Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

Que la naissance de la nouvelle année soit une nouvelle naissance pour notre conscience! Laissant le passé loin derrière nous, courons vers un avenir lumineux.

- La Mère


Let the birth of the New Year be the new birth of our consciousness! Leaving the past far behind us let us run towards a luminous future.

- The Mother

Monday, December 26, 2011

Change Yourself First

You can do nothing with others unless you are able to do it with yourself. You can never give a good advice to anyone unless you are able to give it to yourself first, and to follow it. And if you see a difficulty somewhere, the best way of changing this difficulty is to change it in yourself first. If you see a defect in anyone, you may be sure it is in you, and you begin to change it in yourself. And when you will have changed it in yourself, you will be strong enough to change it in others. And this is a wonderful thing. People don’t realise what an infinite grace it is that this universe is arranged in such a way that there is a collection of substance, from the most material to the highest spiritual, all that gathered together into what is called a small individual, but at the disposal of a central Will. And that is yours, your field of work, nobody can take it away from you, it is your own property. And to the extent you can work upon it, you will be able to have an action upon the world. But only to that extent. One must do more for oneself, besides, than one does for others.

                                                                                        - THE MOTHER
                                                                                       ( Vol.5 , pp. 19-20)

The call of the future

While on the one hand he attained the acme of his lifelong quest on December 5, 1950, it also became imperative for Sri Aurobindo on the other hand, to leave his body. We can never understand the inside story of this mystery, but this simultaneous victory and defeat constitutes a momentous event in the history of mankind. That the lever of the next evolution has been pulled successfully was confirmed by The Mother through a subsequent breakthrough on February 29, 1956. Besides, it is not without significance that when large parts of the world was engulfed in turmoil in 1968, Auroville blossomed upon the earth with the promise of a new future. Although, The Mother is no more with us for almost four decades, aspirants across the globe invoke her presence and inspiration on a daily basis as though nothing else is more worthwhile in their lives. This also forms collaboration with the earth atmosphere for a leap forward into the next level of evolution.

India, with its 1.21b population, has turned a veritable melting pot with the onset of market economy and cutting edge communication. Plurality of languages, however, is still a bottleneck for spreading messages. The call of the future, nevertheless, would find its medium and nothing is at stake if we are by the side of the time. [TNM55]

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Messages by the Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram

Christmas was designated by the Mother as the festival of the return of the Light .)

May the New Light illumine your thoughts and your lives,
govern your hearts and guide your action.

Joyeux Noel.
Let us celebrate the Light by letting it enter into us.

If you want peace upon earth, first establish peace in your heart.
If you want union in the world, first unify the different parts of your being.

Bon Noel to all.

Bon Noel to all, in Peace and Joy.
May this new Christmas be for you the advent of a new light, higher and purer.

Union and goodwill upon earth.
Behind the rigidity of the outward celebrations there is a living symbol;
it is this that we must remember.

Peace and goodwill to all.
Unless a break is made with the habits and the beliefs of the past,
there is little hope of advancing rapidly towards the future.

Love the Truth.
Let the light dawn in your consciousness.
Blessings to all.

Hail the new light.
That it may grow in all hearts.

The time has come for the rule of falsehood to end.
In the Truth alone is salvation.

We want to show to the world that man can become a true servitor of the Divine.
Who will collaborate in all sincerity ?

* *

The Mother's prayer to Father Christmas)

Father Christmas,
I evoke you today!
Answer our call. Come bearing all your marvellous gifts.
You are the great dispenser of worldly possessions;
you are the untiring friend who hears every request
and grants it generously.
Give each one the material object he desires,
and as for me, give me enough,
give me much so that I may give largely to all.

Significances of the gifts offered by the three Magi to Jesus at the time of his birth )

Gold: wealth of the world and supramental knowledge.
Frankincense: purification of the vital.
Myrrh: immortalisation of the body.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Inauguration of a Sugar Factory

