses and is a movement of the self, a direct and original activity of the infinite power of its consciousness.  The pure action of sense is a spiritual action and pure sense is itself a power of the spirit.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 24, The Supramental Sense , pg. 833

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