The Material and Vital Basis of Existence on Earth

When we start to address the complexity of human life, the first stage requires that we understand and accept the fundamental basis of our lives, that is, the physical and vital elements that condition our ability to live and upon which we then build up our mental and spiritual capabilities. This brings about, however, the inherent and essential conflict between our mental and spiritual aspirations and the requirements of living in the material world.

Sri Aurobindo describes the nature of this existence: “Matter and life are his actual basis, the thing from which he starts and on which he stands and whose requirement and law he has to satisfy if he would exist at all on earth and in the body. The material and vital law is a rule of survival, of struggle, of desire and possession, of self-assertion and the satisfaction of the body, the life and the ego. All the intellectual reasoning in the world, all the ethical idealism and spiritual absolutism of which the higher faculties of man are capable, cannot abolish the reality and claim of our vital and material base or prevent the race from following under the imperative compulsion of Nature its aims and the satisfaction of its necessities or from making its important problems a great and legitimate part of human destiny and human interest and endeavour.”

This fact has allowed some to posit that all the higher seeking and aspirations of the race are simply a fallacy, an idle dream, and to thus set up a “…gospel of the will to live or the will to power of a rationalized vital and material perfection….”

A materialist society, focused solely on meeting the vital and physical needs of humanity, has fixed itself on this basis of our lives, and thereby circumscribes the higher aspirations and evolutionary powers of which humanity is capable.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 23, The Core of the Gita’s Meaning, pg. 546