Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, The Triple Transformation - Track 602

Mind-Intellect, kshetra-kshetragna, Purusha-Prakriti

So let us see now what he means by a mental being becoming the spiritual being and then we shall see what he means by a spiritual being becoming a supramental being – a task which is still to be done. What is it that you define as mental? Mental has three layers. First is the layer of sensation. Every mental being is capable of sensing with the senses. These sensations give rise to images. This is a very special power of the mind: formation of images. First the images are only sensational images: you see a bright object, you close your eyes and some kind of image still goes on; it is a purely sensational image. But, afterwards you have a mental image: I close my eyes and I can visualise this table, its form, its character, its comparison with other tables and so on; now that is a mental image I make.  The capacity of making images is a very special capacity of the mind. How are we able to make and why we are able to make these images? This is a distinctive quality of the mind. But then we go further and we find that apart from images, we are able to form concepts. First we have sensations, second is the formation of images and third is a concept.  A concept is similar to image and yet different from image. If I have a concept of the table it will not be exactly the image of this table. The image of this table will be similar to this table but the concept of the table will be something which is applicable to all the tables. In other words whenever we come to the concept of concepts there is this idea of universality. It is something that is applicable to all but which belongs to that particular object. It is a category by itself. What is a human being, for example? There is an image of a human being, of a particular human being, but then at a higher level there is a concept of the human being, which is not the image of this human being or that human being, it is something that is applicable to all human beings. We find out those characteristics which are common to all human beings. So that which is common to all the human beings is the concept of a human being. Mind proper, where it begins to have this concept is also called intellect. This is another word we use but actually speaking the word intellect should be used not for the capacity of sensations or for image making, but for making concepts. The concept making capacity is properly speaking, intellectual capacity.  Having made concepts there is a further development of the intellect and that is, to compare the concepts. Even when a small child says "this table is blue", actually speaking, without knowing he has already compared two concepts: the tableness and the blueness. Somehow he has understood that there is something like blueness and there is something like tableness. In a short sentence, "the table is blue", the intellectual capacity has already come into operation, a capacity which is not available to animals. In other words, you find that a human being has an intellectual capacity of conceiving even at a very low level of development. Even a small child can conceive, it is automatic in the child. That is why we say that there is a remarkable difference between an animal and man and that difference is the capacity to conceive. What you call rational is basically nothing but the capacity to conceive. When you conceive, when you compare concepts, contrast concepts, relate concepts and synthesise concepts, the more rapidly you can do this, the more evolved you are as an intellectual being.

Basically, you might say that the intellect is constantly concerned with relating concepts with each other and these relationships ordinarily are what we encounter in elementary arithmetic – additions, subtractions, multiplications, divisions. These are the ordinary operations of arithmetic. They are the rudimentary intellectual operations. And even at the higher level of intellectual development, if you want to find out their real analysis, ultimately you will find that all of them are nothing but additions, subtractions, multiplications and divisions. You may do them more rapidly; some may do it less rapidly. Even the greatest thinkers (as far as thinking is concerned) are limited to these four operations basically, but they are more rapid, they are relating many more data. It is a question of how many data you collect together. That is why a very developed intellectual personality today is compared to a computer. A computer is basically an instrument of adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, but on a huge scale, which even the human brain is not able to do today. And yet we know that computers cannot do what a human brain can do and that brings us to the point of knowing what true intellectuality is?

The true intellectuality is not only to add, subtract, multiply and divide but to understand. A computer can do all kinds of operations but the question is, does the computer understand? It is argued that modern computers are so powerful that they can play chess with you. And unless there is a comprehension of what is being played by the other party one won't be able to make another move, therefore it means that the computer is able to understand. But it is able to understand only in a mechanical sense. So many things have been fed into the computer and each one of the moves that is made is one of the possibilities. Can even things which are not fed be understood by the computer?

In any case, the experience of understanding is something peculiar to human mentality. When two persons are talking to each other they feel that they communicate and they understand, sometimes even without communicating through words, they feel they understand, something happens and they feel it is understood and they do not even talk about it, yet there is an understanding. So you might say that the deepest capacity of the human mind is understanding and this understanding can be at many levels but the minimum level of understanding is the feeling that one is confronted with a situation. This is the minimum that the mental being understands. Every human being observes a situation and tries to understand the situation and every human being finds himself in a situation. So there is a distinction that he makes between himself and the situation. This is the famous distinction which is made in the Bhagavad Gita: Kshetra Kshetragna, the field and the knower of the field. This is the minimum understanding that every human being confronts when he sees a situation. Normally whenever we confront a situation you will find there is a further detail in it. Every human being wants to deal with the situation, even a small child wants to deal with the situation. A toy is kept in his field of observation and either he wants to take it, possess it, manipulate it, feel the possession of it, enjoy it, wants to throw it away, tries to grapple with it, tries to get another of the same kind or one of a different kind. The situation is given to him and he wants to deal with it. He feels that he can deal with the situation. This is the underlying feeling – that he is somehow capable of dealing with the situation.

In philosophical terms, this is called the distinction between Prakriti and Purusha. The observer is the Purusha consciousness and the situation is Prakriti. You may not use these very difficult words if you like and simply call them the observer and the field of observation. As you go deeper and deeper into the understanding of what man is, what the mental being is, it is found that mind is capable of standing behind the movement. It is a very special capacity of the mind. The mind is capable of standing behind the movement. I will be watching the waves of the sea and I am absorbed in the watching of the sea and the waves of the sea, my observation is rolled up with the waves. A friend comes and gives a slap on my back and asks: "What are you doing?" I withdraw a little and I can see that I was seeing the waves of the sea. I have now differentiated myself from my act of observation. This capacity of withdrawing from what you are doing is one special quality of the mind.  As a result of drawing back, a further development takes place and that is self consciousness. I become aware that I am aware – a self awareness.  This is another characteristic of the mental being. All mental beings normally are aware that they are aware but the degrees of awareness may be different. The more you go, backward, the more you become aware of yourself; it is like having two mirrors opposite to each other and there you see endless images of yourself, so you become aware that you are aware, you become aware of that you are aware and become aware of that awareness, you become aware of that awareness, you become aware of that awareness and so on and this is a capacity which goes on indefinitely.