I went to inaugurate the sugar factory the other day. I had an amusing experience.
From the material point of view, it's almost hellish – the noise, the smell – a nauseating smell. I had to apply all my will not to be physically disturbed – they made me climb up narrow little stairs, go down, climb back up, look into deep pits. At some places there weren't even guardrails, so I had really to control myself.
I was watching all this sugar cane – piles of sugar cane – which is thrown into the machine, and then it travels along and falls down to be crushed, crushed, and crushed some more. And then it comes back up to be distilled. And then I saw... all this is living when it's thrown in, you see, it's full of its vital force, for it has just been cut. As a result, the vital force is suddenly hurled out of the substance with an extreme violence – the vital force comes out... the English word angry is quite expressive of what I mean – like a snarling dog. An angry force.
So I saw this – I saw it moving about. And it kept coming and coming and coming, accumulating, piling up (they work 24 hours a day, six days a week – only on the seventh do they rest). So I thought that this angry force must have some effect on the people – who knows, maybe this is what creates accidents. For I could see that once the sugar cane was fully crushed and had gone back up the chute, this force that had been beaten out was right there. And this worried me a little; I thought that there must be a certain danger in doing such a thing!... What saves them is their ignorance and their insensitivity. But Indians are never entirely insensitive in the way Westerners are – they are much more open in their subconscious.
I didn't speak of it to anyone, but it caused me some concern. And just the next day the machine broke down! When I was informed, immediately I thought... It was then repaired, and again it broke down – three times. Then the following night, just before ten o'clock... I should mention that during the day I had thought, “But why not attract these forces to our side, take them and satisfy them, give them some peace and joy and use them?” I thought about it, concentrated a little, but then I didn't bother any further. At ten o'clock that evening, they came upon me – in a flood! They kept coming and coming. And I was busy with them the whole time. They were not ugly (not so luminous either!), they were wholesome, straightforward – honest forces. So I worked on them. This began exactly at 9:30, and for one hour I was busy working. After an hour, I'd had enough: “Listen, this is quite fine, you're very nice, but I can't spend all my time like this! We shall see what to do later” – for it absorbed my whole consciousness. They kept coming and coming (you understand what that means to a body?!). So at 10:30 I told them, “Listen, my little ones, be quiet now, that's enough for today...” At 10:30, the machine broke down!
I found out, of course, because they log everything at the factory, so when they came to inform me of the breakdown the next morning, I asked them what time it had happened – exactly 10:30.
After that, I made a kind of pact with them – the trouble, you see, is that there are constantly new ones. If only they were the same! They are constantly coming in new floods, so there was the need of a permanent formation over there. I've tried to make this permanent formation, to take and absorb them, to calm them down and scatter them a little so they don't accumulate in one spot, which in the end could be dangerous.
I found this quite amusing.
The most recent incident took place a few days ago, for there was a general excitement in the factory due to the expected visit of a government minister during the day. That afternoon, exactly at half past three, I felt that I had to make a little concentration. So I paid attention and saw poor L praying to me. He was praying, praying, calling me – such a strong call that it pulled me. I was having my bath (you know what happens when I'm very strongly pulled – I'm stopped right in the very midst of a gesture, then the consciousness goes wandering off! And I can't do anything, it stops me dead. That's exactly what happened to me in the bathroom). When I saw what was happening, I straightened things out. Then they must have had their ceremony, for suddenly I felt, “Ah, now it has calmed down, it's all right.” And I went on to something else.
The next day, L came to see me. He told me that shortly before 3:30, the machine had stopped once again, but this time it was quickly set right; they found out right away what had to be done. And then he told me that at 3:45 he had started praying to me that all should go well. “Oh, I know!” I said.
Things can be done in this way. In truth, a lot can be done – it's man's ignorance that gets him in trouble.
-      The Mother
("Mother's Agenda")

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity by Georges Van Vrekhem

"The animal is a living laboratory in which Nature has, it is said, worked out man. Man himself may well be a thinking and living laboratory in whom and with whose conscious cooperation she wills to work out the superman1." Sri Aurobindo wrote these words almost a century ago in what is generally considered his magnum opus, The Life Divine. Today his name is not unknown, but the contents and significance of his vision and spiritual work undoubtedly are. His philosophic vision was and remains revolutionary. All past and present spiritual and religious efforts are directed towards a Hereafter – Heaven, Nirvana, Brahmaloka, etc. – but Sri Aurobindo stuck to the fundamental meaning of the : if all is That, then matter, the earth and our physical body also are That. "Brahman is the Alpha and the Omega. Brahman is the One besides whom there is nothing else existent2."

