The Conversion of The Vital

The Sense of The Bhagavad Gītā

The conversion of the vital represents an acutely important stage in the integral Yoga, for it is often a sign of fulfilment of a possibility, hitherto hidden or unknown to the traditional systems of Yoga. It is also an important attainment without which no Yogic Siddhi in the physical is possible, either the fulfilment of the physical or the divinisation of Matter in the Supramental. The lower vital abides by a law of its own rather than following a concordant law of the Spirit, and is often a defiant symbol of an unsubtle and crass ignorance of being which refuses to move away from its cherished notions towards a larger, free synthesis of the Spirit. To abide by the Spirit is for the lower vital an impossible condition; it seeks every opportunity to extricate itself out of it by its own devising or by enlisting the help of contrary forces which are generally opposed to the divine Law. The Gita raises the issue in no particular detail or reference except that it admits weakness of self to be inimical to action, and therefore exhorts the aspirant to renounce all forms of weakness in order that the true nature of the divine Spirit within may manifest and govern the being towards a greater sense of fulfilment in action. The Gita also makes a departure from tradition in the sense of its self-assertiveness of a Truth unformulated during the Vedantic cycle but well synthesised into a forceful expression of the divine Godhead standing in a bloodied mess of a gory battlefield, for he sees through the consequence of his involvement in the great battle against Adharma a self-righteous model for humanity to follow, but it is not a model of the ethical mind or the emotional heart but of the Spirit in the manifestation of human destiny,- nor it assumes a superficial predominance over all human impulses and reasoning to assert itself, for the Divine does not impose but only show what is to be followed. It is the choice of the individual which determines his destiny, and the Godhead is nothing more than an occasion to facilitate the right determination of his choices. The point of this determination is more centred in the lower vital than in the reasoning mind, and it is this point which is most difficult to transform. The Gita consolidates its position not by insisting transformation of the vital mind — for the idea of transformation is not to be found in the Gita, though a spiritual prelature pointing to it could be found there — but by advocating self-absorption in the Divine as a way to act perfectly or to a more perfect action by the individual aspirant; but it is a more conscious self-absorption or immersion in the nature of the personal Divine from which flows a higher synthetic action free from the clamour of vital ego and mental confusion, a sacred expression of valour and indomitable will-force of the Kshatriya Spirit against all darkness and opposition. We may be able to carry the essential realisation of the Gita further into a most outward expression of humanity and even equip it with a viable apparatus of its essential spiritual power, but it is more likely to be turned into a mental rule or model than a sincere attempt to preserve and to develop its spiritual synthesis of action into a still heightened realisation hitherto impossible in the nature of the present humanity. Such a heightened realisation tending towards a Supramental transformation not only of the essential human consciousness or part of it but of the whole nature is a natural outcome of an anterior evolution propelled by a greater Power of the Supreme Spirit; we are seeking out of this great movement of the Spirit a conscious transformation of the vital mind into a puissant representative of the Spirit divine here in the terrestrial as in its own sphere.

The foundation of Gita, upon which we rest our higher figures, is indicative of a hidden Superstructure not sufficiently developed by a higher spiritual synthesis but sufficient enough to indicate to us a process to be set in motion towards a possible synthetic approach towards a higher ideal of the Spirit and its divine Apparatus or Superstructure here in the terrestrial consciousness, and it may be mentioned that without the vital’s transformation and its consequent participation a realisation of a profounder spiritual ideal in the terrestrial is impossible, or even if it were to be possible, it may more likely to be of the nature of a retracted and retarded movement moving towards a spiritual compromise, towards a lessor sublimation and intensity of the divine realisation, a tall and mighty edifice of the Spirit but broken of its ankle, and therefore, more likely to tip over and fall into a bottomless pit. A weaker untransformed and recalcitrant vital mind points to a peril and a danger to integral Yoga, if it were to be left to its own whims and fallacy of self. The constitutional nature of man has little or no control of the perverse movement of the vital mind, and where it can exert a little control at all, it is nothing more than a superficial movement of the vital mind arrested confidently by the self-confident human will enthralled of a momentary appearance of power and illusion of a self-dominant control of its surroundings. The higher ranges of the vital mind tend to be more productive towards a higher order of the Spirit; there is a luminous strength there not yet entirely unshackled or completely free from error of instinct in its movement towards the larger plenitudes of the Spirit, though a reversal there might not be as difficult as in the lower ranges. To the seeker of the integral Yoga, the whole vital principle has to be transformed into a principle of limitless puissance of the highest Spirit.

