The Independent and Universal Scope of Action of the Supramental Sense

With its basis in the oneness of all existence, the supramental sense has the ability to either utilize the organs of sense in the mind, life and body, or directly sense without their action as intermediaries.  Similarly, time and space are not an obstacle to the action of the supramental sense.  Wherever the attention is turned, the inherent knowledge arises without limits or obstacles.

We find it difficult to appreciate the power of the supramental sense, but a few examples from our human interactions in the world can perhaps provide some direction.  There are known and documented instances where an individual, usually a close family member, reacts immediately and intensely to the death of a loved one.  Cases have occurred during various wars, where the soldier was killed and the family member, thousands of miles away was instantly aware of the death.  There are also instances of out of body experiences where the body has been injured and made unconscious, but the awareness, having moved outward and upward, can actually see and hear what is being done to the body, now seen as an external form.  Some people have described locales they have never visited with a detail that can only come from direct observation, while others may awaken from a coma with the ability to speak and understand a language they have never learned or even been exposed to.  All of these occurrences are actions that can occur because of the links at the level of the subtle physical, subtle vital or subtle mental level.  They provide us a platform for grasping the enormously subtle, powerful and infinite extension capacities that arise with the development of the supramental sense.

Sri Aurobindo notes:  “The supramental sense can act in its own power and is independent of the body and the physical life and outer mind and it is above too the inner mind and its experiences.  It can be aware of all things in whatever world, on whatever plane, in whatever formation of universal consciousness.  it can be aware of the things of the material universe even in the trance of Samadhi, aware of them as they are or appear to the physical sense, even as it is of other states of experience, of the pure vital, the mental, the psychical, the supramental presentation of things.  It can in the waking state of the physical consciousness present to us the thins concealed from the limited receptivity or beyond the range of the physical organs, distant forms, scenes and happenings, things that have passed out of physical existence or that are not yet in physical existence, scenes, forms, happenings, symbols of the vital, psychical, mental, supramental, spiritual worlds and all these in their real or significant truth as well as their appearance.  It can use all the other states of sense consciousness and their appropriate senses and organs adding to them what they have not, setting right their errors and supplying their deficiencies: for it is the source of the others and they are only inferior derivations from this higher sense, this true and illimitable samjnana.

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 24, The Supramental Sense , pp. 835-836

The Qualities of the Supramental Sense

The supramental sense goes so far beyond the mental framework that it is virtually impossible to truly express in words what the actual experience consists of.  It is based in the action of the supermind, which itself is based on the oneness of the entire creation and the originating Sat-Chit-Ananda, Existence-Consciousness-Bliss without division and without limitation.   It is akin to the description of the Ananda posed by the Taittiriya Upanishad:  “The delight of the Eternal from which words turn away without attaining and the mind also returneth baffled…”  (Brahmanandavalli, Ch. 4, The Upanishads pg. 268, tr. by Sri Aurobindo)

Sri Aurobindo tries to provide us some sense of the nature and qualities of the supramental sense:  “The supermind acting through sense feels all as God and in God, all as the manifest touch, sight, hearing, taste, perfume, all as the felt, seen, directly experienced substance and power and energy and movement, play, penetration, vibratino, form, nearness, pressure, substantial interchange of the Infinite.  Nothing exists independently to its sense, but all is felt as one being and movement and each thing as indivisible from the rest and as having in it all the Infinite, all the Divine.   This supramental sense has the direct feeling and experience, not only of forms, but of forces and of the energy and the quality in things and of a divine substance and presence which is within them and round them and into which they open and expand themselves in their secret subtle self and elements, extending themselves in oneness into the illimitable.”

“Its action is a result of the extension and vibration of being and consciousness in a supra-ethereal ether of light, ether of power, ether of bliss, the Ananda Akasha of the Upanishads, which is the matrix and continent of the universal expression of the Self, — here in body and mind experienced only in limited extensions and vibrations,– and the medium of its true experience.”

“This sense even at its lowest power is luminous with a revealing light that carries in it the secret of the thing it experiences and can therefore be a starting-point and basis of all the rest of the supramental knowledge,–the supramental thought, spiritual intelligence and comprehension, conscious identity,– and on its highest plane or at its fullest intensity of action it opens into or contains and at once liberates these things.  It is strong with a luminous power that carries in it the force of self-realisation and an intense or infinite effectiveness, and this sense-experience can therefore be the starting-point of impulsion for a creative or fulfilling action of the spiritual and supramental will and knowledge.  It is rapturous with a powerful and luminous delight that makes of it, makes of all sense and sensation a key to or a vessel of the divine and infinite Ananda.”

