Most people look at what they consider to be their personality in a very simple and straightforward manner. The mixture of ideas, thought-process, emotional responses, vital reactions, desires and physical needs and cravings is simply ‘who they are’. When they conclude that something needs to change, they try any number of strategies such as invoking resolutions, development of will-power, or even, various forms of self-education and training of some aspect of their being. In all of this, they tend not to identify nor recognise the different aspects of their being and the different energetic forces at work in these various levels.

It is at this point that the psychological wisdom of the chakras becomes evident. The chakras are subtle energy centers that successively respond to and transmit different types of energies associated either with the physical being, the vital being or the mental being, in an ascending order of development. The chakra system implicitly has to recognise that there are various different types of energy that work on different levels of the being, and it thereby opens up an entire range of human psychological understanding that is not widely appreciated nor understood in the West.

The Mother notes: “The ordinary human being is conscious only in his physical being, and only in relatively rare moments is he conscious of his mind, just a little more frequently of his vital, but all this is mixed up in his consciousness, so much so that he would be quite unable to say, ‘This movement comes from the mind, this from the vital, this from the physical.’ This already asks for a considerable development in order to be able to distinguish within oneself the source of the different movements one has. And it is so mixed that even when one tries, at the beginning it is very difficult to classify and separate one thing from another.”

“It is as when one works with colours, takes three or four or five different colours and puts them in the same water and beats them up together, it makes a grey, indistinct and incomprehensible mixture, you see, and one can’t say which is red, which blue, which green, which yellow; it is something dirty, lots of colours mixed. So first of all one must do this little work of separating the red, blue, yellow, green — putting them like this, each in its corner. It is not at all easy.”

“I have met people who used to think themselves extremely intelligent, by the way, who thought they knew a lot, and when I spoke to them about the different parts of the being they looked at me like this (gesture) and asked me, ‘But what are you speaking about?’ They did not understand at all. I am speaking of people who have the reputation of being intelligent. They don’t understand at all. For them it is just the consciousness; it is the consciousness — ‘It is my consciousness’ and then there is the neighbour’s consciousness; and again there are things which do not have any consciousness. And then I asked them whether animals had a consciousness; so they began to scratch their head and said, ‘Perhaps it is we who put our consciousness in the animal when we look at it,’ like that….”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Our Many Selves: Practical Yogic Psychology, Chapter 1, Our Manifold Being, pp. 1-2

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 17 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.