How can Sri Aurobindo smoke while practising Yoga?

This article is motivated by a recent comment on this blog.  Those who have gained some familiarity with Sri Aurobindo are often baffled by his conduct: How could he smoke or eat meat while practicing Yoga?  Doesn’t it violate the central tenets of Yoga?  If that didn’t hinder his practice, can I emulate him?  The answer is: “No, you shouldn’t emulate him” as we shall see by the end of this article.

Offering any explanation of such eccentric behavior is dicey because it opens you to the charge of being engaged in a cover-up.  Some people are eager to interpret these habits as weaknesses in a bid to “humanize” Sri Aurobindo.  Those struggling with Yoga tend to get galvanized when they see a reflection of their own weaknesses in some revered figure.  Be that as it may, the interpretation that I offer here is not that of an apologist; it is based on an amalgam of personal experience, intuition as well as deduction drawn based on remarks of Sri Aurobindo and other seers.

Sri Aurobindo used to smoke while he was being educated in England in the latter half of the nineteenth century[1].  This was not unusual considering the fact that most men smoked in that era[2].  Smoking wasn’t regarded as a health hazard until the middle of the 20th century when concrete proof of a link between smoking and cancer began to be emerge [3].  Beginning in 1905, Sri Aurobindo practiced Pranayama for nearly three to four years.  It is not known if he ceased smoking during this time, although it would have been beneficial to do so.  In January 1908 he had the nihilistic realization of Nirvana.  A few months later, he attained the realization of cosmic consciousness in Alipore jail.  Available references indicate that even after these realizations, he continued to smoke and eat meat right until the 1920s.  By “meat”, we mean fish and chicken.  Sri Aurobindo was born in Bengal, where fish remains an essential part of the cuisine.

According to historical records, the Mother once told a disciple, “You people have injured him(Sri Aurobindo). Don’t give him wine and bad cigars, he may get a cough.” [4]. Such cautionary remarks, natural on her part, have to be balanced with Sri Aurobindo’s observation about his own consciousness.  During a conversation with a disciple, Pavitra who was recounting his struggles in overcoming the smoking habit, Sri Aurobindo observed, “As for myself, I smoke a little, but for me it is all the same, and my mind is as calm when I do not smoke.”[5]

Sri Aurobindo ceased smoking after the Mother informed him that she couldn’t stand the smell of cigarette smoke which pervaded the house. She had grown up in a household where no one smoked.  In deference to her discomfort, he stopped smoking from that day on.  After that, smoking and alcohol were not permitted in the Ashram [6].

Another renowned Yogi of the last century, Swami Vivekananda, also used to smoke cigarettes and eat meat (he was quite strict about celibacy though). While visiting America, he inadvertently and impolitely blew smoke in the face of his hostesses causing some consternation. In England, Mr. E.T. Sturdy called him a hypocrite for preaching renunciation while being engaged in sensual pleasures while women like Mrs. Johnson and Miss Muller became disenchanted with his “sinful” habit of smoking. In response to Mr. Sturdy’s accusations, the Swami admitted that he occasionally smoked and ate meat and replied that he never pretended to be something he was not [7].

In what follows, I am going to offer a few arguments to unravel such nonconformal conduct on part of those that we are supposed to (and even inclined to) emulate.

Firstly, we have to understand that all Yogis are not  identical.  The personality and constitution of the person makes a huge difference in the practice of austerities.  Some Yogis tend to be gentle and sweet in disposition, while others are vigorous and fiery.  This difference can be illustrated through the example of Ramakrishna and his disciple Swami Vivekananda.  Ramakrishna himself would only accept food offered by pure people but he freed Swami Vivekananda from all such restrictions:

When he (Ramakrishna) was offered food, or even a tumbler of water, he knew instinctively if the person who offered it to him was morally pure or not and in the latter case rejected it. He refused to eat sweetmeats offered to him by rich disciples who, as he said once, tied a hundred prayers for the grant of riches or success in lawsuits to a single sweetmeat. He did not insist on caste considerations, his eye being more on the sincerity and moral purity of the person who offered him food or drinking water. In the case of Narendra(Vivekananda), however, he held that he was “the roaring fire”, burning up all impurity and that he could eat anything and anywhere.  He would give over to him to eat sweetmeats we have spoken of above, that he would not offer to the other disciples [8].

The principle of Adhikara (spiritual capacity) needs to be factored into this discussion.  There are some exceptional souls who are “born for Yoga” and quickly attain Self-realization at an early age, while others struggle throughout their life without much success. Those in the first category tend to be endowed with an extraordinary capacity of consciousness; they are able to withstand the kind of impurities and imbalances which might precipitate an ordinary soul into a life of decadence.  Consider the case of Swami Vivekananda again.  During his first few visits to Ramakrishna, he found himself entering a state of cosmic consciousness at the initiation of the Master.  The other monks who came to Ramakrishna were not so fortunate; they had to labor for some years in order to be uplifted.  Similarly, Sri Aurobindo attained Nirvana in 1908 after sitting for just three days in meditation with a Yogi named Lele.  This is quite an extraordinary achievement which cannot be easily duplicated.

One must also be able to imagine the state of a person who has attained Self-realization in order to understand their  non-conformal conduct.  When the power of Kundalini surges through the spine, there is a yogagni (fire of yoga) which begins to simmer throughout the body.  As a result, conventional biological processes become disrupted and attenuated.  The inner fire (yogagni) has the power of dissolving many of the impurities which one may absorb through food and drink.  Ramana Maharshi alluded to this capacity in a Q&A:

Question: Could one receive spiritual illumination while eating flesh foods?
Ramana Maharshi: Yes, but abandon them gradually and accustom yourself to sattvic foods. However, once you have attained illumination it will make less difference what you eat, as, on a great fire, it is immaterial what fuel is added. [9]

After Self-realization, there are Chakras in the head and above which are activated.  Because of that, the thought processes which cycle incessantly in the brain are permanently nullified and the mind becomes detached from the influence of sensory impulses.  The differentiation between pleasure and pain is  diminished or even eliminated, depending on the degree to which consciousness has been transformed.  As Sri Ramakrishna once said, “After attaining the knowledge of Brahman, one doesn’t discriminate about food. The Rishis who had attained the knowledge of Brahman and experienced the bliss of Brahman could eat any food, even pork.” [10]

People who attain Self-realization lose control over their outer nature for a period of time.  The soul finds itself immersed in a greater ocean of consciousness.  The mind feels liberated from the bodily ego and is not in complete possession of the body, as the following exchange between Sri Aurobindo and a disciple indicates:

Nagin: During the state of self-realisation very little sense remains of my body. I do not know what it does or where it lies.

Sri Aurobindo: That is usual. I was in that way unconscious of the body for many years.

Nagin: It also happens that when the experience is of a voidness I feel the whole body to be as light as cotton-wool.

Sri Aurobindo: Yes. it becomes like that. In the end you feel as if you had no body but were spread out in the vastness of space as an infinite consciousness and existence – or as if the body were only a dot in that consciousness. [11]

Such an individual loses the distinction between social norms of right and wrong, good and bad, etc. to which society remains bound.  In this dialogue, Ramakrishna states that there was a phase after his Self-realization when he enjoyed the smell of burning corpses!

Narendra — In the matter of drinking and eating, the best is that which chance brings.

Sri Ramakrishna — It is true of a particular state of mind. For a jnani (self-realized sage) nothing is prohibited. According to the Gita the jnani does not eat, he just makes an offering to his Kundalini.

“This does not hold true for the devotee. Now my mood is such that I can’t eat unless I am given bhoga (food offered to the deity) by a brahmin. Formerly, the state of my mind was such that I would enjoy inhaling the smell of the burning corpses on the other side of Dakshineswar. Now, I can’t eat food offered by everyone. [12]

A Self-realized sage may, for a period of time, exhibit one of four states that have been classically described by various seers: Jadavat(inert and motionless), Balavat(child-like), Pisacavat (ghoulish), unmattavat(eccentric and uncontrolled).   Adi Shankaracharya enumerated these four states in his work, the Viveka-chudamani (540)

“Digambaro vapi cha sambaro va
Tvagambaro vapi chidambarasthah
Unmattavat vapi cha balavat va
Pishachavat vapi charatyavanyam.”

There is evidence that Sri Aurobindo experienced the Jadavat state. In a fragmentary undated letter which he had written to his wife but never sent, he wrote “Mrinalini, I received a letter from you some time ago. I have not answered it. For some time I have been in a jadavat [inert yogic] state and all kinds of work and writing have been impossible. Today some impulsion has come and I can answer your letter.”[13]

A comprehensive commentary on these four states has been given by Sri Aurobindo in his works. In The Life Divine, he wrote:

…the person finds itself dissolved into a vast impersonality, and in this impersonality there is at first no key to an ordered dynamism of action. A very usual result is that one is divided into two parts of being, the spiritual within, the natural without; in one there is the divine realisation seated in a perfect inner freedom, but the natural part goes on with the old action of Nature, continues by a mechanical movement of past energies her already transmitted impulse. Even, if there is an entire dissolution of the limited person and the old ego-centric order, the outer nature may become the field of an apparent incoherence, although all within is luminous with the Self. Thus we become outwardly inert and inactive, moved by circumstance or forces but not self-mobile(jadavat) even though the consciousness is enlightened within, or as a child though within is a plenary self-knowledge (balavat)  or as one inconsequent in thought and impulse though within is an utter calm and serenity(unmattavat),  or as the wild and disordered soul though inwardly there is the purity and poise of the Spirit (pisacavat). [14]

Similarly, he elucidated in The Synthesis of Yoga:

The very physical consciousness in man, the annamaya purusa, can without this supreme ascent and integral descent yet reflect and enter into the self of Sachchidananda. It can do it either by a reflection of the Soul in physical Nature, its bliss, power and infinity secret but still present here, or by losing its separate sense of substance and existence in the Self within or without it. The result is a glorified sleep of the physical mind in which the physical being forgets itself in a kind of conscious Nirvana or else moves about like a thing inert in the hands of Nature, jadavat, like a leaf in the wind, or otherwise a state of pure happy and free irresponsibility of action, balavat, a divine childhood. But this comes without the higher glories of knowledge and delight which belong to the same status upon a more exalted level. It is an inert realisation of Sachchidananda in which there is neither any mastery of the Prakriti by the Purusha nor any sublimation of Nature into her own supreme power, the infinite glories of the Para Shakti. Yet these two, this mastery and this sublimation, are the two gates of perfection, the splendid doors into the supreme Eternal.

          The life soul and life consciousness in man, pranamaya purusa, can in the same way directly reflect and enter into the self of Sachchidananda by a large and splendid and blissful reflection of the Soul in universal Life or by losing its separate sense of life and existence in the vast Self within or without it. The result is either a profound state of sheer self-oblivion or else an action driven irresponsibly by the life nature, an exalted enthusiasm of self-abandonment to the great world-energy in its vitalistic dance. The outer being lives in a God-possessed frenzy careless of itself and the world, unmattavat, or with an entire disregard whether of the conventions and proprieties of fitting human action or of the harmony and rhythms of a greater Truth. It acts as the unbound vital being, pisacavat, the divine maniac or else the divine demoniac. Here too there is no mastery or supreme sublimation of nature. There is only a joyful static possession by the Self within us and an unregulated dynamic possession by the physical and the vital Nature without us [15].

Sri Aurobindo’s smoking, wine-drinking and meat-eating has to be viewed in the light of all these factors.  It can be ascribed to some unknown combination of habit, irreverent personality and the state of his Self-realization.  He could give up smoking in one day because he had already attained Brahman in 1908.  His mind was no longer tied to the senses.  Smoking was just a pastime for him rather than a dependency.

In a conversation with Carlos Castaneda, his teacher Don Juan also elucidates on how he gave up smoking and drinking in one day:

I wanted to buy him some beer in the restaurant.  He said he never drank, not even beer….I must have had a look of doubt on my face, for he then went on to explain that he used to drink in his youth, but that one day he simply dropped it.

