There is a stage in the yogic transformation when the inner being awakens (i.e. when Chakras begin to open) but the consciousness is not fully centered in the Atman (Self). This half-way mark is an extremely vulnerable phase of life because now you become exposed to the vital forces which are being continuously exchanged between human beings during all social interactions. You may find yourself becoming angry for no reason whatsoever after talking to an eccentric and turbulent man or you may become worried about your own life after listening to the dejected musings of some depressing and ineffectual person.
Human beings function as invisible conduits for the exchange of anger, sex and depression, as Sri Aurobindo and the Mother repeatedly pointed out, and it is only when our inner being opens up that we discover the rich and voluminous nature of this commerce. This exchange occurs through the higher vital (pranamaya kosha) and mental sheaths (manomaya kosha) in the human consciousness.
In the following correspondence, Sri Aurobindo explains to a disciple, Nagin Doshi, how to negotiate this perilous stage of the yogic transformation.
Nagin: Yesterday I was talking with A before I went to bed. This morning when I got up, I found my vital unusually restless. But there had been no conflict or opposition in our talk. Why then such a strong turmoil in the vital?
Sri Aurobindo: It is not only talk that creates a turmoil – disturbing forces can come in by contact also. There may be restlessness or confusion of consciousness in the person who talks with you to which he does not give expression or is not even aware that he is like that, or he may bring forces from others. Again it may be that you met or contacted in your sleep the vital of others or some vital forces in the atmosphere. Turmoil may come in many ways.
Nagin: How does one “bring forces from others” and then pass them on while talking?
Sri Aurobindo: There is no how to it; it so happens. Whenever one mixes with others, things are passing from one to the other. If I talk with a number of people, I bring away with me in my atmosphere many forces that were around them; they may affect me or not, but they remain for a time at least. If in that time I speak with another man, he may receive them from me. It is like a man carrying germs with him from a person he has visited; he may not fall ill himself (or he may), but, even if he does not, he can pass them on to another man he visits afterwards – who falls ill. It is the same thing here in the supraphysical parts.
Nagin: After talking with X, I often feel empty or uneasy or a kind of disturbing restlessness.
Sri Aurobindo: The disturbing restlessness may come from him for he has always been restless; the uneasiness may come from the contact with his obscure atmosphere; but the emptiness can only come from the reasons aforesaid.
Nagin: The last three days I talked so much that all my inner energy was exhausted.
Sri Aurobindo: Talking has a very exhausting effect for the inner energies -unless the inner itself controls the talk. Everyone who lives much inside tends to feel too much talking a fatiguing thing and quite shallow and unnecessary unless it is talk that comes from within. Of course if you make a practice of talking much, that will bring you outside, externalise you and then you will no longer find it fatiguing even if you talk for 18 hours out of the 24.
Nagin: It is my perpetual experience that the less I speak, the better my inner being feels. If I talk more than usual, it brings a headache! Is this not a sign of disability?
Sri Aurobindo: It is not a sign of disability. It is a characteristic of the inward consciousness in sadhana not to throw itself out too much in speech, as that tends towards externalisation and dispersion. The headache is a sign that this is being too much done.
Nagin: Why does even a slight casual talk create a disturbance in my work?
Sri Aurobindo: It is because by talking one passes into another consciousness. That is so long as the inner being has not attained a constant and even calm poise. It is no use giving up talking altogether – the proper course is to speak usefully to people but not to talk for the sake of talking.
Nagin: Can one maintain peace within, even while talking and mixing with others?
Sri Aurobindo: Possible only if the inner being can separate itself in the peace and remain unaffected by the outer movements and contacts.
One has to go inside into the inner being and one can minimise contacts, if necessary, not as an absolute rule – provided there is a real living in the inner being and sufficient contact with outside things not to lose one’s hold of practical realities. But if there is an isolation which brings depression, inertia, unhappiness, gloom or else morbidity of any kind, then it is evident that the retirement is not wholesome.
Nagin: If one tries to deal with the outer world without that poise of peace and silence, is he not likely to be entangled by the vital forces?
Sri Aurobindo: Yes, but in retirement from the outside things also vital forces can get hold of you.
Nagin: Have not the sadhaks to exchange their sympathy, kindness, etc. when they talk or mix with each other? Otherwise there will be only dryness.
Sri Aurobindo: What if they exchange other things also along with the sympathy and kindness? In a psychic feeling there is no question of anything so commercial as an excuse.
(NOTE: The goal of worldly life is to be socially well-adjusted (i.e. be friendly with everyone and eat food with them, etc.) whereas the goal of yogic life is to conserve one’s energy and redirect it to awakening the Atman. These two goals can conflict as we can see in the following exchange where Nagin gets conflicting advice. A Doctor advises Nagin to express himself freely while Sri Aurobindo patiently informs him to do otherwise.)
Nagin: Dr R has asked me to talk freely. Will it help my sadhana(askesis)?
Sri Aurobindo: R asks you from the medical point of view. He thinks not talking makes you morose, moody, depressed, without vital force. If so and talking will mend that, you must talk. To talk and take pleasure in talking is a natural vital impulse.
Nagin: The Doctor advises me to talk more. Will talking remove the inertia and depression or bring in the vital force necessary to remove them?
Sri Aurobindo: I don’t know whether it will. The Doctor goes upon ordinary psychological grounds, viz. that talking and mixing with others helps to keep the vital active and cheerful, whereas solitude and repression of the social instincts makes one shut up in oneself and can lead to moroseness and melancholy. One can forgo the ordinary freedom of vital interchange only if one has something to support one within, peace or joy or the satisfaction of the inner life. When this inner peace, sukha, or satisfaction (atma-rati) is there, then the need of social talk etc. disappears and it becomes even disturbing or lowering to the consciousness – only talk from the source within or with a true meaning must be felt as tolerable .
So next time you find yourself getting depressed or angry for no legitimate reason, ask yourself whether
- it is because you were recently chatting with a person who was a conduit for these aberrant movements.
- OR it is a cyclical rhythm which is triggered within your consciousness every once in a while, as explained in an earlier post.
- Nagin Doshi. Guidance from Sri Aurobindo, vol 3, pp 94-97.
- Spiritual peace is unknown to theoretical philosophers
- Surmounting the unpleasant images and negative thoughts which occur during meditation
- Vital immobility
- Sri Aurobindo on synchronicity
- Stabilizing the body before meditation
- Gita, Chapter 2, Verse 69 – Inversion of day and night
- Triple movement of Integral Yoga (Witness, Consenter, Enjoyer)
- The equipoise required for Yoga
- Four austerities and four liberations
- Self-control over speech
- All thoughts come from outside
- Identifying the signs of spiritual progress
- Transcending the work-leisure cycle
- Why do we feel afraid and how to overcome it
- The phenomenon of double consciousness
- Rising above ennui or boredom
- Four epistemic methods of consciousness
- On absent-mindedness, instinctive and willful actions
- Why spiritual experiences do not repeat?
- Why does depression last longer than pleasure?