The Necessity of Transformation of the Lower Vital Nature

If the goal of the spiritual seeker is to attain liberation or realisation, the vital nature can be, for the most part, disregarded. For an integral yoga that has transformation of life through the implementation of the next phase of the evolutionary cycle, such a direction cannot be accepted. At some point, the intractable human nature needs to be viewed, managed, controlled and eventually transformed to respond to the higher consciousness and force directly and devote itself in its entirety to the direction laid down by that higher consciousness.

While most people consider it to be a fixed and unchangeable basis of our existence, the vital being has already shown that under the pressure of the mental energy it can be modified. While this does not attain to the status of complete transformation, and while it has its own impact upon the mental nature, we can nevertheless understand the possibility of change exists. Sri Aurobindo’s approach is to call in the action of the higher consciousness-force to effectuate levels of change that are not possible for the mental being alone.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “The cardinal defect, that which has been always standing in the way and is now isolated in an extreme prominence, is seated or at least is at present concentrated in the lower vital being. I mean that part of the vital-physical nature with its petty and obstinate egoism which actuates the external human personality, — that which supports its surface thoughts and dominates its habitual ways of feeling, character and action. I am not concerned here with the other parts of the being and I do not speak of anything in the higher mind, the psychic self or the higher and larger vital nature; for, when the lower vital rises, these are pushed into the background, if not covered over for the time, by this lower vital being and this external personality. Whatever there may be in these higher parts, aspiration to the Truth, devotion, or will to conquer the obstacles and the hostile forces, it cannot become integral, it cannot remain unmixed or unspoilt or continue to be effective so long as the lower vital and the external personality have not accepted the Light and consented to change.”

“It was inevitable that in the course of the sadhana these inferior parts of the nature should be brought forward in order that like the rest of the being they may make the crucial choice and either accept or refuse transformation. My whole work depends upon this movement; it is the decisive ordeal of this yoga. For the physical consciousness and the material life cannot change if this does not change. Nothing that may have been done before, no inner illumination, experience, power or Ananda is of any eventual value, if this is not done. If the little external personality is to persist in retaining its obscure and limited, its petty and ignoble, its selfish and false and stupid human consciousness, this amounts to a flat negation of the work and the sadhana. I have no intention of giving my sanction to a new edition of the old fiasco, a partial and transient spiritual opening within with no true and radical change in the law of the external nature. If, then, any sadhak refuses in practice to admit this change or if he refuses even to admit the necessity for any change of his lower vital being and his habitual external personality, I am entitled to conclude that, whatever his professions, he has not accepted either myself or my yoga….”

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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