“People hardly ever realize that we can cut anything from our lives, any time, just like that.”

He snapped his fingers.

“Do you think that one can stop smoking or drinking that easily?” I asked.

“Sure!” he said with great conviction.” Smoking and drinking are nothing.  Nothing at all if we want to drop them.” [16]

To sum up, exceptional souls practicing Yoga can engage in nonconformal behavior and renounce it just as easily.  Unless one has  evidence of one’s exceptional aptitude in Yoga, one must stick to the conventional path and follow the austerities which have been recommended.  In Patanjali’s well-known system, they are called Yama, Niyama, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, etc.  In the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, one starts with aspiration, rejection and surrender until the psychic being in unveiled.


  1. A.B Purani, Life of Sri Aurobindo, 4th edition 1977, p 26.
  2. Siddharth Mukherjee, Emperor of All Maladies, New York : Scribner, 2010, p 241.
  4. Purani Talks manuscripts 5: 89;
  5. Pavitra. Conversations with Sri Aurobindo, April 26, 1926
  6. Mother’s Agenda.  Jun 14, 1965.
  7. S.N.Dhar. A comprehensive biography of Swami Vivekananda, Madras: Vivekananda Prakashan Kendra:1975, vol. 2, p 1192-1195.
  8. ibid., vol. 1, p 120.
  9.  David Godman.  Be as you are, p 204
  10. Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. vol.4, sec X.
  11. Nagin Doshi. Guidance from Sri Aurobindo, vol. 1 p. 64
  12. Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. vol.2, sec XVI.
  13. Sri Aurobindo in Baroda, edited by Roshan and Apurva, Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1993, p 73.
  14. Sri Aurobindo.  Life Divine, CWSA vol. 21-22, p 243.
  15. Sri Aurobindo. Synthesis of Yoga, CWSA vol. 23-24, pp. 499-500.
  16. Carlos Castaneda.  Journey to Ixtlan, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991, p 8. (google book page)

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96 thoughts on “How can Sri Aurobindo smoke while practising Yoga?

  1. Diane

    Sigh, why do people become so focussed on the external manifestations. The Letter of Yoga are full of comments on the need for moderation, he did not recommend fasting, he recommended a good nights sleep, his main stricture was on sexual activity and I think this was because of its impact on the vital, and the necessity in the Yoga to purify the desire nature. I was a vegetarian for many years and after a life threatening health crisis, was advised that I should eat fish at least once a week, as one gets older the decline of the physical body often requires one to change ones practices. At this stage in the spiritual evolution, most of us are going to die at some point, the physical body is a vessel that needs to be tended.

    1. Sandeep Post author

      Diane: Sigh, why do people become so focussed on the external manifestations

      I think this is a valid question, especially when coming from those who did not have first-hand experience of Sri Aurobindo. People get confused if someone does not practice what he preaches.

  2. a_dt

    Thank you for that post, sandeep. Just to add to your post, I quote from Dr Hawkins, as I see his view as complementary to what Sri Aurobindo and others teach us.

    ==== QUOTE =========
    Question: Sex and money are the temptations that are emphasized by many spiritual groups as the traps to be avoided?

    Answer: That tradition has value but also ambiguous results. First, it creates an aversion and a sense of sin or guilt about the issues. It also inflates their importance, thereby creating a fear. It is not sex and money that are the problems but the attachments to them. In the nonattached state, there is neither attraction nor aversion. Teachers such as Ramakrishna forbade both sex and money to his young male students. He held that they could be contaminated by even just the energy of sex or money.

    Inasmuch as greed and desire calibrate below 200 (they are at 125), avoidance was an attempt to forestall attachment. However, the desire for sex or money stems from within and can remain within the ego, even though it is not indulged or acted upon. At beginning levels of spiritual training, avoidance may well be the best course, because desires are so strong. The mere willingness to sacrifice sensual pleasure or wordly gain is already of value in learning how to transcend attractions and instinctual drives, and the intensity of spiritual commitment is enhanced.
    ==== END QUOTE ======== from: David R. Hawkins, in “I, Reality and Subjectivity”, p. 239-240

  3. Sandeep Post author

    While visiting California, Swami Vivekananda’s hostess Viraja Devi (birth name: Edith Allan) was shocked by his uncouth conduct. He explained to her that there were two sides to his personality: “Madame, be broad-minded, always see two ways. When I am on the Heights I say ‘I am He’, and when I have a stomach-ache, I say “Mother, have mercy on me’. Always see two ways.”.

  4. Diane

    “People get confused if someone does not practice what he preaches.”

    This of course begs the question of whom determines what is practiced. The Overman Foundation has a post this week on a book, Sri Aurobindo on Ethics: compiled and edited by Anurag Banerjee. Published by Overman Foundation, Kolkata. The accompanying review states

    “Sri Aurobindo’s writings on ethics go a step ahead where much of the study material on ethics stops short. He warns people with ethical motives against the invasion of egoism which can prove to be a deterrent in the pursuit of self development.”

    Searching for flaws in the Guru is a trap for all fledgling, and perhaps some not so fledgling, sadhaks, and is perhaps inevitable. It is however very dangerous and can lead the sadhak down paths from which there may be no return. If one cannot overcome this tendency, it might be more fruitful, to seek a Guru that meets more politically correct requirements.

    I understand the difficulty of doing sadhana without a living teacher, and I also understand that Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s Yoga is a difficult path, which is really only suitable for a few. Perhaps Sandeep, you could do a post at some time, about the Call. I can remember years ago on Auroconf there were a number of threads regarding the importance of the Call in the Integral Yoga.

    1. Sandeep Post author

      You do have a point. I guess certain enigmatic aspects are best left unexplained. One can do a little to help disseminate Sri Aurobindo’s teaching but it is always going to fall short because ultimately, only an authentic spiritual experience can compel someone to set aside all reservations and enter the path wholeheartedly.

      Material related to the “Call for Yoga” can be seen in a couple of earlier previous posts :
      Signs of readiness for the spiritual path and Spiritual aptitude.

      The traps for beginners are discussed in Obsessive-compulsive spirituality

  5. Sandeep Post author

    In the following passage, the Mother comments on an aphorism of Sri Aurobindo “Late, I learned that when reason died then Wisdom was born; before that liberation, I had only knowledge”.

    Many times in his writings, particularly in The Synthesis of Yoga, Sri Aurobindo warns us against the imaginings of those who believe they can do sadhana without rigorous self-control and who heed all sorts of inspirations, which lead them to a dangerous imbalance where all their repressed, hidden, secret desires come out into the open under the pretence of liberation from ordinary conventions and ordinary reason.

    One can be free only by soaring to the heights, high above human passions. Only when one has achieved a higher, selfless freedom and done away with all desires and impulses does one
    have the right to be free.

    But neither should people who are very reasonable, very moral according to ordinary social laws, think themselves wise, for their wisdom is an illusion and holds no profound truth.

    One who would break the law must be above the law.One who would ignore conventions must be above conventions. One who would despise all rules must be above all rules. And the motive of this liberation should never be a personal, egoistic one: the desire to satisfy an ambition, aggrandise one’s personality, through a feeling of superiority, out of contempt for others, to set oneself above the herd and regard it with condescension. Be on your guard when you feel yourself superior and look down on others ironically, as if to say, “I’m no longer made of such stuff.” That’s when you go off the track and are in danger of falling into an abyss.

    (Collected Works of the Mother, vol. 10, pp 14-16)

    1. Sandeep Post author

      Yes, Abir but the term “left-handed Tantrik” in this case does not include sex as it is normally assumed to be by default. I think the source of that term is his letter to Barin in 1920 which states “I am afraid they would be disappointed to see me. And as for me, would I not be a fish out of the water? I am not an ascetic, not a saint, not a holyman — not even a religious man. I have no religion, no code of conduct, no morality. Deeply engrossed in the worldly life, I enjoy luxury, eat meat, drink wine, use obscene language, do whatever I please — a Tantrik of the left-hand path.”

  6. abir

    And Francis Thomson the poet was a drug addict.IMO,The Divine is in everything and personal habits doesnts matter much.
    Note:Ramakrishna used to talk filthy words.

    1. Sandeep Post author

      Francis Thompson‘s addiction to opium is not really relevant to the discussion at hand because he was not a Yogi who had attained Self-realization.

      Ramakrishna talked filthy words because of his rural upbringing; that didn’t obstruct him from transmitting his yogic power to others.

      Abir: IMO,The Divine is in everything and personal habits doesnts matter much.

      Minor personal habits become irrelevant *only after* Self-realization because the mind becomes detached from the senses.

      Ramakrishna once asked a Vedantin sanyasi who lived with a concubine, “Why do you keep a concubine”. The Vedantin replied, “Everything is Maya, so what does it matter what you do, or not do?” at which Ramakrishna retorted “I spit on your (interpretation of) Vedanta”.

  7. abir

    Francis Thomson had to be a yogi If he hadnt been one,he wouldn’t have been able to compose “Hound Of Heaven”.In my own case,I smoke,drink,work more than 16 hours everyday,have tasted all the filths that had to be tasted,but no matter what I do(“good”, or “bad”) Mother’s action frm above remains constant,non stop.

    1. Sandeep Post author

      Abir: Francis Thomson had to be a yogi If he hadnt been one,he wouldn’t have been able to compose “Hound Of Heaven”.

      Composing poems is not proof of being a Yogi.

      Abir: In my own case,I smoke,drink,work more than 16 hours everyday,have tasted all the filths that had to be tasted,but no matter what I do(“good”, or “bad”) Mother’s action frm above remains constant,non stop.

      Whatever works for you! I have nothing to say.

  8. abir

    And I dont think,I have realised THE SELF and beyond.All I can say for now is, some of my actions are spontaneous (as regards to THE MOTHER AND SRI AUROBINDO)

  9. abir

    Disciple: Perhaps if you take into account the mass of his work he may not appear great. But in his Hound of Heaven he has achieved the summit of poetic art and it sums up his whole life-experience. In that sense it is great.

    Sri Aurobindo: And it is not individual life but universal life — anybody who goes through spiritual life gets that experience.

    And you say Francis Thompson was not a yogi?

    1. Sandeep Post author


      Sri Aurobindo called him a great poet and poets may have spiritual experiences but one experience does not make a Yogi. In any case, we can disagree on this point and continue to live our respective lives.

  10. Sandeep Post author

    Sri Aurobindo: Once a disciple got shocked because he saw me eating meat. He complained to Ramana Maharshi. Maharshi replied that it is a question of habit and, when the man had departed, Maharshi said to his followers, “What an imbecile!”

    (Nirodbaran, Talks With Sri Aurobindo, vol. 1, p 50. 22 Dec, 1938)

  11. Sandeep Post author

    An anecdote on this topic:

    Arun Chandra Dutt was a disciple of Motilal Roy and was then in charge of Prabartak Sangha. He addressed Sri Aurobindo as Maha Guru, as he was the guru of their guru. He recalled that once during the early years of Sri Aurobindo’s stay in Pondicherry, Dutt was sent there by Motilal Roy. One day a small quantity of liquor was served to all the persons present there. It was not a daily affair, of course, but there was not a ban either, if it could be arranged. Sri Aurobindo was seated in a chair. Dutt was a puritan and had never before tasted the thing. He announced that he would not touch it. Needless to add that his ego got some satisfaction in such an announcement. The result was that he received a calm and beneficent look from Sri Aurobindo. He recalled that his entire being, physically from head to toe, got drenched in a cool and resuscitating feeling. His whole being was brimmed with a divine love. Throughout his life he never forgot the touch of those noble eyes.

    From Aju Mukhopadhyay‘s article “Sri Aurobindo’s Eyes”

  12. mike

    “but no matter what I do(“good”, or “bad”) Mother’s action frm above remains constant,non stop.”

    Abir can you describe what you mean by ‘Mother’s Action’.

  13. mike

    lt seems Mother was drinking quite a bit while training with Theon lol.

