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The vital-emotional sheath

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The vital-emotional sheath
by Atman Nityananda

The Vital energy (Life energy, prana in Sanskrit) is the life force in all living beings; it has two aspects the Physical and Psychic Vital energy and carries out all physiological and psychological functions. All physical functions, such as those of the cardiovascular system, musculoskeletal system, digestive system and all other bodily systems, are performed by the physical vital energy (physical prana). Likewise, all psychological functions such as thinking, imagination, feelings, emotions and all other mental and emotional processes are performed by the vital-psychic energy (psychic prana). It follows that the vital-emotional sheath and all vital-emotional expressions are related to the vital-psychic energy.

When psychic life energy is dominated by desire, greed, passion, ambitions and ego, then it brings disorder and disharmony and becomes the main source of pain and suffering. When purified from lower emotions and harmonized, the vital enable us to experience the happiness of sattva and the peace, plenitude and bliss of our true Self or Consciousness. Since time immemorial the humans developed a distorted state of vital energy and all low vital-emotional disturbances (greed, lasciviousness, anger, fear, envy, etc.). 

These disturbances of the vital sheath are connected with sexual energy which has taken in human beings the form of lust. Paramahansa Yogananda and Samael Aun Weor speak of the degradation and attachment of human consciousness to the body and sensory experiences and the development of egoic tendencies due to sexual activity. The forbidden apple of Eden for Adam and Eve was sexual union only for pleasure through orgasms, instead of conserving and transforming sexual energy into spiritual energy (Ojas and Tejas). Gurdjieff and Samael Aun Weor have also said that this degradation occurred because of the organ of kundartiguador or kundabaffer.

The seed of the original error of “Adam and Eve” remains in all human beings as the first temptation of the flesh against the immaculate laws of Spirit (‘touch not the tree in the centre of the garden!’). Each individual since that dim era has had to engage his soul in battle with the cosmically present temptation of sex.

Man and woman, instead of seeking emancipation in God through soul unity, sought satisfaction through the flesh. 

The sex impulse is the single most physically magnetic power that pulls the life and consciousness down from Spirit in the higher centres in the brain, out through the coccygeal centre into matter and body consciousness. The beginner in yoga meditation experiences all too definitely how grounded he is by the stubborn attachment of his life and energy to the body, sometimes without realizing that it is his uncontrolled thoughts and acts of sex that are primarily responsible for his earthbound condition.   

 ~ Paramahamsa Yogananda 

The connection of sexual energy, the mind and the vital energy (prana) affirms clearly Swami Sivananda in the following extract:
Mind, Prana and Veerya (sexual energy or semen) are one.
By controlling the mind, you can control Prana and semen (
sexual energy).
By controlling Prana you can control the mind and semen 
(sexual energy).
By controlling semen 
(sexual energy), you can control the mind and Prana.

  ~ Swami Sivananda

Dr. Freud had also found that sexuality plays a major role in human life and that is related with human behaviour as well as with human neurosis and other psychological imbalances. He named this unconscious impulse for sexual pleasure and any kind of sense pleasure id.

According Dr. Freud the id is the impulsive and unconscious part of our psyche which responds directly and immediately to the instincts including the sex instinct. It operates on the pleasure principle which is the idea that every wishful impulse should be satisfied immediately, regardless of the consequences. The id demands immediate satisfaction and when this happens, we experience pleasure, when it is denied, we experience ‘frustration’ or pain.  The id engages in a process of thinking, which is primitive illogical, irrational, and fantasy oriented. Impatience, like-dislike, anger, hatred, anxiety, fear and depression are the emotions that are directly related with the id

Dr.Freud investigated people with psychological disturbances and diseases but he didn’t study yogis, saints or people of a high level of consciousness. He didn’t also investigate the positive aspects or the spiritual aspects of sexuality as well as he didn’t investigate the higher capacities of the human mind and the Soul. Nevertheless, he was a pioneer for his age and he gave us a very deep knowledge about the human subconscious mind and its disfunctioning; this knowledge at some degree can be very useful for anyone who works for the dissolution of his egoic mind and the desire mechanism. 

Sri Aurobindo refers to the vital sheath as the vital proper, which is acting with impulses, emotions, desires, ambitions, etc. He says that all lower vital-emotional formations are related to the outer heart while the higher or psychic feelings, the intuitive yearnings and impulses of the Soul to the inner heart. According Aurobindo the vital proper has four parts: 1. The mental vital, 2. The emotional vital, 3. The central vital and 4. The lower vital.

 The mental vital has as its seat the region from the throat to the heart and gives a mental expression by thought, imagination and speech or otherwise to the emotions, desires, passions, sensations and other movements of the vital.

The emotional vital has its seat is the outer heart and expresses various feelings such as, love, joy, sorrow, hatred and the rest.

The central vital has as its seat the region from the heart to navel and expresses the stronger vital longings, and reactions such as ambition, pride, fear, love of fame and power, attractions repulsions, desires, passions of various kinds.

The lower vital has as its seat the region below the navel and is occupied with desires and emotions such as make the greater party of the daily life e.g. food desire, sexual desire, small likings and dislikings, vanity, quarrels, anger at blame, little wishes of all kind and a numberless host of other things.

He considers that the expressions of the mind (thoughts, imagination, ideas, beliefs) and the vital-emotional expressions (desire, anger, envy, greed, lasciviousness, etc.) are separate forces in themselves that blend together when they emerge into surface consciousness.

