The Opportunities and Limitations of Spiritual Development on the Vital Plane

Having recognized the difficulties of overcoming the natural tendencies of the vital plane, with its focus on fulfilment of desire, one may recognize that this is not the only possible line of development; rather, that a higher evolutionary development is possible whereby the vital is brought under the influence of a higher mental and spiritual capacity and thereby is able to mitigate the natural tendencies of the vital in its pure expression.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “It is open to the vital man to lift himself beyond the conceptions and energies natural to the desire-soul and the desire-plane. He can develop a higher mentality and, within the conditions of the vital being, concentrate upon some realisation of the Spirit or Self behind or beyond its forms and powers.”

Because this is taking place in relation to the vital being, the need for total abandonment of the active life is removed and there develops a relation between Purusha and Prakriti that does not involve total quietism. A blending or compromise takes place that can neither provide the fullness of the spiritual realisation nor the total power and action of the vital plane. Eventually, however, if the spiritual realisation is to be made complete, the distorting and limiting energies of the vital plane must be dealt with. “If he does not withdraw from life, he must remain enchained by life, limited in his self-fulfilment by the downward pull of the desire-world in its own right alone, and its dominant rajasic principle. On the vital plane also a perfect perfection is impossible; the soul that attains only so far would have to return to the physical life for a greater experience, a higher self-development, a more direct ascent to the Spirit.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 21, The Ladder of Self-Transcendence, pp. 450-451

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