Sri Aurobindo recognises that in order to effectively address the actions of the mind, the various underlying sources and the energies they raise up in their action must be clearly seen and understood. There is a difference in the way one needs to deal with a persistent emotional reaction, for instance, than a habit of response to physical stimuli. Thus, he disentangles from the general activity of mind, the physical mind, the vital mind and the mental mind, each active on a specific plane of existence, and each responsive to certain types of vibrations or energies, and thus, each requiring their own unique manner of response from the observer, the witness-consciousness.

We many time try to struggle with or suppress thoughts that arise. One truth that is discovered early on, is that the more one resists and struggles, the more those thoughts hang on and repeat themselves. The struggle tends to intensify and accentuate the power of the thoughts we seek to suppress.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “What you have now seen and describe in your letter is the ordinary activity of the physical mind which is full of ordinary habitual and constantly recurrent thoughts and is always busy with external objects and activities. What used to trouble you before was the vital mind which is different, — for that is always occupied with emotions, passions, desires, reactions of all kinds to the contacts of life and the behaviour of others. The physical mind also can be responsive with these things but in a different way — its nature is less that of desire than of habitual activity, small common interests, pains and pleasures. If one tries to control or suppress it, it becomes more active.”

“To deal with this mind two things are necessary, (1) not so much to try to control or fight with or suppress it as to stand back from it: one looks at it and sees what it is but refuses to follow its thoughts or run about among the objects it pursues, remaining at the back of the mind quiet and separate; (2) to practice quietude and concentration in this separateness, until the habit of quiet takes hold of the physical mind and replaces the habit of these small activities. This of course takes time and can only come by practice.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Disturbances of Mind, Mental Noise, pp. 30-32

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.