The principle of descent of a higher spiritual force into the constitutional expression of the vital mind holds a key to a profound change of consciousness of the vital being lodged in man, and it is always in the individual that it must be worked out first before attempting in the larger sphere of life where its expression is more diffused, an expression of a collective adamancy in its hard recalcitrance of seemingly unchangeable nature. A change insisted therefore by the higher Light must assume here an already established Power of the Spirit in the human mould as well as in the terrestrial, and the human is the cord connecting the terrestrial stratum to a supreme transforming Power of the Divine above; it is through this cord of conscious Life descends the higher Light into the lower existence to transform Ignorance and Falsehood. A primitive analysis of human psychology would have us believe, not with conclusive evidence though, that this cord of Life-principle can only be determined in the individual as a dominant desire-element which has no precise correlation to the universal principle, and if at all to be seen as corresponding to the universal or the terrestrial, it is only in the exotic and unusual instances of certain geniuses asserting themselves as freaks of Nature divorced from the multitude. And how and by what measure a perfect determination and a consequent transformation of the vital principle could be achieved in the collective consciousness of humanity as a whole? Since the principle of spiritual transformation proceeds on individual lines initially, it is out of the individual comes the possibility of a collective transformation, and a transformation of the human vital is supremely indispensable and therefore cannot be discarded for want of a precise method or because it is inexorably difficult to transform, for it is only when we have embraced the difficulty wholly without pretension or half-measures that we can surmount the impossible negation of the lower and transform it into an infinite expression of the higher. A vital resistance to a spiritual and Supramental change of nature comes out of a natural discord and division inherent in the lower nature, of which the external being is a confused amalgamation with only a surface coherence of a personality held together by the inner Soul which is a direct expression of the Divine in evolution, and without its support the lower can hardly survive even for a second. This disparate external nature compounded by the lower resistance and adamancy cannot be discarded or sidelined in the nature and effort of an integral self-development of the individual, and because so in the individual, therefore not to be discarded or sidelined in the collective development of humanity. Before an all-inclusive and many-sided development of the vital to be attempted, we must pursue its hard resistances and hidden tendencies and meet the brute infidelity of the vital being by a higher Light of the divine Gnosis.

There is in the spiritual seeker a stratum of self-exceeding Powers, each in harmony with the rest and acts as a completer expression of a supreme Light to which our own lower members tend to move, sometimes in part or portion, and while this process seems harmonious enough at the lower levels, the enormity of the problems of the lower vital cannot evade our attention. The lower stratum is made up of disparate elements, each tending to move away from each other, and if they come together at all, it is largely for an ulterior motive based on a self-centred passion for things ignorant and extremely false in nature and constitution. The cord running between higher and lower stratum of the vital is not continuous in the lower ranges, largely broken and highly brittle, and if the higher Light passes through it at all into the disparate and revolting lower portion of the vital mind, it suffers a great disregard and ignominy of rejection by it, for the vital mind the movement of the higher Consciousness is alien to its nature and a threat to its survival as a dysfunctional unit of the lower apparatus; still it is greatly satisfied of its dysfunctionality and broken strength. It is the divine conversion of the vital mind that we are envisaging as part of an integral self-perfection of the individual, and through the possibility and scope of the individual the collective transformation of humanity as a whole, an idea secretly found in the Gita but has remained undeveloped until the advent of the Supramental Gnosis.