    She’s talking about when She was leaving Her body every day:

    “”But when I reentered, it hurt horribly. Hurt atrociously. An excruciating pain, terrible, terrible, as though you were entering into a hell.”
    “Into a… ?” Satprem was flabbergasted.
    “Into a hell.” Mother laughed. Yet it was no laughing matter. On the contrary the reentry was “an unforgettable suffering,” she told us once.
    “It was terrible. It doesn’t last,” she added.
    “He made me drink half a glass of cognac. He always made me take some every day after the session, because I remained working in trance for more than an hour — which is generally a forbidden practice.”

    1. Sandeep Post author

      The cognac may be required to stimulate the body, which becomes numb and lifeless after you have been in a trance (out-of-body) for a few hours or days.

      I have read stories of Indian hermits who used to give hot milk to their disciples after they had woken up from long periods of meditation.

  14. Pingback: Mahabiplabi Arabindo: Bengali movie on Sri Aurobindo’s early life | Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

  15. Sandeep Post author

    Another comment by Sri Aurobindo on smoking

    Anilbaran: Let me tell you about my smoking. I had left cigarette and tobacco four years back. The other day I saw in the notebook of Purani that you had said that the use of tobacco etc. inhibits the activity of the tamasic centres. To test this, these few days I have been smoking cigarettes.

    Sri Aurobindo: In order to explain why the ordinary Sadhus and Yogis take to tobacco and gānja [an intoxicant], I said that these cause stimulation of the physical brain. But these have reactions. And to stimulate the brain thus is not the proper process.

    Anilbaran: After I smoked a cigarette at night, the very next morning I had the vision of a hole of a coin’s size being made on the covering of my head.

    Sri Aurobindo (with a smile): You thought it was the result of your smoking cigarettes?

    Anilbaran: So it does not help?

    Sri Aurobindo: No.


  16. Pingback: Reminiscences of the Mother’s physician, Dr. Bisht | Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

  17. Supro

    Good God! I’m no Aurobindo or Vivekanada, better ignore he urge to smoke. Well, anyways, thanks for the info:) just stumbled upon this blog.

  18. Lars

    Wow thank you for this article. It is truly inspiring and answers many questions I had had about such activities and the spiritual life. I for one have always been repulsed by the attitude of so many vegans and vegetarians because in many cases it is holier than thou and dogmatic. I love that Aurobindo emphasizes the inner transformation and renunciation and not the outer.

  19. Darius

    Don’t yout hink it would be more beneficial for seekers to know why Sri Aurobindo smoked and drank wine but what he and Mother said against those bad habits?

    1. Sandeep Post author


      This article was prompted by a recent biography which claimed that Sri Aurobindo had no control over his smoking and eventually stopped it at the insistence of the Mother. I had to present alternative arguments to prove that this was not the case.

      Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what I write here. People absorb only as much as their inherent nature is ready to absorb. Those who want to combine yoga and smoking will do so irrespective of what you tell them. Those who want to combine eroticism and Yoga also find justification for it in the life of some Guru.

  20. Lars

    Sandeep can you recommend a good biography of Sri Aurobindo. There seems to be a particular version that many are very critical of but unfortunately I have had trouble finding alternatives to this one.

    1. Sandeep Post author

      Yes more biographies on Sri Aurobindo are not forthcoming. Unfortunately, in India, Gandhi, Tagore, Nehru and Vivekananda are studied more than Sri Aurobindo, probably because the latter lived the last 40 years of his life in seclusion while the others lived in the public realm.

      You can try the following online books to cover some gaps and deficiences in that biography:

      1) First-person comments by Sri Aurobindo covered under “ON Himself
      2) Nirodbaran’s “Twelve Years with Sri Aurobindo
      3) Dilip Kumar Roy “Sri AUrobindo came to me
      4) A B Purani “Evening talks

      If the links given above dont work, go to and you can find these books listed by author under the “E-Library Tab”

      As you browse through these other sources, you will discover that Sri Aurobindo gave up smoking instantly in one day. He wasn’t addicted to it.

      1. Lars

        Ah these sources look quite promising. Thanks. I have no trouble believing that Aurobindo gave up smoking in one day as my own father did the same when my mother told him she would not have children with someone who smoked. He had been smoking for 20 years or so at this time. I realize however that there is a great difference of course in that Aurobindo could give up smoking so easily due to his realization of Brahman.

  21. Darius

    I think Sri Aurobindo knew about negative impact of smoking. I remember he mentioned somewhere (maybe in Yogic sadhana?) about two methods yogies use to cease smoking. Why would he mention it if it were irrelevant?
    I think it’s not very difficult task to overcome addiction to smoking. To do so one does not need to reach realisation of Brahman :). Direct command of will is enough in my opinion.
    However things get more complicated with alcohol or drugs when one is addicted to them. Why so? Is it because there is a greater force behind alcohol? Scientists are categorical that alcoholism is not curable. I refuse to believe in this. But I can’t check it myself since I have no such an addiction. It would be interesting to hear some thoughts from yogic perspective.
    The fact is that in the world of ordinary people alcoholism has not been overcome yet. There is raised huge award by AAA but still no claimants.

  22. mike

    l believe these addictions are probably thought-formations created either in this life or past one’s. lf from a past-life they will re-enter the present life at some time.
    The Cypriot Mystic Daskalos explains this quite well [He calls thought-forms ‘elementals’. Sorry if it’s a bit long.

    “Daskalos stopped his talk for a few seconds and then proceeded to elaborate on the physical appearance of elementals, or more precisely on how elementals are perceived by a clairvoyant like himself.
    ‘When an elemental is created, its image will appear at the base af the nose right on the chakra that lies between the two eyes. A clairvoyant will notice that it appears first in the shape of a needle’s head. The moment it is thrust out of the ethericdouble of the individual, it begins to acquire its natural size and shape. It will then move into the psychic worlds and will make a cyclical movement the size of which will depend on the strength of the desire. Then it will return to the person. At this moment it will enter into his psychic body but not in the same place from which it exited. It will make an entrance through a different center, that which is at the back af the skull.

    ‘The shape of an elemental will depend on its type. It may be a desired house, a bicycle, or a car, and so on. These are examples of concrete images of desires-thoughts that remain within the subconscious for a relatively short time. They do so because such elementals, as I have said, seek a new lease on life in the same manner that an embryo seeks food. It will surface again at the disc between the two eyes and will seek an exit.
    The analogous vibrations in the psychic body of the person will begin again. He will remember it and the desire will become stronger. The elemental will detach itself once more and move on its cyclical trajectory. An ordinary individual does not realize what is happening. The elemental will tend to dominate him. It may become so powerful that he may not be able to control it. In such a case the individual is a slave to his desire which sometimes may be so intense that it could lead him to the asylum. It is possible that such an elemental may absorb so much etheric substance from the individual that it may even enable it to literally materialize itself. Let us not talk about this unfortunate development for the time being.
    ‘What about morbid conditions that emerge directly as a result of our egotism such as anger, ostentation, hatred, feelings of being hurt, of showing off and the like? These elementals are constructed in the same way as all other elementals. Note that egotism is itself an elemental which is already formed within the self-conscious personality. It is the product of the repetition of many elementals. It is so sensitive that the slightest provocation sets it in motion. Egotism can create a variety of elementals. For example we have noticed from experience that when an individual has evil and malicious thoughts against someone, the elementals he creates have the shape of snakes with various dark colors, usually putrid green. They come out either from the heart or from the base of the nose. They move towards the person against whom we consciously or subconsciously direct them and they tend to stick to the aura of that person. Eventually they return to us. Sometimes such elementals acquire the size of an anaconda and when they return to us we feel our heart tighten.
    ‘Have you ever considered how many such elementals people create daily? Had they been able to see the form of the elementals they project, they would have been filled with terror.
    This is what is commonly called the “evil eye.” I once saw a painting of a man confessing his sins and there were snakes coming out of his mouth. Do not think that they were the fantasies of the artist. A clairvoyant can literally see these snakes. How often do you see such elementals come to you during sleep and frighten you? These elementals are either sent to you by others or they are your own creation. It is also possible that you might have picked them up in your sleep from the pool of elementals floating and wandering in the etheric world. Elementals of desires-thoughts have shape, power and a life of their own. They can become snakes and bears and other animals. Children often see them in their sleep and have nightmares.’ Daskalos then went on to explain that we can close the door of perception of such elementals by making appropriate autosuggestions such as a prayer before going to sleep. ‘We can also calm down by sending thoughts of love even to those who dislike us. By doing so we disarm them. They can no longer send us elementals that haunt us in our sleep. ‘Daskale,’ I interrupted, ‘why do elementals of hate and jealousy look like snakes and not like something else? Is shape inherent in the very nature of the elemental?’ ‘Elementals of hate and jealousy look like snakes because in our culture we have this association. There is nothing inherently evil about snakes or any other animal for that matter. The way an elemental appears depends on the language of the person and the place from which he comes. Elementals are psychonoetic energy charges that can assume any shape depending on who creates them. A clairvoyant can see them in a shape consistent with his background.’ ‘So,’ I continued, ‘a clairvoyant from another culture may see the same elementals in the shape, say, of coyotes rather than snakes.’ ‘Exactly. But both will see the same causal connection between the projected elementals and their effects.’ ‘Daskale,’ a middle-aged man asked, ‘how can we dissolve and neutralize the power of elementals that we ourselves have subconsciously created?’ ‘You must keep in mind,’ Daskalos replied, ‘that the power and form of elementals will not be dissolved until they have accomplished the task for which they have been built. It is for this reason that we must be ready to face the consequenees of our thoughts and actions. An elemental will keep us accountable not only in this life but also in succeeding incarnations.
    Therefore the builder of an elemental will have to sooner or later confront the elementals that he himself has construed.
    You may wonder whether we can today avoid the influence of former conditions. Yes, assuming that we employ equal power with that of the elementals that we have constructed.
    But we need wisdom and a desire to redress past errors. We can resist the impact of old elementals or we may succumb to them by creating similar ones and by reinforcing the old elementals.’ ‘How can we fight,’ someone asked, ‘elementals such as smoking or drinking? Is it by avoiding situations where people smoke or drink?’ ‘First of all you must not fight such elementals. The enemy is invisible and is bound to defeat you. By waging an aggressive war against such an elemental you energize it. The way to neutralize its power is to ignore it. Let me give you an example.
    In our society today we see a lot of people quarreling fanatically over politics. Political fights are on a daily basis often leading even families to split up. These are terrible things that turn people into fools. I knew someone like that who tried repeatedly to avoid political fights but to no avail. He always managed somehow to get entangled into political quarrels and tremble with rage. “I can’t stand hearing them talk like that,” he told me. You see the elemental of narcissism was very powerful in him. He wanted to show off, to prove that he knew more than others and to impose his views. I explained to him that it was a personal weakness on his part which he could overcome with self-analysis. I advised him not to fight his urge but to consciously try to be indifferent. “Tomorrow,” I suggested, “when you go to your office and they start the political arguments, you will most probably have the desire to join in. At that moment try to remind yourself that you must avoid losing your self-control. The elemental inside you will urge you to intervene in order to show your knowledge and wisdom. Listen carefully, judge. and weigh their arguments, but say nothing.” “But isn’t it better to just leave?” he asked.
    “No,” I replied, “you will not gain anything by running away.” ‘Naturally it was hard for him to practice this exercise. At first he could not resist the temptation. But at the end of the day he evaluated his actions. After three or four attempts he mastered his problem. One day he came to me and thanked me for helping him win back his friends.
    ‘With indifference you extract the power of elementals and you neutralize them. Either they get dissolved or they float in the etheric sphere where they may be picked up by others.
    When we advance spiritually we become conscious of our responsibility for the fall of our fellow man as a result of elementals left over by us in the etheric world. Do you understand now why Christ said, “Do not judge lest you be judged”? Because you shall be judged by your own inner self.”