 

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 24, The Supramental Sense , pp. 834-835

The Spiritual Sense Experience

The Upanishads take us to the subtle realisation, one which underpins the action of the spiritual sense.   The spiritual sense goes beyond even a knowledge by identity to an intrinsic “knowing” that is always present based on the entire universal creation as one conscious being.   If the human being stubs his toe, he experiences the sensation immediately and intensely as part of his being.  The universal being has the same type of immediate and intense form of knowing as the entire universe is His being.

The Upanishads tell us in a variety of ways about this status:  “The Spirit who is here in man and the Spirit who is there in the Sun, lo, it is One Spirit and there is no other.”  (Taittiriya Upanishad)

The Isha Upanishad directly links the Eternal Being with the manifested creation:  “All this is for habitation by the Lord, whatsoever is individual universe of movement in the universal motion.”  and “That moves and That moves not; That is far and the same is near; That is within all this and That also is outside all this. But he who sees everywhere the Self in all existences and all existences in the Self, shrinks not thereafter from aught.  He in whom it is the Self-Being that has become all existences that are Becomings, for he has the perfect knowledge, how shall he be deluded, whence shall he have grief who sees everywhere oneness?  It is He that has gone abroad–That which is bright, bodiless, without scar of imperfection, without sinews, pure, unpierced by evil.  The Seer, the Thinker, the One who becomes everywhere, the Self-existent has ordered objects perfectly according to their nature from years sempiternal.”  (Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads, Isha Upanishad, pp. 19-21)

The Shwetashwatara Upanishad gets into more concrete detail:  “Even as the spider that out of himself fashioneth his own web, so is God One and nought else existeth, but by his own nature covereth Himself up in the threads He has spun out of primal matter. … One God who alone is and He lurketh hidden in every creature, for He pervadeth and is the inmost Self of all beings…. One Eternal of all these that pass and are not, One conscious in all consciousnesses; He being One ordereth the desires of many; He alone is the great Source to which Sankhya and Yoga bring us.”  (op. cit. pg. 380-381)

Then there is the famous peace chant that is associated with the Isha Upanishad:  “Complete in itself is that yonder and complete in itself is that which is here and the complete ariseth from the complete; but when thou takests the complete from its fullness, that which remaineth is also complete.” (op cit. pg. 439)

As Sri Aurobindo concludes:  “It is possible for us not only to know by conscious identity, by a spiritual comprehension of self, of principles and aspects, force, play and action, by a direct spiritual, supramental and intuitive thought knowledge, by the heart’s spiritually and supramentally illumined feeling, love, delight, but also to have in a very literal significance the sense– sense-knowledge or sensation– of the spirit, the self, the Divine, the Infinite.  The state described by the Upanishad in which one sees, hears, feels, touches, senses in every way the Brahman and the Brahman only, for all things have become to the consciousness only that and have no other, separate or independent existence, is not a mere figure of speech, but the exact description of the fundamental action of the pure sense, the spiritual object of the pure Sanjnana.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 24, The Supramental Sense , pg. 834

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

Characteristics and Levels of the Supramental Knowledge

The Taittiriya Upanishad speaks of the “self of knowledge”, vijnanamaya, which exists beyond the mental level of consciousness.  This self of knowledge is the native plane of the supramental action and its essential characteristic is a knowledge by identity which Sri Aurobindo describes:  “Its movement is a total seeing and seizing; it is a comprehension and possession in the self of knowledge; and it holds the object of consciousness as part of the self or one with it, the unity being spontaneously and directly realised in the act of knowledge.”

The supermind, however is capable of other modes of action as well.  While keeping its inherent oneness and knowledge of the infinite and the cosmic unity, it has the power of objectifying and externalising objects, so that it can appreciate and work with the infinite variation of forms and thus, be the creative power behind the manifestation of the divine Spirit’s intention in the universal creation.  “Another supramental activity puts the knowledge by identity more into the background and stresses more the objectivity of the thing known.  Its characteristic movement, descending into the mind, becomes the source of the peculiar nature of our mental knowledge, intelligence…. In the mind the action of intelligence involves, at the outset, separation and otherness between the knower, knowledge and the known; but in the supermind its movement still takes place in the infinite identity or at least in the cosmic oneness.  Only, the self of knowledge indulges the delight of putting the object of consciousness away from the more immediate nearness of the original and eternal unity, but always in itself, and of knowing it again in another way so as to establish with it a variety of relations of interaction which are so many minor chords in the harmony of the play of the consciousness.”

