The vital mind is the dominant process for most people in the world today who live an external life and work toward some form of fulfillment, success, progress or development in their lives and in their relations to family, friends, community and their society. Very few, comparatively, are those who are predominantly based in the true mental process of the thinking mind or intellect. Even among those, the vital mind exerts its influence to advance the perceived life-interests of the individual and to optimize the ability to push forward, obtain the physical sustenance and comfort desired, and create opportunities for recognition, reward and gratifications of all sorts.

The vital mind is so effective as it has had a long history of activity in human life, and it is very good at convincing the mental judgment that it is acting in the best interest and not for its own gratification. Its methods are sometimes overpowering, sometimes subtle, but they are able to convince the intellect of the rightness of the action proposed through proper framing of the question placed before the individual and the manner of the response. In terms of the higher evolution, the vital mind must be seen, recognised, understood and brought under the control of the higher aspiration or it will find ways to sabotage the effort.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “The thinking mind does not lead men, does not influence them the most — it is the vital propensities and the vital mind that predominate. The thinking mind with most men is, in matters of life, only an instrument of the vital.”

“There is a part of the nature which I have called the vital mind; the function of this mind is not to think and reason, to perceive, consider and find out or value things, for that is the function of the thinking mind proper, buddhi, — but to plan or dream or imagine what can be done. It makes formations for the future which the will can try to carry out if opportunity and circumstances become favourable or even it can work to make them favourable. In men of action this faculty is prominent and a leader of their nature; great men of action always have it in a very high measure. But even if one is not a man of action or practical realisation or if circumstances are not favourable or one can do only small and ordinary things, this vital mind is there. It acts in them on a small scale, or if it needs some sense of largeness, what it does very often is to plan in the void, knowing that it cannot realise its plans or else to imagine big things, stories, adventures, great doings in which oneself is the hero or the creator. What you describe as happening in you is the rush of this vital mind or imagination making its formations; its action is not peculiar to you but works pretty much in the same way in most people — but in each according to his turn of fancy, interest, favourite ideas or desires. You have to become master of its action and not to allow it to seize your mind and carry it away when and where it wants. In sadhana when the experiences begin to come, it is exceedingly important not to allow this power to do what it likes with you; for it then creates false experiences according to its nature and persuades the sadhak that these experiences are true or it builds unreal formations and persuades him that this is what he has to do. Some have been taken away by this misleading force used by powers of Falsehood who persuaded them through it that they had a great spiritual, political or social work to do in the world and led them away to disappointment and failure. It is rising in you in order that you may understand what it is and reject it.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 9, Transformation of the Nature, Transformation of the Mind, pp. 240-245

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.