Mental (Sri Aurobindo)

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The Mental faculty or part of the being, in Sri Aurobindo's philosophy, is the conceptual and cognitive mind. Unlike Western psychology, in which mind and consciousness are considered the same, Sri Aurobindo strongly distinguishes between the "Mental" and the "Vital" (emotional) faculties, as well as between Mind and pure Consciousness. Sri Aurobindo in part bases his concept of the Mental on his reading of the Taittiriya Upanishad, the mental being (or perhaps just the Mental Purusha) is the mano-maya-atma - the self made of mind (manas).

Types of Mind[edit]

In Sri Aurobindo's psychology and ontology, Mind or the Mental being is not simple and uniform, but consists itself of various strata and subdivisions, the whole contributing to an elaborate integral theory of psychology. These various faculkties are described or variously referred to, usually in obliquely or in pasisng, in some of his books, including Savitri, which has poetic references to many types of Mind (Jyoti and Prem Sobel 1984 pp.152-62). In his letters answering questions from disciples, Sri Aurobindo summarises the characteristics of the various levels of Mind (see Letters on Yoga vol. I pp.324-5)

These various Minds and Mental principles of being include:

  • Higher Mind - the first and lowest of the spiritual mental grades, lying above the normal mental level.
  • Spiritual Mind - either the spiritualised mind, or a general term for levels of mind above the normal mental level (the "Mind Proper").
  • Inner mind - the mental component of the Inner Being, which lies behind the surface mind or ordinary consciousness and can only be directly experienced by sadhana
  • True mental being - is the Purusha of the mental level freed from the error and ignorance of the lower Prakriti and open to the knowledge and guidance above.
  • Psychic Mind - a movement of the mind in which the Psychic Being predominates; the mind turned towards the Divine
  • Mind Proper - is free-fold, consisting of Thinking Mind, dynamic Mind, externalising Mind. It constitutes the sum of one's thoughts, opinions, ideas, and values, which guide conscious thinking, conceptualizing and decision-making processes, and is transformed, widened, and spiritualised through the practice of Integral Yoga.
  • Thinking Mind - the highest aspect of the mind proper, concerned with ideas and knowledge in their own right. It is equated with the Ajna Chakra
  • Dynamic Mind - that aspect of the ordinary mind that puts out of mental forces for realisation, acting by the idea and by reason. It is also equated with the Ajna or Brow center.
  • Externalising Mind - the most "external" part of the mind proper, concerned with the expression of ideas in speech, in life, or in any form it can give. It is equated with the Vishuddha or Throat Chakra
  • Vital Mind - a mediator between the vital emotions, desires, and so on the mental proper. It is limited by the vital view and feeling of things, and expresses the desires, feelings, ambitions,and other active tendencies of the vital in mental forms, such as daydreams and imaginations of greatness, happiness, and so on. As with the Externalising Mind, Sri Aurobindo associates it with the Vishuddha or Throat Chakra
  • Physical Mind - refers to either or both the Externalising Mind and the Mental in the Physical; it is limited to a physical or materialistic perspective, and cannot go beyond that, unless enlightened from above.
  • Mind in the physical or mental physical mentalises the experiences of outward life and things, sometimes very cleverly, but it does not go beyond that, unlike the externalising mind which deals with these things from the perspective of reason and its own higher intelligence.
  • The Mechanical Mind is a much lower action of the mental physical which when left to itself can only repeat the same ideas and record the reflexes of the physical consciousness in its contact with outward life and things.
  • Mind of Light - according to The Mother this is the Physical Mind receiving the supramental light abnd thus being able to act directly in the Physical (The Mother, 1980, pp.63-64)

A small but popular book by Jyoti and Prem Sobel, The Hierarchy of Minds, comes closest to a systematic coverage of an Aurobindonian noetology by gathering all of Sri Aurobindo's references and quotes on the subject of "Mind" and arranging these according to the type of Mind.


  • Sri Aurobindo, (1972), Letters on Yoga, Volumes 22, 23, and 24, 1972, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondicherry
  • Sri Aurobindo, (1977), The Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondicherry
  • The Mother (1980), Words of the Mother, Collected Works of of the Mother, Centenary Edition vol.13, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondicherry
  • Jyoti and Prem Sobel (1984) The Hierarchy of Minds, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondicherry

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