Most people associate the will-power with the mind. We concentrate on achieving something and we “set our mind to it” and exercise our will. When the issue turns to overcoming vital habits or bodily weaknesses, however, we find that the mental will is much less effective, and in many cases, we try to resort to various methods of brute force to gain control over them. What we fail to recognise in all of this is that the mental will is most effective on the mental plane, but that there are also a vital will and a physical will. When we say someone is being “willful” we generally are referring to a vital action that goes contrary to our mental conception of how things should be.

The mental will and the vital will, through their interaction with the physical body, can have an impact on health, yet, in the end, it is the body’s own will that determines health. Most people do not consider the body and its cells to be conscious and therefore able to have an expression of “will”. They look on the body purely as a type of ‘machinery’. Yet if we examine the body more closely, we see activities that go beyond simple machinery, and of course, the ‘machinery’ view only goes so far before it breaks down. Clearly it is not the mind that created the machinery nor can it control the machinery at the cellular level. Similarly, the vital force, while it animates the physical body, clearly is not the designer and developer of the cellular action. The mind does not direct cells on how to carry out their specific functions, nor does the vital.

At the cellular level, there are numerous functions that indicate a level of intelligence and self-direction such as the ability of cells to assimilate and then produce energy, the action of the immune cells, the coding and replication of the detailed cellular structures and function, the interactive nature of the different organs to coordinate together to create a living being, etc. The regular action of the immune system is clearly an expression of the body’s will to health. It is aided by the protective action of the vital sheath, or aura, but when once an illness gets inside that envelope, it is the immune system that takes up the effort to restore the health. Medicines applied from outside are adjuncts or aids to the body’s own resistance to disease or illness.

In The Mother’s Agenda, the Mother goes into a deep, and experiential review, of the cellular action and the aspiration and intentionality that takes place at the cellular level. As part of this review, she makes clear that external treatments or medicines only go a certain distance toward restoring and maintaining health: it is the internal cellular response, the ‘will’ in the cells, that is the true source of health and vibrant energy.

The Mother notes: “Wake up in yourself a will to conquer. Not a mere will in the mind but a will in the very cells of your body. Without that you can’t do anything; you may take a hundred medicines but they won’t cure you unless you have a will to overcome the physical illness.”

“The body is cured if it has decided to be cured.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Disturbances of the Body and Physical Consciousness, Will, Discipline, Endurance, pp. 88-90

Author's Bio: 

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