Mental health in the West is generally understood to be a ‘negative’ state, the absence of various forms of disruptions that affect whether and to what extent an individual can conform or fit into the society and meet its expectations. The integral yoga views mental health in an entirely different sense, with an affirmative definition. This definition includes an alignment with a purpose-filled life, the infusion of awareness and joy in its higher sense of Ananda, and the recognition that the outer being, with all its normal day-to-day challenges, disruptions and concerns is not our true being.
Sri Aurobindo speaks of a triple transformation of the consciousness. The first stage of this transformation is called the psychic transformation, whereby the psychic being, the true soul in man, comes forward and takes control of the outer instruments of body, life and mind, and harnesses them for its higher purpose in the evolutionary development of consciousness.
Dr. Dalal notes: “The quintessence of mental health, from the viewpoint of Integral Yoga, lies in a change of consciousness, from one that is governed primarily by the outer consciousness of the physical, the vital or the mental to one that reflects more and more an inner or a higher consciousness. It is only by such a change of consciousness that one can be freed from psychological disturbances which, as elaborated in the preceding pages, are an inherent part of the ordinary physical, vital and mental consciousness in which we live most of the time. The kind of change of consciousness that is favoured most in Integral Yoga is that of ‘psychicisation’, which lies in bringing the mind, the vital and the physical under the domination of the psychic. Such a change can be brought about gradually when the discovery of one’s inmost being becomes more and more the dominating purpose of one’s life. Before one discovers one’s inmost being, one usually comes in contact with parts of the being which are intermediate between the outer being and the inmost being. Such a contact with these intermediate planes of the being, referred to in Integral Yoga as the subliminal or the inner parts of the being, does liberate one from the disturbances of the outer consciousness. However, it is only by psychicisation that one can not only free oneself from the influence of the disturbances but also transform the outer consciousness so as to rid it altogether of all disturbances and establish an immutable state of positive mental health.”
Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Introduction, Mental Health and Integral Yoga, pp. xxxii-xxxvii