Αccording Aurobindo the Mental vital (which is the higher aspect of the vital sheath) functions as a mediator between vital-emotions, desires, impulsions, etc. and the mind. The Mental vital throws in the mind the vital desires, emotions, feelings, passions, ambitions, possessive and active tendencies of the vital where they take the form of imaginations or dreams of greatness, pleasure, fear, happiness, etc. Through the Mental Vital, the vital passions, emotions, impulses, desires, ascend and enter the intellect (buddhi) and, as a result, cloud or distort it. 

The impure vital sheath is the seat of the lower rajasotamasic ego and all its expressions. The ego related to the vital sheath it is called Vital-emotional ego and is the one which clouds and distorts mind and intellect and create all misery, pain and sorrow.  Egoism, lust, desire, pride, negative emotions, pain-body and the sense ‘the body is me’ are all formations of the distorted psychic vital energy. All innumerable expressions of ego such as likes, dislikes, repulsion, attraction, fear, anger, greed, impatience, irritability, depression, guilty, etc. are only expressions of the Vital-emotional ego.

It is the Vital-ego the greatest impediment of the spiritual practice (sadhana) and inner growth and transformation and the cause of all distortions and false understanding about ourselves, others, spiritual life and practice and Self-realization. The vital has also a perverse aspect which keep us attached to pain and suffering and prevents us from letting go suffering and the negative emotional states.

The vital-emotional sheath and pain-body

The vital-emotional ego uses thoughts and imagination to intensify the pleasure or the pain related to a situation (whatever it is). In reality, the external situations are only opportunities for the Vital-ego to project itself and experience the same pleasure or pain that is accumulated in the vital sheath and the subconscious.

When there is not a strong enough external stimulus to cause an experience of pleasure or pain for the vital-emotional ego, then the Vital-ego creates a feeling of incompleteness, discontentment, dissatisfaction, uneasiness or boredom. This inner state impels the mind to think and find some stimulus to give some pleasure to the vital ego (eating something that is sweet is the easiest stimulus).

If the external circumstances do not give the vital-emotional ego any chance to experience a pleasure, the vital-emotional ego manipulates the imagination and thoughts to experience it virtually. In fact, the almost continuous compulsive thinking which is accompanied with mental images is created by the vital-emotional ego using the mind to experience the same emotions, desires, passions, pleasures and pains again and again.

The internet, tv and the cinema are very useful tools for the vital-emotional ego to experience pleasure when there is no possibility for real sense stimulus. For example, if the ego likes sex pleasure and a mate is not available the vital-emotional ego uses the technology (video-movie in pc, cell phone, tv, etc.) to substitute the real stimulus with a virtual one.

All expectations, ambitions, desires, fears, anger, jealousy, impatience, discontent, agony, anxiety, greed, possessiveness, domination, violence etc. and the sense ‘I am the body” are only expressions of the vital ego.

A part of the vital-emotional ego is so perverted that likes also pain and suffering.Sri Aurobindo also refers to this perverse part of the vital-emotional ego which attaches to pain and suffering and even finds pleasure on it.
There is also something perverse in the vital which takes a kind of dramatic pleasure in its own misery and tragedy even in degradation or illness.
..It cries out against sorrow and trouble and acuses the Divine in life and everybody else of torturing it, but for the most part the sorrow and the trouble come and remain because the perverse something in the vital wants them

   ~ Sri Aurobindo

The pain-body that Eckhart Tolle refers to is the impure vital sheath. Eckhart Tolle denotes as pain-body the emotional pain that is accumulated as a negative energy field in our bodies and minds. This pain-body is attached to pain and wants to perpetuate itself and experience again and again the same frequency of psychic vital energy in the form of anger, fear, depression, feeling victim, guilty, etc.

The vital-emotional ego in the form of desire (for pleasure, fame, name, money and possessions, etc.) functions as does the vital-emotional ego in the form of pain-body. This desirous vital-emotional ego is attached to pleasures and wants to perpetuate itself to experience all kind of pleasures (primarily sex pleasure) in eternity. Both, the dissolution of the vital-emotional ego in the form desire for pleasure, money, success, etc. and in the form of all negative or painful emotions are necessary our mind to regain their pristine nature of purity and enjoy the peace and bliss of our divine essence.

Exctracts of Eckhart Tolle about the pain-body

Every emotional pain that you experience leaves behind a residue of pain that lives on in you. It merges with the pain from the past, which was already there, and becomes lodged in your mind and body. This accumulated pain is a negative energy field that occupies your body and mind. It’s the emotional pain-body.

Some pain-bodies are obnoxious but relatively harmless, for example like a child who won’t stop whining. Others are vicious and destructive monsters, true demons. Some are physically violent; many more are emotionally violent. Some will attack people around you or close to you, while others may attack you, their host. Thoughts and feelings you have about your life then become deeply negative and self-destructive. Illnesses and accidents are often created in this way. Some pain-bodies drive their hosts to suicide.

Watch out for any sign of unhappiness in yourself, in whatever form — it may be the awakening pain-body. This can take the form of irritation, impatience, a somber mood, a desire to hurt, anger, rage, depression, a need to have some drama in your relationship, and so on. Catch it the moment it awakens from its dormant state.

The pain-body wants to survive, just like every other entity in existence, and it can only survive if it gets you to unconsciously identify with it.

Once the pain-body has taken you over, you want more pain. You become a victim or a perpetrator. You want to inflict pain, or you want to suffer pain, or both. There isn’t really much difference between the two. You are not conscious of this, of course, and will vehemently claim that you do not want pain. But look closely and you will find that your thinking and behavior are designed to keep the pain going, for yourself and others. If you were truly conscious of it, the pattern would dissolve, for to want more pain is insanity, and nobody is consciously insane.