    “Elementals, he said, have a life of their own just like any other living form and can have an existence independent of the one who projected them. Any thought and any feeling that an individual projects is an elemental. He then proceeded to explain that there are two kinds of elementals: those that are produced subconsciously, which he called elementals of desires-thoughts,’ and those consciously constructed and called elementals of ‘thoughts-desires.’ An individual, he went on, can vibrate through thoughts and sentiments. The way a person vibrates determines the type and quality of the elementals he creates. When he vibrates primarily through sentiments, he is under the impact of emotions and desires, thought playing a subservient role. These are the elementals of desires-thoughts. When an individual is under the influence of thought, he builds elementals made of noetic substance and becomes a master of the power of visual imagery. A Researcher of Truth should train himself to build powerful but benign elementals made up of strong thoughts within which desire and sentiment play a supportive role. Such elementals of thoughts-desires last longer, are more powerful and tend to accomplish the task for which they were constructed much faster.
    Elementals of desires-thoughts are characteristic of ordinary people who lack an understanding of the nature of thought and desire. Consequently they often fall prey to the very elementals they themselves create. It is the law of Nature that once elementals are projected outwards they eventually return to the subconscious of the person who created them. Then they surface from the pool of his memory to the conscious level in order to acquire new energy and withdraw again. The same cycle is repeated until such elementals succeed in staying within the subconscious of the person on a more permanent basis.
    They then absorb energy from the etheric-double of the individual and in this manner they extend their life. This is how habits and obsessions such as smoking, gambling and drinking are being formed.
    The tendency of elementals to return to their source is what makes the law of Karma possible. An individual sooner or later will be confronted with the elementals that he consciously or subconsciously creates. In a conversation I once had with Daskalos he maintained that elementals of strong desires may return to the person that gave them birth at a time when he least desires them. Daskalos then claimed that in a previous incarnation as an Italian during the Renaissance, he was obsessed with the idea of inventing a printing machine. The end result of that obsession was to spend his present life working as a linotypist in the government printing office.
    Our present personalities, Daskalos went on, and the circumstances within which we live, are the sum total of the elementals we have constructed ever since our descent into the three-dimensional world and the beginning of our cycles of incarnation. Elementals are built with the very substance with which personality and the universes in general are built, that is, with etheric matter of the noetic, psychic, and gross material worlds.”

    Also, He says the only way to defeat a bad thought-form is t replace it with a good one. SA and M say similar things.

    “Just as the gross material body consists of many cells, organized into a working whole, so our personality consists of a network of interdependent psycho-noetical images. The cells of our personality, as we might call them, are precisely, one by one, the elementals which we create and project as a result of our desires and weaknesses, strengths and virtues.

    With every thought, each glance, idea, distraction or feeling we create elementals. Even as we sleep, we are emitting elementals that will affect us and those around us.

    The elementals are emitted with an intensity corresponding to the strength of the desires which gave birth to them. When they have reached their goal and served their purpose, they return to their creator to be projected once again with ever increasing power. This procedure is repeated many times, creating within our personality, either a terrible environment of darkness if the elementals are of low degree, or a strong atmosphere of love if they are good thought-desires

    In the same way we can poison the material body by consuming harmful food, or can cleanse it by improving the way we care for it, so we poison or cleanse our personalities. This is how human character evolves.

    But what is character and what is its relationship with our personality? We have said that our material body is some thing which is in constant state of change. Substance enters it and other substance is discarded. Orthodox science tells us that with the passing of every seven years, not a single cell remains from the body of the seven years prior. We have the opportunity to shape our bodies and health in this con stant process of renewal.

    The same thing happens with our personality. Substance is taken in and substance is discarded. With the production and reproduction of elementals we build and rebuild our personality. Here, too, we create health or illness, contentment or dissatisfaction, and sow peace or unrest.
    We can identify various types of elementals. Some spring from inside the personality, others are drawn from the out side environment. We either create elementals with our desire-emotions and thought-emotions; or our personality vibrates at a frequency common to a collection of elementals of a like kind and then attracts these elementals. The latter are the so-called “group elementals” that have been cultivated over the centuries by the perpetuation of common beliefs and actions. They can be either benign or malicious in intent. Our personality, whether weak and ill-natured or strong and compassionate, will activate these group elementals. Once activated they will cling to the host personality, affecting emotions, thoughts and actions.

    When such group elementals are particularly aggressive they can control our energy centers in a phenomenon similar to possession. Conversely, should they be benign and loving we might experience a sensation of great inspiration or even ecstasy.

    The majority of the elementals we house are intelligent and demanding. They can force the personality to act in a certain manner which creates the conditions for the elemental to be satisfied and renewed. If we are filled with elementals of greed, envy and hatred, these elementals will dictate to our personality actions and behaviors that will lead to great disagreements and brawls, not to mention hellish inner dissatisfaction. If we are compassionate and peaceful in nature, our elementals will lead us into situations where we can be of some help and service.

    Consequently, in spite of it being accepted that we do not have always full control over the condition of our material body, in the case of our personality the responsibility is ultimately exclusively our own.

    If we have constructed a weak personality, we inevitably form centers of attraction which draw to us the corresponding elementals that others have created or are creating around us, which are hovering in the psycho-noetical atmosphere. But, even in this case, it is we who have the responsibility, because we attract and assimilate only those vibrations which resonate with ourselves. We cannot accuse other people, or the conditions which prevail around us, because the acceptance and assimilation of these elementals is purely our own choice and responsibility.
    On the other hand, someone who is laboring under a particular guilt, can temporarily be helped by an angelic being [or Guru] or through the meditation of other humans who pray for him, or by the expression of Divine Mercy.Prayer is the process of shaping and emitting loving elementals.

    This help, however, is relative, for if the person in ques tion has not matured psycho-noetically, the benefit derived will be temporarily. To be helped, the person must use this beneficial intervention as the starting point for right-thinking and development.

    Let us not cast blame on our surroundings. There are many elementals around us. There are elementals, for example, of those we call alcoholics, many of whom try to present themselves as victims of society. Such people are responsible for their sorry state, since they have created or drawn to themselves very strong elementals, which take great will power to dis-energize. Yet the same elementals surround us all.

    A common misperception prevails these days in popular psychology. Many psychotherapists believe that in order for a patient to recover he must relive certain emotions and events, venting memories and frustrations that have been plaguing the personality. In this process of “letting the steam out” more often then not the elementals surrounding a memory, rather then being weakened, are revitalized by the attention with which they are served. This method is counterproductive – except in a few cases – to the client’s recovery as it lends only more energy to the problems.

    Elementals cannot be destroyed. Once an elemental has been created it will continue to exist in either an active state –when filled with etheric vitality from a personality– or in a dormant state –deprived of thought power, lying in the waiting in the Cosmic Consciousness–. Inasmuch as our personalities are composed both quantitatively and qualitatively of these elementals, in order to rid ourselves of certain elementals we must be prepared to replace elementals which are a nuisance, with more beneficial ones. When one elemental is driven out a vacuum remains which can be occupied by a new elemental of any nature. It is vital, therefore, to fill such voids with elementals that serve a constructive purpose within the personality.

    We see why it is difficult for personalities to change too much, too quickly as each personality is composed of a relatively balanced and interdependent network of elementals. Suddenly to remove either large elementals, or a collection of elementals of a like kind, can seriously de-stabilize an individual, leading even to madness. The work of dis-energizing elementals must be slow and steady with much resolve.

    Elementals can never be defeated in a direct struggle. We believe that in order to move beyond the chains of the past it is best to recognize their source – using reason – and then work to replace and transcend them. We need to let go of, and not dwell on, past events. In letting go of the past — which is behind us and unchangeable –, we dis-energize the elementals that weigh us down, depriving them of their life-blood. We can then live unfettered in the present. Let today belong to today, and not the pull of yesterday, nor the push of tomorrow.
    Other notes

  23. Darius

    I know almost nothing about Daskalos but this passage reminds me Satprem’s legendary book very much. I am curious is it just coinsidence?
    Anyway this passage doesn’t answer the question. We know that addictions are of the same origin. However former alcoholics or narkomans can’t take some alcohol or drugs without being posessed again for the rest of life when some former smokers can evade repeated possession. Why?

  24. mike

    Hi Darius, not sure what ‘narkomans’ are, but l think what your getting at is why some are instantly addicted and some aren’t. l’m pretty sure that’s due to past-life/lives addiction. lt think that a powerful addiction from a previous life, or most probably, many lives in the cases you mention [if you think about how long alcohol has been around] would emerge very powerfully in someone’s present life, and posses them very quickly….
    l think Daskalos did explain that by referring to ‘addictions’ or ‘elementals’ which carry over from previous lives. lf the ‘addiction’ has been present in many other lives without being conquered it makes sense that it would automatically take over the individual in his present life as soon as he indulges it..

  25. mike

    “I know almost nothing about Daskalos but this passage reminds me Satprem’s legendary book very much. I am curious is it just coinsidence?”

    Not sure which book you mean by Satprem [probably Adventure of Consciousness]. l can’t remember a similar description in that but SA and M have said similar things. Daskalos had a vast occult knowledge like Mother – and from birth apparently.
    The quote was from a book written about Him called:

    “the magus of Strovolos by K.Markides’. Daskalos didn’t like the title ‘magus’ or any other title for that matter. l believe He was a genuine enlighted Master, though….
    The book is definitely worth reading.

  26. Sirrichard Branson

    Dear Sandeep
    Am a practiser and worshiper of our mahavidyas
    As a brahmin am not supposed to eat non veg,but i eat meat and drink at times
    But pure code is code,please refer to rig veda experts for more details.
    Am sorry to say that the great ramakrishna may have been an aghora
    Please refer and read deeply into the rig veda and mahavidya procedures
    During deep hindu worship of dieties like chinnamasta ,lot of discpline may be needed
    Some may get some siddhas(powers) and may succumb to worldly pleasurres
    and may get swayed by western countries admiration(please dont get me wrong,i have highest
    respect and hold western/islamic/buddhist spirituality in the same high pedestal as ours).
    all am saying is your blog is awesome,but regarding some cases where yogis have strayed from the prescribed paths should not be justified

  27. Eswar

    Hi Sandeep,

    I have been reading your blog for the past couple of months, and am very impressed by the amount of effort and dedication that you have shown in building and maintaining it. Thank you for that. I am sure it has helped many others, as it has helped me in knowing more about Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. I for one am very grateful to you for that.

    While I generally agree with you on most of your views on spiritual matters, there are some that I don’t agree with; but usually those are on minor things. But here is one matter that I don’t think is minor: regarding the role of abstinence from meat-eating, alcohol and sex in the pursuit of spiritual knowledge.

    I think most people, specially from an Indian background, where the thinking is particularly influenced by Brahminical ideas, believe that eschewing meat-eating, alcohol, and sex (except for procreation) is almost mandatory for attaining spiritual knowledge. I do not think so. I believe that they have actually no effect at all, except when abstinence itself become an obsession and then begins to have a terribly debilitating effect on one’s Sadhana.

    Let us consider Sri Aurobindo’s own life. Peter Heeh’s in Sri Aurobindo, A Brief Biography (pg 78 in the Oxford India pubilication) writes about Sri Aurobindo’s early years in Pondicherry (when he had already had some great spiritual realizations, and even the intuitive knowledge of the Supermind):

    “Dietary regulations did not interest him. He regularly ate meat and drink wine, which in French Pondicherry was easily obtainable and cheap. Some years later, he wrote in his principle book on yoga, “We must not … imagine that the purity of the mind depends on the things we eat or drink”. […] The renunciation of meat, alcohol and tobacco were institutionalized when his household became an ashram in the later 1920s, but he never ceased to look on such things as secondary matters in the spiritual life.”

    Here we must not argue, as is often done, that Sri Aurobindo was an avatar, and such things would not be a problem to him, but for others they would be insuperable obstacles. For Sri Aurobindo made it clear that an avatar has to accept every difficulty than any “ordinary” human would face, and overcome them; he/she is not give an easier path to climb than others, but a more difficult one. So in this difficult path if Sri Aurobindo did not think that meat-eating, drinking and smoking would affect spiritual progress, then why should we think so? Do we know more about it than Sri Aurobindo?

