Disturbances of the Vital Caused by Life-Changes, Negative and Positive

Some years ago we were witnesses to an event that clearly illustrated the disturbance to the vital that can be caused by a positive experience. In that case, a married couple were planning to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary and their extended family and friends were there to join the festivities, except for one daughter and her family who lived half a world away, and who were not expected. The day before the celebration, the daughter with family showed up at the doorstep. The parents were in shock and just about fell over and had to be supported to deal with the positive surprise of the day.

Positive events trigger excitement and leave a strong impact on the vital nature. All the major milestones of life therefore are disturbances that impact the equilibrium of the being.

From the standpoint of yoga, as has been clearly explained by Swami Vivekananda in his essays on Raja Yoga, the goal is to bring the “mind stuff” to a state of quietude so that it can receive and reflect the higher spiritual reality. In this case, the “mind stuff” is not just mental activity, but encompasses also emotional, vital, sensory and physical experience as well. Essentially it is the repository of awareness. In this sense, any experience puts forth a vibration that enters into the being and “moves” the “mind-stuff”.

For those not practicing a yogic discipline, obviously, their goal is not to totally bring the mind-stuff to a state of quietude, but it is helpful for everyone to understand how this ‘works’ so that extreme reactions, due either to positive or negative factors, can be appreciated for the impact they have on mind, vital energy, emotions and the physical body.

Dr. Dalal writes: “It is not only the unpleasant feelings such as those discussed above that cause a disturbance. The excitement produced by pleasant feelings also leads to a definite psychophysiological disturbance. An interesting corroboration of this fact is provided by two medical researchers, Holmes and Rahe, who have developed the Life Change Index — an inventory that gives statistical values to various common life-events with regard to the degree of stress each type of event produces in an average person. The inventory includes not only such unhappy incidents as the death of a spouse, being fired from a job, etc., but also happy events such as marriage, outstanding personal achievements, etc. It is interesting that the inventory gives a higher stress-production value to a vacation and to Christmas than to being convicted of minor violations of the law! Holmes and Rahe attribute the stress caused by various life-events to the adaptation that a person is called upon to make in response to the changes produced by an event. However, the underlying factor which disturbs the homeostatic equilibrium is undeniably emotional, and pertains to the vital.”

“These findings in the field of medical research corroborate the view of Integral Yoga that suffering is inherent in the very nature of the untransformed vital, and consequently even what is experienced as a pleasant excitation of the vital leads to disturbances.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Introduction, Disturbances Associated with the Vital, pp. xix-xxiv


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