Sri Aurobindo's vision is also evolutionary. If Brahman (the Absolute) is All, and if there is nothing but Brahman, then everything that is, wherever or whenever, must be Brahman. This means that all the gradations of being are the Divine himself – although Brahman also exists beyond his emanations as the silent Brahman, "self-absorbed". In the gradations of the manifestation, which are as many levels of worlds encompassing the Divine Being, Brahman incorporates Itself in various degrees of substance, from the highest planes of Existence-Consciousness-Bliss down to the lowest of Matter and the Inconscient. Evolution can only happen if there is something to evolve from. If evolution as we know it started with matter, then all that developed out of it must already have been involved in it. "Matter also is Brahman3." "Present in every atom of Matter all this is necessarily present in everything which is formed by the aggregation of those atoms, and they are present in the atom because they are present in the Force which builds up and constitutes the atom4."

The human being stands somewhere halfway on the evolutionary ladder, between the material, vegetable and animal kingdom, and the reaches above the human mind. "This Man is the Manu, the thinker, the Manomaya Purusha, mental person or soul in mind of the ancient sages. No mere superior animal is he, but a conceptive soul basing itself on the animal body in Matter5." Far from seeking a means to escape the stringent conditions of the earth and the earthly body, Sri Aurobindo, together with his co-seeker known as the Mother, tackled the human condition head-on. This meant a revaluation of human life and its evolutionary environment. "The touch of Earth is always reinvigorating to the son of Earth, even when he seeks a supraphysical Knowledge. It may even be said that the supraphysical can only be really mastered in its fullness ... when we keep our feet firmly on the physical. 'Earth is His footing', says the Upanishad whenever it images the Self that manifests in the universe6."

One problem with which philosophy and psychology have been wrestling since their beginning, and of which one finds traces on every page of the writings on these subjects, is the image of the human being. The testimony of a "divination" of something better, higher, deeper, more beautiful, truer, crops up everywhere. Yet the opinions about the means of the realisation of those supremely desirable things differ with each and every authority. For these means are inherent in the human being itself. And how shall it find its accomplishment if it has no clear idea of how it fits together and how it functions, physically, psychologically and spiritually? For instance, does the human have a triple soul, as we read in Plato, or is his nature a duality of a physical body and the "epiphenomenon" of a rational soul, as we find in Descartes? How can the human being know itself, master itself and work out its potentialities if it has no clear idea of its own constitution?

A second fundamental problem is the gap supposedly existing between the human being, child of the Earth, and God. It is dogmatically taught that God sits too high to be met by a lowly, earthly creature, and many mystics who experienced otherwise have paid dearly for their unorthodoxy. But the evolutionary ladder or "chain of being" is a reality according to which we live, whether we look down or up from our rung on that ladder. Sri Aurobindo was the first to describe accurately the levels above our rational mind, basing himself on hoary scripture and on his own thoroughly tested experience. It is from those levels that descend our inspirations and aspirations (from where else?), and so did the riches of the "golden ages" which ornate, on rather rare occasions, the history of mankind. And above that he discovered, glorious intermediary between us and the Divine, the Sun of the Supermind.

The Supermind is not an inflated mind, as readers of Friedrich Nietzsche might suppose. It is a supra-mind, the manifesting power of the Divine, the Real-Idea, the reality behind and in all, because its stuff is the Godhead itself. "We have to regard this all-containing, all-originating, all-consummating Supermind as the matter of the Divine Being, not indeed in its absolute self-existence, but as the Lord and Creator of its own worlds. This is the truth of that which we call God7." The Supermind is the executive power of the divine manifestation as a whole and a unity; it is the essential reality of the galaxy and the grain of sand, neither of which could exist without it. Thus we are back at our first quotation, announcing the evolution of the superman, the incarnation of the Supermind on earth. For Sri Aurobindo and the Mother the superman as a race is the future of humanity, and his realisation the rationale of the world and its creation.

Yes, we are still far from the apparition of such a godlike being. Therefore Sri Aurobindo's vision is one of the very few that does not predict or promise an immediate completion. But the signs that the Earth is "in travail", as he writes, have become unmistakable. In 1947 he formulated what he called his 'five dreams', key-notes which he had expounded in his writings during the First World War, at a time when their fulfilment looked improbable, not to say impossible. They were: the freedom of India, which has an important role to play in humanity's future; the awakening of Asia; the formation of supranational conglomerates, like the European Union and ASEAN, which would lead to the unification of humankind; world-unity; and the spreading of the Indian spirituality and its techniques of self-realisation, necessary for the change in the human being without which a better future is not feasible.