    Further I will argue, that overcoming the sexual impulses is extremely difficult for most young persons, while at a later stage on the spiritual path, when there is a descent of peace, power, etc, the sex-impulse can naturally and easily be made to disappear, as Sri Aurobindo makes clear in his Letters. So a young person who is bent eliminating sexual thoughts at part of his /her Sadhana will find this very difficult, even impossible and consequently will become preoccupied with a futile struggle with his/her sexuality — misleadingly thinking this is part of the Sadhana. Years can be lost by this.

    Even with the less difficult matter of giving up meat-eating and/or alcohol, I find people who do this usually have a sense of superiority to others and feel therefore, they are entitled to some spiritual compensation from the Divine. Such a sense of superiority and entitlement is, of course, fatal to spiritual progress. I will let the Mother speak for me on this:

    “The best one can do is not to take sides, not to have preconceived notions and principles — oh! the moral principles, the set rules of conduct, what one must do and what one must not and the preconceived ideas from the moral point of view, from the point of view of progress, and all the social and mental conventions… no worse obstacle than that. There are people, I know people who have lost decades in surmounting one such mental construction!…”. From a talk of the Mother (Notes on the Way, 7th October  1964)

    It is not for nothing that the classical Tantric initiation rite included alcohol, meat-eating and sex, (the 5 Ms), which was designed to break-down that sense of superiority that the initiates might have because they had hitherto followed the brahminical injunction on these matters.

    My point is not that one can be a glutton, an alcoholic, a drug-addict, or a sexual profligate, and be a good sadhak. It rather is that we must keep the golden rule of moderation in all things, and always be prepared, as Sri Aurobindo emphasizes repeatedly, to give up anything that becomes an obstacle to the Sadhana. That does not mean that we have to first give up everything that society tells us to give up as part of the Sadhana. To do the latter before we get the direct contact with the Divine would be to get involved in false battles that would pit the ego against its own obsessions, leading nowhere.

    All this is said with some personal experience, and is offered humbly for those who may wish to think upon the matter. I am not interested in a debate.

    1. Sandeep Post author

      “The renunciation of meat, alcohol and tobacco were institutionalized when his household became an ashram in the later 1920s,”

      You should take what Heehs has written with a grain of salt. He is an academic rather than a Sadhak and derives misleading conclusions in many cases. The renunciation was not “institutionalized” but it was started on the instructions of the Mother. She who had profound spiritual insight had found that the sadhaks were unable rise above the ordinary consciousness if they kept consuming tobacco, meat and alcohol. A certain period of strict observance (however painful) is necessary to rise above the Sanskaras.

      The purpose of the article is NOT to assert a morally superior viewpoint, or to disregard the inherent frailties in human nature.

      Regarding food, see

      I restate what I have tried to say in the article : while people who are born with extra-ordinary capabilities may be able to circumvent the sattvic restrictions, it is not advisable for beginners of Yoga to disregard them.

      Eswar : Do we know more about it than Sri Aurobindo?

      Do you? Ultimately, all remarks by Sri Aurobindo can be re-interpreted. So continue on the path and see if your conclusions change.

    2. Chris

      After spending time over many years with many spiritual teachers and having a variety of the desired affects I remember how the times when I was perhaps the clearest and felt so completely one with the divine I felt no need or interest in drinking, smoking or sex or eating meat.
      If a guru does such things I could sense that it might have little effect on him but would be in most cases an indication of tamasic or other aspects that were not “good” . Eventually I had to see that it was more important what the guru could do to uplift me, not as important that he or she be the greatest. Sometimes the environment and teaching and program are not the best for one student but are excellent for someone else. I agree with the author that unless a person is exceptional, we are best off not to indiscriminately violate the usual injunctions. Sex was a big inhibitor when i was doing meditation that required gathering the attention at the 3rd eye and transcending body consciousness. Sex barely mattered when I practiced zen under an excellent teacher. If you have been near a slaughter house or factory farmed animals you might find vegetarianism better for your sense of compassion and peace, it also helps beginners with a variety of forms of meditation. The link between the rare jnani who ate a piece of meat and that animal might not be a bad thing but for me it is best avoided. More important is our spiritual focus and behavior that supports an expansive spiritual consciousness that hopefully benefits those around us.

  28. mike

    “Further I will argue, that overcoming the sexual impulses is extremely difficult for most young persons, while at a later stage on the spiritual path, when there is a descent of peace, power, etc, the sex-impulse can naturally and easily be made to disappear, as Sri Aurobindo makes clear in his Letters. So a young person who is bent eliminating sexual thoughts at part of his /her Sadhana will find this very difficult, even impossible and consequently will become preoccupied with a futile struggle with his/her sexuality — misleadingly thinking this is part of the Sadhana. Years can be lost by this”.

    Yes, Eswar, l’d mostly agree with that. A young person will find the sex-impulse a great obstacle, but so will anyone who is dominated by it – the mass of humanity if you ask me. Obviously, to turn it into a battleground isn’t helpful, although, when we are constantly bombarded with sexual imagery and God knows what at the occult level, it does become a daily battle no matter how much we resist.. Of course, those who aren’t affected by it have mostly likely freed themselves and won the battle in previous lives.. lf this is our first attempt at abstinence, it’s going to be a formidable task, as you say. After all, SA did say it was the most difficult thing in human nature to get rid of. l mean, how many thousands of lifetimes have we been indulging the sex-habit [not to mention animal incarnations]. Even the Mother when She was Catherine the Great, was apparently some kind of nymphomaniac – so there is still hope for us lesser
    l know from my own bitter experience how difficult it is [tobacco and alchohol haven’t been a problem – probably a genetic disinclination]. l don’t know how some of the monks and nuns get through it – though most aren’t living in the midst of worldly life, l suppose..

    l don’t know why you think a Descent of peace and power come only at a later stage. l experienced these things at quite an early stage in my sadhana [still not permanently established, though]. But, even with these descents, the sex-impulse was still a major problem. lt only fell away after l had certain experiences much later. Also, l can tell you from personal experience that nothing lasting can be achieved in Yoga without the cessation of sexual indulgence. The Descent of the Force, for instance, will not stabilise itself or remain in the body without sexual abstinence. This is a Spiritual fact IMO..
    And, even then, after the sex-impulse has been driven out, the subconscious will throw it all up in dreams, to be fought all over again [you really do need a sense of humour lol]..
    Anyway, l’m still far from being able to live in a brothel like Swami Vivekananda with a feeling of Divine Love for the opposite sex..

  29. Sandeep Post author

    For what its worth, here is a passage from Purani’s Evening Talks on this subject

    The question of drinking and the use of narcotics by Sadhaks cropped up today at the evening table.
    Disciple: Those Sadhaks who drink, or take narcotics, do they get Some help thereby in obtaining Samadhi?
    Sri Aurobindo: All that depends upon what you call “Samadhi”. My own experience in the matter is that wine and narcotics generally inhibit the action of the most Tamasic centres in the physical brain; and the other centres in the brain get stimulated. This helps one to escape from the limitations of the physical consciousness and one may get into other planes of consciousness.
    Generally, Sadhaks who live on mountains resort I to these things to get warmth and get rid of cold. Others I might resort to them to get away from the physical consciousness.
    Disciple: Do they really get some help or merely imagine things and make it an excuse for drinking and satisfying their desire?
    Sri Aurobindo: Well, it is sufficiently well-known that drinking and use of narcotics generally enable people — whether Sadhaks or not — to escape from the physical consciousness.
    Disciple: Some people write their poems under the effect of narcotics.
    Sri Aurobindo: One day Mother asked a workman why he was drinking. He said that after drinking he got thoughts which he could never get when he was sober. Coleridge wrote most of his poems when he was under the influence of opium. Somebody once praised a line of Tennyson. He said: “Ah! that line! It cost me 25 cigars!”
    So there is no reason to suppose why a Sadhaka should not derive help from it. (Then after a pause) I don’t hope you have serious intentions in asking these questions! (laughter)
    Disciple: I only want to know if they really get into Samadhi.
    Sri Aurobindo: What do you mean by Samadhi? If you mean an inward-drawn condition, certainly it may help one to get into it.
    Disciple: Those who drink, generally, have got a light mood —.
    Sri Aurobindo: There are many moods: there is the light mood, the angry mood, the emotional mood — you would be a great Bhakta if you got into the last.
    Disciple: Drinking had no effect on me: I simply used to get giddy.
    Sri Aurobindo: That is the first stage.
    Disciple: And then I used to go to sleep.
    Sri Aurobindo: That is a kind of unconscious Samadhi. (laughter) It may help one to concentrate. But what one does with that concentration depends upon the man. My own idea is that of all these people, who resort to these external stimulants, ninety percent never go beyond — the vital consciousness. They get into it and then the vital is a great builder: it constructs any number of things, worlds, states etc. It can give you an idea that you are in the Highest. There are any number of Siddhis on the vital plane and if you have proper knowledge you can get them by using these things. And even if one gets into the Brahmic consciousness it is not that one has got the highest Truth, because the Brahmic consciousness can be had on any plane. You can have that consciousness on the mental or the vital plane.
    These stimulants merely help you to get away from the physical. But what one does with that freedom depends upon the man. These are external means and therefore they have very bad reactions — they are not generally recommended in the spiritual life.

    RECORDED BY A B PURANI (09-04-1926)

  30. Pingback: Heehs imbroglio, Prasad sisters, and Save Mirambika | Skylight

  31. mike

    “These stimulants merely help you to get away from the physical. But what one does with that freedom depends upon the man. These are external means and therefore they have very bad reactions — they are not generally recommended in the spiritual life.”

    Yes, and perhaps what most people don’t realize is that ‘These stimulants’ actually open up the auric envelope to astral/vital types – like addicted dead people. These are called ‘lntruders’ [sometimes unaware of the physical person, but simply attracted through compatible vibrations – like attracts like] in certain books by out-of-body and NDE authors, who have seen this first-hand; or called ‘attached spirits by others..[just termed vital influence or possession by SA and M].. Alcohol, for instance, will attract dead alcoholics, who will energetically identify with the physical addict to feed off their energy. Also, the physical addict will be constantly harrassed by the astral addict to make them keep feeding the drug habit.
    These days, the big new-age craze is Ayahuasca. What we don’t usually hear is about the ‘The Dark Side of Ayahuasca ‘, which can have some very unpleasant side-effects – both physically and psychologically, but especially, occultly. Also,apparently there are some very bad shaman’s involved in it..
    Here are some quotes from someone who has looked into it quite deeply [and seems genuine enough to me, but judge for yourselves]’s a 3 part article:

    The Dark Side of Ayahuasca – Part 3 hxxp://
    The Dark Side of Ayahuasca – Part 2 hxxp://
    The Dark Side of Ayahuasca – Part 1 hxxp://

    This is a short extract from the article above:


    The number one issue I see with people who have used ayahuasca—and most other mind-altering substances—is the infiltration of entities in their luminous energy field. In fact in my experience I have met very few people who have used ayahuasca who does not have entities attached to and/or influencing their luminous body. [3]I am not implying ayahuasca usage was the sole source, primary source, or even a source, of these entities. As mentioned below, a great many people are (usually unknowingly) contending with the effects of psychic intrusion and attachments even if they’ve never used psychoactive plants. However, it’s worth pointing out, there are a noteworthy number of situations where I have been aware that a significant degree of the psychic intrusion the people I have met[4] were experiencing was directly linked to their use of ayahuasca. I will add that my partner for five years was a practitioner of shamanic energy medicine, and a woman with rather amazing spiritual sight—in my experience second only to my primary shamanic/spiritual teacher from Columbia, whose “sight” is so astounding it would be a complex matter to try and explain or elaborate on in this article. In her extensive and successful healing practice, and during our global travels, she would often identify people who had taken ayahuasca simply through observation of their luminous body. She would also quickly and accurately identify people who smoked cannabis in the same way. Typically, what she would first pick up on was the entities these people were linked to. With a little questioning, it would be confirmed they had used ayahuasca. Again, this does not logically mean or imply everyone who takes ayahuasca ends up with entities. My friend would see the entities, and track their source. Other common sources were sorcery, trauma, family ties, alcohol, etc.. Although, having said this, I should point out entity intrusion is not the only element playing into the “dark side” of ayahuasca. I will also add that the situation of entities is even more an issue when it comes to people I have met (a great many) who habitually smoke cannabis. In my experience, and that of numerous seers (including the aforementioned) I have had the fortune of studying and living with, it’s a major entity attractor (not to mention a common cause of spiritual delusion)”..

