It is a universal human experience that the vital force in the being is either extremely reactive to situations, particularly when it has a desire or craving to fulfill, or, if not given its desire, it can sulk or withdraw its energy and the being goes into a state of torpor or indolence, unwilling or unable to do anything productive, and in most cases, wasting time with distractions and various forms of mindless activity or entertainment.

The question then arises as to how to get the cooperation of the vital being in the yogic process, how to obtain the goodwill and support of the vital for achievement of the yogic aims, which require energy in order to be achieved. Some have tried to overpower the vital with will, but that tends not to succeed over the long-term. Some have tried providing satisfaction to the vital of its desires as long as a certain amount of energy is given to the pursuit of the yoga. This, too, has its drawbacks as a method. In order to address this issue, the Mother first provides an overview and analysis of the ways the vital reacts and what one should look for and understand about its nature.

The Mother observes: “All your troubles, depression, discouragement, disgust, fury, all, all come from the vital. It is that which turns love into hate, it is that which induces the spirit of vengeance, rancour, bad will, the urge to destroy and to harm. It is that which discourages you when things are difficult and not to its liking. And it has an extraordinary capacity for going on strike! When it is not satisfied, it hides in a corner and does not budge. And then you have no more energy, no more strength, you have no courage left. Your will is like… like a withering plant. All resentment, disgust, fury, all despair, grief, anger — all that comes from this gentleman. For it is energy in action.”

“Therefore it depends on which side it turns. And I tell you, it has a very strong habit of going on strike. That is its most powerful weapon: ‘Ah! you are not doing what I want, well, I am not going to move, I shall sham dead.’ And it does that for the least reason. It has a very bad character; it is very touchy and it is very spiteful — yes, it is very ill-natured. For I believe it is very conscious of its power and it feels clearly that if it gives itself wholly, there is nothing that will resist the momentum of its force. And like all people who have a weight in the balance, the vital also bargains: ‘I shall give you my energy, but you must do what I want. If you do not give me what I ask for, well, I withdraw my energy.’ And you will be flat as a pancake. And it is true, it happens like that.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Disturbances of the Vital, Transforming the Vital, pp. 69-85

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at and podcast at He is author of 16 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.