“The supramental intelligence is of the nature of knowledge by truth-hearing and truth-remembering and, though capable of being sufficient to itself in a certain way, still feels itself more richly fulfilled by the thought and word that give it a body of expression.”

“Finally, a fourth action of the supramental consciousness completes the various possibilities of the supramental knowledge.  This still farther accentuates the objectivity of the thing known, puts it away from the station of experiencing consciousness and again brings it to nearness by a uniting contact effected either in a direct nearness, touch, union or less closely across the bridge or through the connecting stream of consciousness of which there has already been mention.  It is a contacting of existence, presences, things, forms, forces, activities, but a contacting of them in the stuff of the supramental being and energy, not in the divisions of matter and through the physical instruments, that creates the supramental sense….”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 24, The Supramental Sense , pp. 831-833

Knowledge by Identity Underpins the Supramental Sense Awareness

The mental consciousness relies heavily on the data provided by the senses in order to interact with the forms, forces, beings and events in the manifested universe.  The supramental consciousness does not do away with the sense awareness of the outer world.  At the same time, it is not dependent on the physical senses and their impressions in order to be in contact with the objects of those senses.  There is a direct connection between the consciousness and the “external” object based on the implicit oneness of subject and object at the supramental level of awareness.

Sri Aurobindo describes the action of the supramental sense awareness:  “All the instruments, all the activities of the mind have their corresponding powers in the action of the supramental energy and are there exalted and transfigured, but have there a reverse order of priority and necessary importance.”

“Sense is fundamentally not the action of certain physical organs, but the contact of consciousness with its objects….”

“…on the supramental plane, its primary awareness still remains of a kind native to and entirely characteristic of the self-awareness of the spirit, the self-knowledge of the one and infinite; it is a knowledge that knows all its objects, forms, and activities comprehensively by being aware of them in its own infinite self, intimately by being aware in them as their self, absolutely by being aware of them as one in self with its own being.  All its other ways of knowledge are projected from this knowledge by identity, are parts or movements of it, or at the lowest depend on it for their truth and light, are touched and supported by it even in their own separate way of action and refer back to it overtly or implicitly as their authority and origin.

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 24, The Supramental Sense , pg. 831

The Powerful and Integral Action of the Supramental Knowing

It must be remembered that the evolutionary development or unfolding of consciousness takes place through the modality of Time.  The vital consciousness developed out of the physical; the mental consciousness is an advancement upon the vital.  For those seekers who are consciously working on the evolutionary developments beyond the mental level, there is a progressive, and somewhat messy process of advance and retreat, of glimpses of a higher working of consciousness, followed by a reversion to the primary mode of working on the mental level.  Thus, as the supramental power begins to manifest, it may first start by creating an influence or sharp bursts of illumination in the mind.  A continued focus and effort may lead to the development of a more or less stable intuitive awareness that illumines the mental as well as begins the transition towards a more permanent higher form of knowing.  Similarly, as the supramental takes up the consciousness, it will at first be diluted by the mental framework, exert more influence at the level of the intuitive mind, and only begin to gain its full power and scope as the mental level is exceeded.

Sri Aurobindo notes:  “The ranges of knowledge above the supramental reason, taking it up and exceeding it, cannot well be described, nor is it necessary here to make the endeavour.  It is sufficient to say that the process here is more sufficient, intense and large in light, imperative, instantaneous, the scope of the active knowledge larger, the way nearer to the knowledge by identity, the thought more packed with the luminous substance of self-awareness and all-vision and more evidently independent of any other inferior support or assistance.”

“These characteristics, it must be remembered, do not fully apply even to the strongest action of the intuitive mentality, but are there seen only in their first glimpses.  Nor can they be entirely or unmixedly evident so long as supramentality is only forming with an undercurrent, a mixture or an environment of mental action.  It is only when mentality is overpassed and drops away into a passive silence that there can be the full disclosure and the sovereign and integral action of the supramental gnosis.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Four: The Yoga of Self-Perfection, Chapter 23, The Supramental Instruments — Thought-process , pg. 830