  32. Vegeta

    Be that as it may, you’ve still not cleared up the simple question – why do it? Just to go about flaunting that I have become this roaring fire and look, whatever fuel I pour into this body doesn’t matter anymore. Look, look, there goes a swill of wine. Look, a lungful of smoke. See? I can still have flights of consciousness.
    They didn’t need to do it. And stop with this ‘Is Bengali, will eat fish’ nonsense already. By that logic, Butter Chicken is fair game for every Punjabi Yogi. Geographical cultural practices should become immaterial once you embark on something as universal as Vedanta, or any other aspect of Sanatna Dharma. I much preferred it when Vivekananda smoked a hookah with a low caste man to prove a point. That’s still understandable. So, why not give up other cultural practices too, like prematurely killing fellow pranis for food?

    And even if I were to accept your apologia (and although you denied it at the outset, that’s what this is), is this not irresponsible behaviour, most unbecoming of Yogis of their stature. I mean, if you’re a Yogi out there in the forests, who doesn’t know any human contact, once your body is in that state do whatever that pleases your heart. But you’re the ambassadors of Sanatana Dharma to all of humanity. You’re setting a bad example for your disciples, and you’re giving sceptics fodder (however petty it may be). I’m a Hindu, and I’ve great respect for their service to humanity, but when die hard devotees of the Swami tell me that he saw his Kala coming from half a decade away, his consciousness became too profound for his human flesh, he took wilful Samadhi, yada yada….well, the rationalist in me asks – ‘What if he had a bad heart from all that tobacco, and maybe were it not for that, could he perhaps have lived longer to make his work touch many more lives, watch his plans for India materials?’. And God knows he had some plans.

      1. kananinderlal

        I’m not assuming anything. I know it reads like a rant, but if you look past that I’m just trying to play Devil’s Advocate. I’m sorry if I was rude, but I genuinely wanted an answer that’s more satisfactory. I forgot for a moment that the best answer you had, you already put into the article. So I get the redundancy of it. But you have to understand, I’m pretty young and a novice on the spiritual path. Any potential source of cognitive dissonance is like an itch. So anything like this presents itself, I long to reconcile it with my worldview as swiftly as possible. Maybe a little Vivek would lead to a more sustained experience of Ananda for me.

        Cheers 🙂

      2. Sandeep Post author

        I understand its not a rant, but I don’t know how to explain the situation any better.

        People who attain Enlightenment behave in strange and irrational ways in order to keep away curiosity seekers, or because they can control their health through the Kundalini Power which courses through their spine, or because they already know how long they are destined to live and don’t care about the consequences.

        It is not necessary to believe anything I write. It is good to question but certain answers cannot be understood solely by the rational mind. The consciousness also has to develop to grasp some answers.

        One must develop the “negative capability” discussed in another post on this blog..

  33. Ronan

    In my experience there is a big difference between drinking and smoking and the occasional use of something like ayahuasca, magic mushrooms, peyote. The latter when used in the correct way can facilitate a profound encounter with the Divine and has done so for native earth based cultures for thousands of years.

  34. mike

    “The latter when used in the correct way can facilitate a profound encounter with the Divine and has done so for native earth based cultures for thousands of years”

    Sorry ronan, but IMO this is part of the deception, and l seriously doubt they were contacting the Divine through these methods [a few perhaps, but on the whole, even the highest were likely just experiences on the mental planes]. There was a drug used thousands of years ago to safely awaken kundalini – by the rishies, l believe, but the ingredients have been forgotten [even Swami Vivekananda and Satyananda mention it]..
    lt’s very similar to assumptions that divine or angelic beings or so-called Ascended Master’s are contacted through channeling or mediumship. People are easily misled on the astral levels no matter what methods they use. You only have to read SA’s Letter on the ‘lntermediate Zone’ to determine that..

  35. Ronan

    Your welcome to your opinion. I however have had very profound spiritual experience using those three substances mentioned, no deception, no entities, no paranoia. Pure divine recognition, oneness, overflowing love and forgiveness. I have meditated since a child and have decent discernment between reality and fiction.Perhaps try some mushrooms out in nature sometime, then you will understand what I mean.

  36. mike

    Yes, of course ronan, you most likely had a genuine contact, but l’d hesitate in calling it Divine. A lot of ppl have had the experiences you mention [through many different drugs], but that doesn’t mean they were of a Divine origin. l’m not qualified to judge where your experiences came from, although l believe you can have wonderful experiences just by entering the astral regions alone – states of bliss, contact with beings of Light etc. – but they have an astral quality, not a Divine quality. You might have great discernment, but unless you have direct Spiritual knowledge of the Divine Planes [Overmental/Supramental] you will not be able to assess the True origin of your experiences IMO..
    Are you saying anyone who takes mushrooms will have contact with the Divine. Sorry, but that sounds highly dubious to me. Mostly, they will open themselves to lower astral influences, which means they’re playing with fire..
    The Mother said at the end of Her life that most of those who claimed to have the Highest Realization [alive at that time, l think] weren’t even half way there – so, the possibility of someone who is merely taking drugs, and thinking they are Divinely Realized, is just not not credible in my eyes..

  37. mike

    l should add that the Mother did say that we can experience ‘Oneness’ on every plane. So, who who am l to say yo didn’t have a Spiritual experience. Anything is possible, l suppose..

    1. Ronan

      Well Mike, the word Divine feels aptly fitting and kindly object to its so rigid use. No claim is being made here of permanent realization or getting anywhere close to the supramental plane. It seems that in the Integral Yoga world because of the spiritual giants at the center and the knowledge that there is more to spiritual life than is recognized in traditional and new age teaching we carry around a little me syndrome with the Divine,The Supreme felt as something very grand and aloof altogether and us just stumbling sadhaks unable to make rudimentary progress. It is the experience of the supreme as Narayana that we need deeply to keep faith in our destiny and be free and joyful in this life. Of course not everyone who takes a sacred plant medicine will experience the same thing, they could however be opened to the spiritual out of the darkness of bondage and thus begin to take some steps in the right direction. There are countless positive examples of this.

      1. Mike

        I can only quote the Mother from the agenda. She’s describing the effect of drugs in general (not just LSD). You can think your experiences are Divine – that’s your business, but I have my doubts..

        ““Have you heard of the drugs?…Have you seen pictures?… I saw pictures…. People are hurled utterly defenseless into the lowest vital (astral), and, according to their nature, either it’s horrifying or they find it marvelous. For instance, the fabric covering a cushion or a seat is suddenly filled with marvelous beauty. So it lasts for two hours, three hours like that. Naturally, they are quite mad while it lasts. And the trouble is that people call it “spiritual experiences,” and there’s nobody to tell them that it “has nothing to do with spiritual experiences”

        Excerpt From: Mother, The. “Mother’s Agenda, Volume 7. 1966.”

      2. Kian Tandava

        The ever-misleading, miniscule-personal-experience quote war must continue, I guess. Might as well round out the Agenda selection with the rest of Her relevant remarks on LSD:

        . . . and there’s nobody to tell them that it has nothing to do with spiritual experiences.

        There is an Italian here, whom I saw the other day with his wife (his wife is nice; he has long hair and a mystic air… “mystic” is a way of speaking: mysticism for a theater stage). I didn’t find them very interesting, but they intend to stay here for three or four months. And today, he has written me a letter in French. And in that letter there are many things; first he says he had an experience here – and those people are terrible, mon petit, as soon as they have the slightest experience, they’re scared! So naturally, everything stops. But that’s beside the point. Then, in that connection, he says he took that drug and he describes the effect (Mother shows Satprem a passage of the letter):

        “The second time, with a normal dose of LSD (lysergic acid), as I rose in that luminous situation, I had terrible visions, the walls of my room came alive with thousands of malignant and desperate faces that persecuted me till night….”


        And it goes on. Then he says he had an experience here, and he’s scared.

        But anyway, it has given me one more proof…. I saw pictures in Life (there were photos): you feel you’ve stepped into an insane asylum. But he had the experience, which proves that his vital… Of course, it’s the images recorded in the subconscient (images of thoughts, images of sensations, images of feelings recorded in the subconscient), which become objective: they rise to the surface and become objective. So it gives the exact picture of what’s inside you!
        If, for instance, you have a sensation or thought that someone is nasty or ridiculous or doesn’t love you, anyway, opinions of that sort, it generally surfaces in dreams; but there [with drugs], you aren’t asleep, yet you have the dream! They come and play the game of what you thought of them: what you thought of them comes upon you in their form. So it’s an indication: for those who see smiling, pleasant, beautiful things, it means that the inner, vital condition is good enough, but with those who see terrifying or malicious things, or things like that, it means the vital isn’t pretty.

        Satprem: Yes, but isn’t there an objective vital in which those visions have nothing to do with your own subconscient?

        MA: Yes, there is, but it doesn’t have the same character.

        S: Not the same character?

        MA: You can know it only if you go into the vital FULLY CONSCIOUS: conscious of your own vital and conscious in the vital world as you are conscious in the physical world. You go there consciously. Then it isn’t a dream, it doesn’t have the character of a dream: it has the character of an activity, an experience, and that’s very different.

        S: Because there are indeed those worlds of the vital where you are persecuted… terrible worlds, worlds of torture and persecution, aren’t there?

        MA: Ninety percent subjective.

        Ninety percent subjective. Regularly, for more than a year, every night at the same time and in the same way, I entered the vital to do a special work there. It wasn’t the result of my own will: I was destined to do it. It was something I had to do. So then, the entry into the vital, for instance, is often described: there are passages where beings are stationed to stop you from entering (all those things are much talked about in all books of occultism). Well, I know from experience (not a passing one: an experience I learned repeatedly) that that opposition or ill will is ninety percent psychological, in the sense that if you don’t anticipate it or don’t fear it, or if there is nothing in you that’s afraid of the unknown and none of those movements of apprehension and so on, it’s like a shadow in a picture, or a projected image: it has no concrete reality.

        I did have one or two real battles in the vital, yes, while going to rescue someone who had gone astray. And both times I got blows, and in the morning when I woke up, there was a mark (Mother points to her right eye). Well, I know that in both cases, there was in me, not a fear (I never had any fear there), but… it was because I expected it. The idea that “it may well happen” and my expecting it caused the blow to come. I knew that in a definite way. And if I had been in what I might call my “normal state” of inner certitude, it couldn’t have touched me, it couldn’t. And I had that apprehension because Madame Théon had lost an eye in a battle in the vital and had told me so; so (laughing) it gave me the idea that it was possible, since it had happened to her!… But when I am in my state (I can’t even say that, it’s not “personal”: it’s a way of being), when you have the true way of being, when you are a little conscious and have the true way of being, it CANNOT touch you.

        It’s like the experience of coming across an enemy and trying to hit him, and then none of the blows hit and whatever you do has no effect – it’s always subjective. I’ve had all the proof, absolutely all the proof.

        S: But what is objective, then?

        MA: There ARE worlds, there ARE beings, there ARE powers, they have their own existence, but what I mean is that the form their relationships with the human consciousness take depends on that human consciousness.

        It’s the same with the gods, mon petit, the same thing! The relationship with all those beings of the Overmind, with all those gods, the form those relationships take depends on the human consciousness. You can be… The scriptures say, “Man is cattle for the gods” – but that’s if man ACCEPTS the role of cattle. There is in the essence of human nature a sovereignty over all those things which is spontaneous and natural, when it’s not warped by a certain number of ideas and a certain amount of so-called knowledge.

        We could say that man is the all-powerful master of all the states of being of his nature, but that he has forgotten to be so.