None of these five dreams is fully realised, but all five have arrived at a substantial degree of elaboration, and this in an amazingly short time when compared to processes of a similar importance in the human past. No doubt, the world is growing one, and behind this decisive evolution there may well be what Sri Aurobindo foresaw in his writings a century ago, for instance in his essay The Ideal of Human Unity. The post-modern professional philosophers have come to doubt the workings of the mind and the visions or fantasies it has produced. But for the ancient Greeks philosophy was much more than a way of thinking, it was a way of being, and so it has always been for the true sages in East and West. Ultimately, what is of importance is not what humans think, but what they inwardly become. And the true evolution, the evolution of matter and spirit, will never cease pushing humanity towards its goal. This may well be the equation behind the universe: that in the end the happiness, or joy, or ecstasy, or bliss, should at least be equivalent to the suffering required to arrive there. The secret soul in the humans will give them no repose, says Sri Aurobindo, for it is the Godhead working out Its cycles.

All shall be done for which our pain was borne.
Even as of old man came behind the beast
This high divine successor surely shall come
Behind man's inefficient mortal pace ...
Inheritor of the toil of human time
He shall take on him the burden of the gods;
All heavenly light shall visit the earth's thoughts,
The might of heaven shall fortify earthly hearts;
Earth's deeds shall touch the superhuman's heights,
Earth's seeing widen into the infinite.8

1. Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, p. 4.
2. Id., p. 33.
3. Id., p. 6.
4. Id., p.184.
5. Id., p. 46.
6. Id., p. 11.
7. Id., p. 132.
8. Sri Aurobindo, Savitri, book three, canto four.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

