The development of a moral principle in life comes about as the mental energy begins to manifest and interact with the vital energy, which in and of itself, does not have any kind of moral imperative. This concept, however, is limited by the fact that the vital fulfillment remains the pre-eminent need and goal of the vital manifestation, and the influence of this mental principle is circumscribed within limits that allow the vital achievements to proceed. As a result, the application of morality or ethics begins with ways of training, guiding or directing the vital energy rather than with the more advanced ideal conceptualization that the higher mind would like to adopt.
Sri Aurobindo discusses the limitations of the resultant compromises: “What the natural egoistic man obeys most rigorously is the collective or social rule of conduct impressed on his mind by law and tradition, jus, mores, and outside its conventional circle he allows himself an easy latitude. The reason generalizes the idea of a moral law carrying with it an obligation man should heed and obey but may disregard at this outer or that inner peril, and it insists first and most on a moral law, an obligation of self-control, justice, righteousness, conduct, rather than a law of truth, beauty and harmony, love, mastery, because the regulation of his desires and instincts and his outward vital action is his first necessary preoccupation and he has to find his poise here and a settled and sanctioned order before he commences securely to go deeper and develop more in the direction of his inner being.”
As the higher mind gains more control and manifests itself more securely, we see a shifting of the focus towards the more ideal principles and a subsequent reduction in the focus on achievement of success in vital or materialistic terms. At this level, however, it is not solely a moral or ethical ideal that is called forth, as there are other aspects of the higher mentality that also need to be realized, such as “truth, beauty, love, strength and power are after all as necessary for the true growth of mind and of life and even for the fullness of the action as righteousness, purity and justice. Arriving on the high ideal plane these too become, no less than the ethical motive, no longer a seeking and necessity of this relative nature and importance, but a law and call to spiritual perfection, an inner and absolute divine imperative.”
Sri Aurobindo, Rebirth and Karma, Section III, Chapter 16, The Higher Lines of Karma, pp. 149-150, http://www.lotuspress.com/item.php?item=990117