When the protective walls of the surface being give way as the seeker enters the inner planes, access to the vital planes may occur, with all of the beings, powers and forces at work there having suddenly direct interchange with the seeker. Sometimes these forces are intimidating, sometimes, very subtle and manipulative, sometimes helping the seeker, and at other times, attempting to achieve their own goals by controlling or misleading the seeker. Traditional paths of yoga counsel the development of basic controls by the seeker in order to minimize the potential negative impact when one is confronted with the forces at work on other planes and their allurements or enticements. Patanjali formalized this into the practices known as the Yamas and the Niyamas, certain physical and moral practices built in to steady the seeker and help him maintain balance when other powers become directly active. The sages speak about the preparations needed to practice yoga, and they provide the example of the ‘unbaked jar’ which is unable to hold the force when it enters.

Sri Aurobindo approaches these subjects with an approach that seeks to open the psychic and spiritual planes first, supporting the development of the devotion, dedication, and spiritual focus which then can permeate the mind and heart, prior to opening of the centers or chakras that interact with the vital forces and planes of existence.

One of the risks of the traditional approach called ‘kundalini yoga’ is that the force rising up from the base Muladhara Chakra opens upward successively through the various centers of the vital nature before finally reaching the heart, the mind and the levels beyond mind. Imbalance and disorientation can occur that can bring about mental disturbances, emotional disruptions, energetic imbalances and even illness and death. Sri Aurobindo’s approach helps to overcome this danger by providing a solid foundation of directed aspiration, faith and surrender and a mental clarity that understands and appreciates the dangers of the vital opening for an unprepared and unprotected seeker. He also counsels the assistance of an experienced guide at the point any of these openings occur and focuses the seeker on the spiritual actions rather than on trying to actively enter and develop the relation to these vital planes or worlds.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “Your three experiences related in your letter mean that you are going out in your vital body into the vital worlds and meeting the beings and formations of these worlds. The old man of the temple and the girls you saw are hostile beings of the vital plane.”

“It is better not to go in this way unless one has the protection of someone (physically present) who has knowledge and power on the vital world. As there is no one there who can do this for you, you should draw back from this movement. Aspire for perfect surrender, calm, peace, light, consciousness and strength in the mind and the heart. When the mental being and the psychic being are thus open, luminous and surrendered, then the vital can open and receive the same illumination. Till then premature adventures on the vital plane are not advisable.” Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 7, Experiences and Realisations, Exteriorisation, pp. 199-200

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at http://sriaurobindostudies.wordpress.com and podcast at https://anchor.fm/santosh-krinsky He is author of 16 books and is editor in chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.