We may be able to foist on the mental with some success the rule of the Spirit and force it to turn upwards towards the luminous ranges of the divine Consciousness, though only in a complete self-giving that it may reach its own perfection, but the problem gets more compounded by a brute and an almost automatic rejection in the vital of all that is large, profound and noble; it abhors all sense of freedom in the Spirit as it threatens its existence in the desire-world of its own. Man is a sum of his vital impulses in as much as he is of his mind and his physical consciousness; he is a facade of numerous contradictions in his lower personality, and any sense of harmony is detested by his lower instruments by manufactured disharmony and revolt, a willed ingratitude to the descending Spirit and its illimitable consciousness, power, joy and truth. The way of surrender to the personal God as insisted and explained by the Gita is only a first step towards finding the unifying element of the Spirit which reconciles the contradictions of the vital mind in a greater harmony and strength. It was a synthesisation of a method of spiritual approach to perfection of the desire-soul in a seed form, the larger implications and development of it were left to the later ages to work themselves out, but in the subsequent ages which followed prior to the iron age there was already a decline of the spiritual virtue and strength of man leading to a point at which humanity would inevitably lose its daring spirit and sense of adventure, would turn itself into a mocking stock and a contrary movement of God in evolution. Needless to say, we are seeking through this darkness and powerlessness a principle of the Spirit directly established in the lower as well as in the higher vital, a power of a supreme Gnosis in a too ignorant, self-revolting lower determinism. But it is only in a transformed, self-giving and self-aware determinism that the highest Spirit can descend and transform the lower into a direct principle of a higher Consciousness and Truth.

In the mind, the principle of self-giving is more of a movement towards the Spirit than an action emanating out of force of thought as in the case of the vital where all its movements are a force in action but often turbid, mixed and impure, a movement of force away from the Spirit, and in its movement it carries a contrary impulse, an element of revolt to the rule of the higher for the sake of its lower impurities and attachments. It also carries a natural resistance to the higher influence, to its transmuting touch by invigorating the lower in an impure and exalted ecstasy and turning it against the spiritual light and consciousness. This deviousness of the lower mind is largely aided by forces inimical to the practise of spiritual Yoga, for in their efforts to continually retard and maim the progressive manifestation of the Spirit in life as elsewhere they always try to lead the soul of man away from the Divine by exploiting the natural weaknesses in him to serve their various ends. It may also be emphasised — because it is more likely to lead to a misconception than clarity if left unexplained — that the lower vital of man is not a typal evil or a willing participant in the act of self-revolt or in the movement away from the Divine; the lower vital is simply ignorant of the plenitudes of the Spirit, of its infinite ecstasy and delight of existence, and it may also be said that it is ignorant of its own higher destiny in the Spirit, the heights to which it can ascend and be spirit-like in a greater puissance of God than to be caught in the web of a dark life aided and controlled largely by the contrary forces. To be able to establish there a sense of self-giving, a certain power of self-turning to the Divine is both necessary and indispensable as part of a wider and larger self-development of the individual, for in the nature of an ascending aspiration lies an integral sense of inclusiveness, a wider embrace in which all the lower members find their footing and right note and all their discordant elements are harmonised by a greater Truth than the moral and mental rule of the lower consciousness.

A decisive method of Yoga by which the lower vital like the other lower determinisms could be turned upwards towards the Divine might seem more than just viable and practical, though in order that it may be possible at all in practise the individual has to strive to change the nature of his lower being into an intimate, infinite expression of the Spirit, and this striving is not born of a moral, ethical or religious principle but out of one’s own willingness and self-determination to change oneself from what he is presently in the ignorance of his being into what he might become in the nature of the higher divine Consciousness, a luminous strength of the all-Spirit in self-manifestation.

Painting by Priti Ghosh

End of part 12

The Sense of the Bhagavad Gita — Introduction

The Sense of the Bhagavad Gita — Sense of Nationalism

The Sense of the Bhagavad Gita — The Forms of Governance

The Sense of the Bhagavad Gita — Vidya or Education

The Sense of the Bhagavad Gita — The Sign and Symbol of a Teacher

The Sense of the Bhagavad Gita — The Nature and Dynamics of Spiritual Action

The Sense of the Bhagavad Gita — The Guide within

The Sense of the Bhagavad Gita — The Conduct of a Disciple

The Sense of the Bhagavad Gita — God in humanity

The Sense of the Bhagavad Gita — God, The Destroyer

The Sense of the Bhagavad Gita — God, The Saviour

The Sense of the Bhagavad Gita — The Conversion of The Mental

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