On suicide, euthanasia, and capital punishment

Benjamin Franklin famously said that there are two things we cannot escape: death and taxes (he didn’t know about tax shelters).  In this article, we cover observations made by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother Mirra Alfassa on some taxing questions related to death – suicide, euthanasia and capital punishment.
Both Sri Aurobindo and the Mother were adamantly opposed to any talk of suicide emanating from their disciples or others whose lives they touched.  The only exception allowed was in the case of an enlightened individual who, after realizing his true identity and being free from Karma, might choose to cast off the physical body
These are some observations made by them on the matter.  The first passage is from Sri Aurobindo’s commentary on the Upanishads:
When a man dies in great pain, or in great grief or in great agitation of mind and his last thoughts are full of fear, rage, pain or horror, then the Jivatman (soul) in theSukshmasharir (subtle body) is unable to shake off these impressions from his mind for years, sometimes for centuries. The reason of this is the law of death; death is a moment of great concentration when the departing spirit gathers up the impressions of its mortal life, as a host gathers provender for its journey, and whatever impressions are predominant at that moment, govern its condition afterwards Hence the importance, even apart from Mukti(liberation), of living a clean and noble life and dying a calm & strong death.  For if the ideas & impressions then uppermost are such as associate the self with this gross body and the vital functions, i.e. to say, with the lower upadhi, then the soul remains long in a tamasic condition of darkness & suffering, which we call Patal or in its worst forms Hell.  If the ideas & impressions uppermost are such as associate the self with the mind and the higher desires then the soul passes quickly through a short period of blindness to a rajaso-sattwic condition of light & pleasure and wider knowledge, which we call Paradise, Swarga or Behesta(Bengali word for heaven), from which it will return to birth in this world; if the ideas & impressions are such as to associate the self with the higher understanding & the bliss of the Self, the soul passes quickly to a sattwic condition of highest bliss which we call Heaven or Brahmaloka and thence it does not return. But if we have learned to identify for ever the self with the Self, then before death we become God and after death we shall not be other.  For there are three states of MayaTamasic illusion,Rajasic illusion, and Sattwic illusion; and each in succession we must shake off to reach that which is no illusion, but the one and only truth.
The Sruti (divine revelation) says then that those who slay themselves go down into the nether world of gloom, for they have associated the self with the body and fancied that by getting rid of this body, they will be free, but they have died full of impressions of grief, impatience, disgust and pain. In that state of gloom they are continually repeating the last scene of their life, its impressions and its violent disquiet, and until they have worn off these, there is no possibility of Shanti for their minds. Let no man in his folly or impatience court such a doom [1].
In this conversation, the Mother elucidates that after suicide, one is thrust into tenebrous worlds where one can be tormented by malevolent beings who feed off one’s vitality like vampires.   The suffering after suicide is far worse than the suffering that might induce one to commit suicide.
Disciple: Why does one suffer when one commits suicide?
Mother: Why does one commit suicide? Because one is a coward…When one is cowardly one always suffers.
Disciple: In the next life one suffers again?
Mother: The psychic being comes with a definite purpose to go through a set of experiences and to learn and make progress. Then if you leave before its work is finished it will have to come back to do it again under much more difficult conditions. So all that you have avoided in one life you will find again in another, and more difficult. And even without leaving in this way, if you have difficulties to overcome in life, you have what we usually call a test to pass, you see; well, if you don’t pass it or turn your back upon it, if you go away instead of passing it, you will have to pass it another time and it will be much more difficult than before.
Now people, you know, are extremely ignorant and they think that it is like this: there is life, and then death; life is a bunch of troubles, and then death is an eternal peace. But it is not at all like that. And usually when one goes out of life in an altogether arbitrary way and in an ignorant and obscure passion, one goes straight into a vital world made of all these passions and all this ignorance. So the troubles one wanted to avoid one finds again without even having the protection which the body gives, for – if you have ever had a nightmare, that is, a rash excursion in the vital world, well, your remedy is to wake yourself up, that is to say, to rush back immediately into your body. But when you have destroyed your body you no longer have a body to protect you. So you find yourself in a perpetual nightmare, which is not very pleasant. For, to avoid the nightmare you must be in a psychic consciousness, and when you are in a psychic consciousness you may be quite sure that things won’t trouble you. It is indeed the movement of an ignorant darkness and, as I said, a great cowardice in front of the sustained effort to be made[2].
A disciple asked the Mother to elucidate on the case in the Ramayana scripture whereRama voluntarily relinquishes his life.
Disciple: The Ramayana says that when Rama saw that his work on earth was finished, he entered the river Sarayu along with his companions. This looks like mass suicide and suicide is regarded as the greatest sin. How to understand this?
1.   For the Supreme there is no sin.
2.   For the devotee there is no greater sin than to be far from the Lord.
3.   At the time when the Ramayana was conceived and written, the knowledge revealed by Sri Aurobindo that the earth will be transformed into a divine world and an abode of the Supreme was not known or accepted.
      If you consider these three points you will understand the legend. (Although it may be that the actual facts were not as they have been told.) [3]
Some religious folks reject euthanasia because “life is precious”, by which they mean that it is better to keep an individual breathing rather than dead, but this is a specious argument since it depends on how we define “life”.  According to Hinduism, human beings have indestructible self-effulgent souls which reincarnate thousands of times in different bodies during the ascending arc of evolution.  In the context of euthanasia, this implies that the doctor must be able to divine on a case-by-case basis whether the suffering patient should continue living or whether the soul has reached the point where it is ready to move on to the next incarnation.  In the absence of any insight into the spiritual reality behind the material world, this is a formidable puzzle to solve.
