Making the Vital Being an Instrument of the Divine Shakti

The idea of changing the basic way that human beings respond to circumstances is one that has been considered to be a virtually hopeless task. Long human experience has provided the impression that our vital nature is fixed and, while we can perhaps soften it around the edges, it is basically impossible to change. Thus, there are various directions that humanity has explored to overcome the limitations of the vital being. One of these has been to simply avoid the issue, restrict the focus on the vital, and focus instead on the religious or spiritual focus that leads away from an active life in the world. Another approach has been developed to educate, refine and modify the vital nature to some degree. In this approach it still retains the basic drives and actions of the vital, but these are kept within limits and made to be less overtly abrasive in interactions in the world. A third approach is one of active suppression and ‘punishment’ to try to bring it in line with the goals of the seeker. This approach, however, tends to increase the intensity of the vital pressure and can indeed lead to explosions of vital outbursts when the pressure becomes more intense than the being can hold.

Sri Aurobindo notes that the active involvement and cooperation of the vital is essential for the transformation of life which is one of the goals of the integral yoga. A little cultural refinement is not going to be sufficient to achieve the needed changes. Neither will deep suppression of the vital being and its energies suffice. A complete transformation of the vital’s expression, the application of energy, the motives involved, and the manner of its expression is the needed transformation. Despite past historical failures to change human nature, Sri Aurobindo reminds us that these failures were rooted in the attempt to use the mind and the emotional-vital forces directly to change the nature; whereas with the advent of the psychic transformation and the spiritual transformation, new higher powers of consciousness come into play which can effectuate those changes which the mental insight and will power alone cannot accomplish.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “The vital is an indispensable instrument — no creation or strong action is possible without it. It is simply a question of mastering it and of converting it into the true vital which is at once strong and calm and capable of great intensity and free from ego.”

“It is through a change in the vital that the deliverance from the blind vital energy must come — by the emergence of the true vital which is strong, wide, at peace, a willing instrument of the Divine and of the Divine alone.”

“The human vital is almost always of that nature, but that is no reason why one should accept it as an unchangeable fact and allow a restless vital to drive one as it likes. Even apart from yoga, in ordinary life, only those are considered to have full manhood or are likely to succeed in their life, their ideals or their undertakings who take in hand this restless vital, concentrate and control it and subject it to discipline. It is by the use of the mental will that they discipline it, compelling it to do not what it wants but what the reason or the will sees to be right or desirable. In yoga one uses the inner will and compels the vital to submit itself to tapasya so that it may become calm, strong, obedient — or else one calls down the calm from above obliging the vital to renounce desire and become quiet and receptive. The vital is a good instrument but a bad master. If you allow it to follow its likes and dislikes, its fancies, its desires, its bad habits, it becomes your master and peace and happiness are no longer possible. It becomes not your instrument or the instrument of the Divine Shakti, but of any force of the Ignorance or even any hostile force that is able to seize and use it.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 9, Transformation of the Nature, Transformation of the Vital, pp. 246-259

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