        His natural state is to be all-powerful – he has forgotten to be so.

        In that state of oblivion, everything becomes “concrete,” yes, in the sense that you may have a mark on the eye (it can be expressed by that), but that’s because… because you allowed it to happen.

        It’s the same thing with gods: they can rule your life and torment you quite a lot (they can also help you a lot), but their power IN RELATION TO YOU, in relation to the human being, is the power you give them.

        That’s something I have learned little by little for several years. But now, I am sure of it.
        Naturally, in the evolutionary curve, it was necessary for man to forget his all-powerfulness, because it had quite simply puffed him up with conceit and vanity, and so it was completely distorted and he had to be given the sense that lots of things were stronger and more powerful than he. But essentially, it’s not true. It’s a necessity in the curve of progress, that’s all.
        Man is a potential god. He thought he was a realized god. He needed to learn that he was nothing but a puny little worm crawling on the earth, and so life planed and filed him down in every way till he… “understood” isn’t the word, but anyway, felt to some extent. But as soon as he assumes the true position, he knows he is a potential god. Only, he must become it, that is, he must overcome all that isn’t it.

        This relationship with the gods is extremely interesting. As long as man is dazzled, in admiration before the power, beauty, realizations of those divine beings, he is their slave. But when they are, to him, ways of being of the Supreme and nothing more, and when he himself is another way of being of the Supreme, which he must become, then the relationship is different and he is no longer their slave – he is NOT their slave.

        S: Ultimately, the only objectivity is the Supreme.

        MA: There, you’ve said it, mon petit. That’s the point. Exactly the point.
        If we take the word “objectivity” in the sense of “real, independent existence” – real, independent self-existence – there is only the Supreme.

        April 12, 1967

        MA: I’ve had an amusing experience these last three days…. Y. sent me a whole treatise on LSD (Mother takes a file on her table).

        It seems the man who discovered it did so by accident (that’s always how it happens): he took a dose without knowing it and without knowing what it was, and the effects on him were extraordinary. (He was a Swiss man, a doctor, I think, or a chemist, I don’t know.) And now, for the first time after years (the discovery took place years ago), for the first time he has consented to give a description of his experiences. Naturally, Y. enthused over it, she prepared a report for me and sent it to me.

        As you know, I am very busy. I didn’t have time to read these papers, but I also know that Y. is rather impatient (!), and these last three or four days I had been saying to myself, “I must ABSOLUTELY see that, otherwise it won’t do. I’ve GOT to see that….” And it kept coming back. Then one morning (in the morning, at the time when I have all my experiences), while I was sitting, I suddenly felt something so heavy in my head, heavy in my chest, and… odd. I had never felt that before. And all the sensations had become as if violent. So I closed my eyes, and… you know, an avalanche, a stampede of forms, sounds, colors, even odors, which imposed themselves with a reality and intensity – I had never known that before, never.
        I watched, then I said to myself, “But that’s a good way to go insane!” And I started doing what had to be done for it to stop. But it wouldn’t stop! It wanted to go on. So I thought, “It’s clearly here for a reason. Since it’s imposing itself in this way, it means there’s a reason for me to have this experience.” I watched, studied, observed. And I saw it was a magnified faculty of sensation – inordinately magnified, you understand – BECAUSE the equilibrium between all the faculties of the being had been disrupted.

        The natural equilibrium which makes things balance each other, harmonize and organize spontaneously into a coherent whole with a conscious existence, was shattered – shattered to the benefit of the faculty of sensation. Naturally, that faculty of sensation was terribly multiplied (or aggravated, I might say) and even imposed itself brutally. And I saw that something had upset the equilibrium. Something that had the power to upset the equilibrium of the being – to insist on one point to the detriment of all others.

        Once I had seen that, a sort of tranquillity came into me and it was over.

        I didn’t give it any more thought. For three days I didn’t think about it again. It seemed to be some extravagance or other. Yesterday evening, I decided I would read those papers. I asked Pavitra to read them to me. The man describes his experiences – the first description is just what happened to me!

        So I had the experience he had when he took the medicine! He describes it (I couldn’t read everything), he describes it exactly as I felt it. So (laughing) I had the experience without swallowing the medicine! Simply because the consciousness was turned to that.
        But then, I understood! And those people imagine it’s a way to “develop human consciousness” and open it up to “unknown horizons”…. The effect (now I am absolutely sure of it) is the dislocation of the being’s equilibrium.

        In my case, it’s very sensitive, because the equilibrium is very conscious, willed, organized, and naturally that makes a considerable difference; for them (laughing) it’s “just like that,” a fancy. And then, they are convinced (Y. included) that humanity can make great progress with that! It makes them “conscious of a whole realm they didn’t know.” But… it creates one more falsehood in the consciousness, because the perception of a SINGLE aspect of reality to the detriment of all others is a dreadful falsehood. As I said, the impression it made on me was: “It’s a good way to go insane.”

        To them it’s accidental, in the sense that they take the medicine and think, “When I stop the medicine, naturally it won’t happen again” – but that’s not true! It can give the being the habit of disorder, the habit of imbalance.


        It was yesterday evening that Pavitra read me the complete description of the experience I had had… without knowing what it was. I found that very amusing!

        I haven’t read the whole thing, only half of it, I am going to read the other half. But according to what they say there, now it’s, oh, tremendously widespread!

        Now, we may ask if it’s necessary for mankind to fall into general imbalance in order to reach a higher equilibrium?

        But it’s perfectly clear that one doesn’t need drugs in order to have experiences – I didn’t take drugs!

        That’s what they think, they think it gives them a certainty that it [the other worlds] isn’t imagination, or, for the more reasonable ones, that there are many more things than they know or can imagine. But you can find all this out without swallowing drugs!

        April 13, 1967

        MA: Have you read this report on LSD? What’s your impression?

        S: It’s interesting. They have experiences that aren’t just on the level of brute sensation. That drug does release the consciousness, all the same.

        (Mother remains silent)

        It releases from the whole habit of formations.

        MA: Ah, yes, that, surely.

        But he himself says it’s better to begin with a guide.

        S: But do you hold the same opinion after reading the end? Because you hadn’t read the whole thing.

        MA: That it disrupts the being’s equilibrium is absolutely without doubt. And obviously, disrupting one equilibrium may lead you to a higher equilibrium. But there is a risk.


        It’s probably part of the preparations. Only, the results may be catastrophic enough.

        It could be part of a scientific discipline. But then, that’s how it should be done, as a discipline, and under the supervision of those who know.

        You see, he takes great care not to say anything about the harmful effects. I have personally met two people who had done the experiment and had met with dreadful effects – they decided never to touch it again in their lives.

        They are very careful not to say anything about that.

        It should be done as a discipline of education, with all necessary safeguard and supervision.
        It’s the same as all the rest: it’s the method that starts from below. The true method starts from above – it’s more difficult, less spectacular, and it takes more time.

        From the standpoint of study and observation, it’s very interesting. But it should be done scientifically, in a spirit of discipline and almost consecration, as a means of study.

        Of course, just the contact with a small amount of the Force from above disturbs many people’s minds; so here, I think the effect would be very widespread.

        It’s a risk one has to take.

        If someone – someone conscious, who already knows much, has much self-mastery and control over his reactions – does it as a means of study, it can be very interesting. But giving it to a poor devil who knows nothing and is hurled into it out of curiosity can be disastrous.


        . . . It may be necessary, in certain cases, to disrupt that equilibrium so as to come into contact with something new, but that’s always dangerous. And the way of consecration and surrender to the supreme Power is infinitely superior – it’s slightly more difficult. It’s more difficult than swallowing a drug, but infinitely superior.

        We could call it “yoga within everyone’s reach!” But … it’s not without danger.

  38. mw

    from Mystic Approach to The Veda and The Upanishad by M.P. Pandit:

    “So, then, the Soma that figures in the hymnal outpourings of these patriarchs of the ancient Aryans is not the liquor of the addict. Seemingly it is that, but it is not that everywhere in the hymns or essentially that even in rituals. True, the creeper Soma was pressed for juice at the sacrificial functions; true also that is was exhilarating as it has been so praised and sung in hundreds of passages. But the real significance of Soma does not allow itself to be exhausted by this puerile explantation as it is unmistakably proclaimed in the hymns themselves. Soma is Wine indeed, but it is the Wine of the Immortal Delight aflow in the core of every living being, keeping it alive and growing the blissful essence of which the very Gods are avid.” [Chapter II The Vedic Soma, pg. 44]

    from Secret of the Veda by Sri Aurobindo:

    “The hymn begins with an imagery which closely follows the physical facts of the purifying of the wine and its pouring into the jar. The strainer or purifying instrument spread out in the seat of Heaven seems to be the mind enlightened by knowledge (cetas); the human system is the jar. … Soma, Lord of the Ananda, is the true creator who possesses the soul and brings out the divine creation. For him the mind and heart, enlightened, have been formed into the purifying instrument; freed from all narrowness and duality the consciousness in it has been extended widely to receive the full flow of the sense-life and mind-life and turn it into pure delight of the true existence, the divine, the immortal Ananda.” [Part 2, Chapter XIII, Soma, Lord of Delight and Immortality, pg.355 ]

    1. mw

      from Savitri, by Sri Aurobindo:

      “Far from our eager reach those summits live,
      Too lofty for our mortal strength and height,
      Hardly in a dire ecstasy of toil
      Climbed by the spirit’s naked athlete will.
      Austere, intolerant they claim from us
      Efforts to lasting for our mortal nerve
      Our hearts cannot cleave to nor our flesh support;
      Only the Eternal’s strength in us can dare
      To attempt the immense adventure of that climb
      And the sacrifice of all we cherish here.” [Book II: Canto XII, pg. 280]

      1. mw

        Re: LSD, the following is from Mother’s Agenda (April 15, 1967)

        “That it (LSD) disrupts the being’s equilibrium is absolutely without doubt. And obviously, disrupting one equilibrium may lead you to a higher equilibrium. But there is a risk.

        It’s probably part of the preparations. Only, the results may be catastrophic enough. It could be part of a scientific discipline. But then, that’s how it should be done, as a discipline, and under the supervision of those who know.

        You see, he takes great care not to say anything about the harmful effects (she is referring to a report by Tim Leary). I have personally met two people who had done the experiment and had met with dreadful effects – they decided never to touch it again in their lives. They are very careful not to say anything about that.

        It should be done as a discipline of education, with all necessary safeguard and supervision. It’s the same as all the rest: it’s the method that starts from below. The true method starts from above – it’s more difficult, less spectacular, and it takes more time.

        From the standpoint of study and observation, it’s very interesting. But it should be done scientifically, in a spirit of discipline and almost consecration, as a means of study. Of course, just the contact with a small amount of the Force from above disturbs many people’s minds; so here, I think the effect would be very widespread.

        It’s a risk one has to take. If someone – someone conscious, who already knows much, has much self-mastery and control over his reactions – does it as a means of study, it can be very interesting. But giving it to a poor devil who knows nothing and is hurled into it out of curiosity can be disastrous.” – Mother

      2. mw

        Yes, I agree with her for the most part as well. This one (quote) appears to be a grand statement, and not specific to individual concerns. I’m sure there is more on topic (the matter is finding it in the Collected Works — *this particular quote was something that another person had posted a while ago in a different blog here). I’m not opposed to the use of psilocybin, but I would express caution as it is quite strong – similar to a trance/samadhi state, and once returned there from, most that information can be lost, misunderstood, or like waking from a deep sleep and not remembering one’s dream. This is merely from my experiences. And in my case, the usage was beneficial to some lesser or greater degree. Been fifteen years since my last – never used under supervision, prescription, etc. And I no longer use it. From the standpoint of this yoga, I do support the Mother’s advice: expressed caution.

  39. mike

    Swami Satyananda Saraswati [the author of the Bible on Kundalini] has this to say on drugs.
    “Can you get enlightenment by taking drugs?

