The Risks and Difficulties of Eliminating Lower Drives Through Purposeful Indulgence, Part 1

The idea of overcoming lower drives and desires of the vital, or that stem from the physical or the subconscient, through indulgence in a purposeful way is an enticing one, particularly to the vital nature, which can use this excuse to convince the mind to fulfill the myriad of powerful desires that are still active in the being. Particularly in the West, certain methods such as what are known as the “left-hand path” of Tantra (but not limited to this path by any means) have become quite popular as the message the seeker gets is that they can practice such indulgence, exercise power, have sexual relationships, and get the benefits of the yoga. For the most part, they come away with less than satisfactory results in the form of progress in yoga. They do get to experience and enjoy their vital satisfactions!

It is of course possible that paths that utilize indulgence as a practice can lead to spiritual progress, but those who can actually successfully practice it are rare individuals and the path is difficult, as the seeker must avoid using the yogic method as an excuse for living a life of enjoyment of vital desires. For thought or purposeful action of will to overcome the force of the indulged action is difficult in the extreme, even assuming the seeker is conscious of the potential vital manipulation of the mind and will in supporting the indulgence. Sri Aurobindo recognises both the possibility, and the difficulties involved. The first of these difficulties is noted here.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “The system of getting rid of things by anubhava can also be a dangerous one; for on this way one can easily become more entangled instead of arriving at freedom. This method has behind it two well-known psychological motives. One, the motive of purposeful exhaustion, is valid only in some cases, especially when some natural tendency has too strong a hold or too strong a drive in it to be got rid of by vicara or by the process of rejection and the substitution of the true movement in its place; when that happens in excess, the sadhak has sometimes even to go back to the ordinary action of the ordinary life, get the true experience of it with a new mind and will behind and then return to the spiritual life with the obstacle eliminated or else ready for elimination. But this method of purposive indulgence is always dangerous, though sometimes inevitable. It succeeds only when there is a very strong will in the being towards realisation; for then indulgence brings a strong dissatisfaction and reaction, vairagya, and the will towards perfection can be carried down into the recalcitrant part of the nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 9, Transformation of the Nature, Transformation of the Subconscient, pp. 262-267

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