    You can get certain experiences, but you can’t retain them. Drugs weaken the nervous system, cause depression, disturb the hormones and affect the circulatory system. As a result, later on the experiences almost dwindle into nothing. In the beginning, some drugs do affect the processes of the brain and consciousness, either directly or through other parts of the nervous system. If we could perpetuate these experiences for many years, it would be nice. However, I have found that in the course of time the body and physical organs become very weak, and as a result the later experiences are marked by fears, doubts and passions. What is the use of having a high state after which you fall in a ditch? I don’t disagree with people trying these things now and then, but I think you must try to create the change within the consciousness, through the medium of consciousness, if you want to be able to maintain the experience.”

  40. mike

    “You see, he takes great care not to say anything about the harmful effects. I have personally met two people who had done the experiment and had met with dreadful effects – they decided never to touch it again in their lives.

    They are very careful not to say anything about that.”

    Yes, isn’t it a strange synchronicity in that M confirms exactly what johnathan evett says about
    Ayahuasca [also DMT etc]in my original post..l believe thomas sheridan mentions this omission, too..

    “These days, the big new-age craze is Ayahuasca. What we don’t usually hear is about the ‘The Dark Side of Ayahuasca ‘, which can have some very unpleasant side-effects – both physically and psychologically, but especially, occultly”.

  41. mike

    Really though, l think SA put it in a nutshell in the quote supplied by sandeep at the top of this discussion:

    “My own idea is that of all these people, who resort to these external stimulants, ninety percent never go beyond — the vital consciousness. They get into it and then the vital is a great builder: it constructs any number of things, worlds, states etc. It can give you an idea that you are in the Highest. There are any number of Siddhis on the vital plane and if you have proper knowledge you can get them by using these things. And even if one gets into the Brahmic consciousness it is not that one has got the highest Truth, because the Brahmic consciousness can be had on any plane. You can have that consciousness on the mental or the vital plane.
    These stimulants merely help you to get away from the physical. But what one does with that freedom depends upon the man. These are external means and therefore they have very bad reactions — they are not generally recommended in the spiritual life.”

    1. Ronan

      Really though, you seem intent on being right on this matter and have no qualms demonizing and calling deluded what many native cultures hold in a very sacred light. You have tried to make it personal by throwing doubt on my entheogenic experiences as if they were all dangerous make believe whereas I was just providing an example of positive experience. For whatever dangers there may be and are with incorrect use many people have included an entheogenic experience as one of their lifes most profound or most profoundly meaningful. As no intoxicants is one of the three rules of ashram life in the Integral Yoga it is understandable where your coming from. I may never in this life experience what is deemed the highest Truth according to integral yoga, so I will take a little bit of oneness or brahmic consciousness on any level I happen to find it. I have said my bit on this subject. Peace.

      1. mike

        “Really though, you seem intent on being right on this matter and have no qualms demonizing and calling deluded what many native cultures hold in a very sacred light”

        So, l can’t comment unless l admit l’m wrong lol

        And just because a native culture says something is ‘Sacred’, doesn’t necessarily make it so. lt all depends on the level of realization of a particular Shaman – and who’s to say they weren’t deluded; many were, and many still are IMO. There are many who have seen Beings of Light or Angels, or had what they thought were major Spiritual experiences, which later turned out to be the complete opposite. So, a very High vision is needed in order to discern the Truth – how many have that?

  42. mike

    Ronan, you seem to be mis-reading what l’m saying. l don’t claim to have a perfect knowledge on this subject [or any other]. l never actually said that you were experiencing the Supramental or anything like it. What l said was that to rightly understand your experiences you need something like a Supramental knowledge or vision [or something beyond the astral and mental consciousness]. Or a long experience in leaving your body consciously and travelling through the Higher worlds. According to SA many get trapped in an astral ‘lntermediate Zone’ and claim, mistakenly, to have attained the Highest Realization [He wrote a huge letter on it]. So, l think before you claim to have experienced the Brahmic Consciousness, lt might be best to keep that in mind..

    There’s nothing personal about my doubts. lt’s actually Sri Aurobindo and the Mother who are casting doubts on your beliefs – but you seem to be in denial about that.. Most of what l’ve posted have been direct quotes from them – so it’s not about me being ‘right’..And both mark and kian have also quoted at length..Personally, l’m not trying to persuade you either way. Your chosen path is your decision..As l said before anything is possible – who am l too say that God won’t lead you to Enlightenment through a particular drug [at least give you the kick-start that you need]. But, as SA said, drugs are not usually recommended [but he didn’t say never, so…]
    These are not my opinions, they’re the opinions of Enlightened Sages [of course you might doubt that as well].
    Also, you seem to have ignored my original post from johnathan evett – ‘The Dark Side of Ayahuasca ‘. Your experiences might be free of all dangers [l sincerely hope they are, for your sake], but it’s SA and M who are warning of the risks and side-effects [also the limitations].
    And you seem to have completely missed the warnings given by Satyanda who warns – “You can get certain experiences, but you can’t retain them. Drugs weaken the nervous system, cause depression, disturb the hormones and affect the circulatory system. As a result, later on the experiences almost dwindle into nothing”.
    Yes, drugs are not advised in lntegral Yoga [l assume you don’t follow it]. lf you follow a different path, good luck, but what did you expect to find here; because, obviously, as far as l know, nobody here will support or agree with your practices.
    Yes, l know there is a long tradition of ‘entheogenic experience’ in other cultures, but how High did their realizations go – that’s the big question [what plane/planes were they’re experiences on – astral [vital], mental, overmental, Supramental. Obviously, you seem to believe, without question, that they were all on the Highest level of God-Realization. As for myself, l don’t know, and without a Higher vision l won’t pass judgement..
    lf you believe you have experienced the ‘Brahmic Consciousness’ that’s your business. Like l said before, l’m not qualified to assess your experiences. l can only base my assumptions on what SA and M and others [who are qualified IMO] have said.
    Having said all that, l’m presently reading a book directly connected to this, and really, l think your path is more shamanic than yogic [but l could be wrong] . He started with Yoga and went on to Shamanism – using, l believe, entheogens along the way , called –

    A Shamanic Kundalini Awakening by Brendan Ring

    “Born from a deep sense of separation, the trajectory of transformation runs like a golden thread, through this visionary and mystical journey of reconnection to Source via kundalini awakening and shamanic initiation.

    This deeply personal journey of Kundalini awakening is a reflection of all the glory and gory bits of the process. I love the raw sharing Brendan offers in this work. This initiatory process, familiar to Shamans and Yogis, takes everything from us that is not serving to elevate our souls, and is so often painful. I enjoyed this book immensely, and identified with so much of what Brendan has shared. I recommend this read either as encouragement to those drawn to walking the path of self-realization, or as disillusionment for those who imagine it to require anything less than the death of unconscious living, and rebirth into awakened reality.
    Dawn Dancing Otter (Teacher of Shamanic Arts)

    There is much to contemplate and learn in Brendan Ring’s ‘A Shamanic Kundalini Awakening.’ If the way of the Shaman is calling you, then surely Brendan’s profound reflections and the Wisdom Knowledge gained from his personal deep journey experiences will be of help to you and enhance your quest for Truth.”..

    Anyway, good luck on your path..

  43. Kian Tandava

    Mike, you are really degrading the quality of the discussion on this website. You are a kind of a not-cool troll without realizing it. I’m just speaking what the sentient yet more polite readership has been seeing for however long it’s been—too long, I think. Give it and us a rest, perhaps.

    1. Sandeep Post author


      The comments section is the “cesspool of the Internet” as a writer noted somewhere 🙂

      Sorry, I don’t have time to moderate or respond effectively right now, but I will chime in as and when I can.

      1. Mike

        Sandeep, if you consider the comments to be a ‘Cesspool’ why haven’t you disabled it.
        Sorry if my posts belong in a cesspit.

        Best of Luck to everyone here.

      2. Sandeep Post author


        I relayed a general observation on the nature of comments across the Internet. It wasn’t intended specifically for you.

        Please continue commenting. I prefer if people self-moderate and balance each other out.

        Unless the commenter is totally offensive, I don’t delete anything.

      1. Ronan

        I am not offended or think you should stop posting I would rather just say that when we debate over the internet or in person it is easy for the sense of I,me and mine to get enmeshed in duality and thus loose one of the fundamental qualities of spiritual living, that of being conscious of the arising of separate sense of self hood. It is difficult enough being conscious of that in solitude, so much the more when arguing what is right and wrong. Namaste.

    2. Johan

      Kian, for some reason or other Mike’s posts have provoked you but if you are concerned about the quality of the discussion on this website, do you really think you do any good yourself when you write a comment like that? Your choice of words in your unasked for assessment of Mark is sharp, hurtful and grotesque. Furthermore, you pose as some kind of spokesman for the readership of this blog – not the entire readership, no, just the more sentient and polite part – which is ridiculous.

      1. kianakari

        What makes you qualified to thusly crudely judge my actions, Johan? I obviously did good by putting an end to an obviously idiotic flame war and much years-long more you must not be aware of, but here you come with a damning moral superiority party line judging me for trying to defend something like a sacred space that I respect and would like for others to as well. Harmfully misleading or outright stupid “discussion” is harmful and misleading or outright stupid now matter how righteously you may try to shame me for pointing out this problematically plain fact and maybe helping to put a stop to or at least a little bit of a brake on such behavior. But please, feel free to further valuably contribute here.

      2. Johan

        Kian, with much appreciation as well as gratitude for all its content I have followed this blog since its beginning. Also the discussions I have always followed with interest although I have never really felt the impetus to write comments myself. Some commentators like Mike have been quite active and for a long time already and I actually like reading his comments. It is interesting and helpful to read how other people study and internalize the work of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, about what experiences they have and what kind of information and literature they bump into. To me your harsh judgement about Mike was simply painful to read; I think it is impoper to call somebody who writes comments on a blog like this “a kind of a not-cool troll who does not realize it”.
        Apparently you had enough of the discussion as it unfolded above and if you would have said “if Give it and us a rest ” without using the words “and us” I would not have used the word “spokesperson” in my comment. I think that is one reason for the irritation that shows in your comment.
        The last line in my previous comment I wrote in reaction to you writing and telling Mike “I’m just speaking what the sentient yet more polite readership has been seeing for however long it’s been”. I do not think I claim any moral superiority if I find a sentence like that that derogatory. However, implicitly, everyone who finds this sentence disagreable would be part of a less sentient less polite readership. I reacted to that when I used the word “ridiculous”
        Certainly I do not intent to shame you in any way but I can imagine you cannot find yourself in my perception.
        Obviously we are in disagreement with respect to the value of Mike’s comments to this blog: I would like to see him continuing, you wouldn’t. That’s pretty much it isn’t it? It is up to him and nobody else to decide about stopping or continuing writing comments. He said he would stop and I find that regrettable.
        best wishes

  44. Kian Tandava

    Best wishes to you. I’m sure you know in your perception that outward inaction is often far more disastrous than action however necessarily flawed by a necessarily flawed human.

  45. S

    I have been told that some, not all, gurus and siddhas deliberately do certain things or take on vices in order to incur some karma. for a normal person, a physical body is created and further retained only bcoz of the various desires and karma without which it may not be possible to have a physical body. Creating (as well as retaining) a physical body could be required for some mission (as directed by the Supreme) these gurus / siddhas need to accomplish on the physical plane. is it so?

  46. S

    No, actually what I meant was that a lot of people wonder how is it that a Guru or realised soul sometimes consumes alcohol, smokes, eats too much and has other so called “vices” which are forbidden for everybody else on the spiritual path. But one of the reasons the Guru does so is because :
    1) He / She has been given a task or mission the by the Divine or Supreme that needs to be completed on the physical plane and requires a physical body.
    2) But a physical body can be created due to desires/attachments/karma. In the absence of any of these, in other words, once one is liberated, it is not possible to create / retain a physical body.
    3) So, the Guru deliberately incurs some karma / desire / attachment by which He /She is able to create and / or maintain a physical body in order to complete the task.
    Is this so?
    I also read or saw a video describing something to this effect a few months back. Only thing I don’t recall where I read / saw it …. if I find it, I will send the link.


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