There are two sources where Sri Aurobindo has commented on euthanasia.  The first was in the following conversation, where he was open to it under certain circumstances.
Dr. Manilal : Is not the taking of life a sin, Sir?
Sri Aurobindo: You are all the time thinking of sin. It depends on circumstances.English doctors advocate giving injections to cases of incurable suffering in order to cut short their lives.
Purani : Gandhi also advocated it in case of the Ashram cow and there was a row among the Jains.
Dr. Manilal: What about suicide?
Sri Aurobindo: It depends on the spirit in which it is done. If it is done in a vital spirit or with a vital motive it may be sin. Would you say that the Sannyasi who committed suicide in the story about Alexander engaged in an act of sin?
Dr. Manilal: I don’t know the story.
Sri Aurobindo: When Alexander was returning to Greece he wanted to take with him two Sannyasis. One refused, the other accompanied him. But after some time the latter had a severe attack of colic. He said his body was betraying him. So he decided to give up his body by immolating himself. In spite of pleadings he carried out his decision [4].
The second source is a letter written to a disciple, where Sri Aurobindo calls attention to  the inherent limitations of the human intellect in determining whether a suffering soul should be kept alive or allowed to die and proceed to the next incarnation.  The original question, which we do not have at present, seems to be related to the taking of animal life, but the response also touches on the subject of euthanasia.
It is the same with the problem of the taking of animal life under the circumstances put forward by your friend in the letter. It is put on the basis of an invariable ethical right and wrong to be applied to all cases – is it right to take animal life at all, under any circumstances, is it right to allow an animal to suffer under your eyes when you can relieve it by an euthanasia? There can be no indubitable answer to a question put like that, because the answer depends on data which the mind has not before it. In fact there are many other factors which make people incline to this short and merciful way out of  the difficulty – the nervous inability to bear the sight and hearing of so much suffering, the unavailing trouble, the disgust and inconvenience – all tend to give force to the idea that the animal itself would want to be out of it. But what does the animal really feel about it – may it not be clinging to life in spite of the pain? Or may not the soul have accepted these things for a quicker evolution into a higher state of life? If so, the mercy dealt out may conceivably interfere with the animal’s Karma. In fact the right decision might vary in each case and depend on a knowledge which the human mind has not – and it might very well be said that until it has it, it has not the right to take life. It was some dim perception of this truth that made religion and ethics develop the law of Ahimsa (non-violence) – and yet that too becomes a mental rule which it is found impossible to apply in practice. And perhaps the moral of it all is that we must act for the best according to our lights in each case, as things are, but that the solution of these problems can only come by pressing forward towards a greater light, a greater consciousness in which the problems themselves, as now stated by the human mind, will not arise because we shall have a vision which will see the world in a different way and a guidance which at present is not ours. The mental or moral rule is a stop-gap which men are obliged to use, very uncertainly and stumblingly, until they can see things whole in the light of the spirit[5].
Paramahansa Yogananda relates the tale of a deer who wanted to move on to the next incarnation but was being held back by Yogananda’s desire to keep him alive.  The following story is from his book “Autobiography of a Yogi“:
We had many pets, including a young deer who was fairly idolized by the children. I too loved the fawn so much that I allowed it to sleep in my room. At the light of dawn, the little creature would toddle over to my bed for a morning caress.
One day I fed the pet earlier than usual, as I had to attend to some business in the town of Ranchi. Although I cautioned the boys not to feed the fawn until my return, one of them was disobedient, and gave the baby deer a large quantity of milk. When I came back in the evening, sad news greeted me: “The little fawn is nearly dead, through over feeding.”
In tears, I placed the apparently lifeless pet on my lap. I prayed piteously to God to spare its life. Hours later, the small creature opened its eyes, stood up, and walked feebly. The whole school shouted for joy.
But a deep lesson came to me that night, one I can never forget. I stayed up with the fawn until two o’clock, when I fell asleep. The deer appeared in a dream, and spoke to me:
“You are holding me back. Please let me go; let me go!”
“All right,” I answered in the dream.
I awoke immediately, and cried out, “Boys, the deer is dying!” The children rushed to my side.
I ran to the corner of the room where I had placed the pet. It made a last effort to rise, stumbled toward me, then dropped at my feet, dead.
According to the mass karma which guides and regulates the destinies of animals, the deer’s life was over, and it was ready to progress to a higher form. But by my deep attachment, which I later realized was selfish, and by my fervent prayers, I had been able to hold it in the limitations of the animal form from which the soul was struggling for release. The soul of the deer made its plea in a dream because, without my loving permission, it either would not or could not go. As soon as I agreed, it departed [6].
Capital Punishment
Behind the material world, there exist occult worlds populated by beings – benevolent and malevolent – who are capable of and enjoy influencing our lives (see occult spirits which influence us).   Certain cases of horrifying murders and other violent inhumane crimes committed by menacing psychotic individuals  can in fact be attributed to these malevolent beings who stand above the criminals and motivate them to kill.   Seen in this light, theinsanity defense which is employed by criminals to absolve them of their inhumane crimes is not without basis.   The following conversation between Sri Aurobindo and a disciple must be read in this context.
Disciple : What is the aim of these beings in taking possession of the human being ?
Sri Aurobindo: Firstly, to have influence on the physical plane which they can have by taking possession of a man. Secondly, to play a joke – just to see what happens. Thirdly, to play God and be worshipped. Fourthly, to bring about a manifestation of vital power. To this class belong those beings that effect miraculous cures and have great healing powers. Fifthly, to satisfy some desire or impulse like murder or lust.
From this point of view you will see that capital punishment is absurd. The man who murders was, most probably, under possession of impulse of some being. When the man is executed, the being takes possession of another. Many of those who commit murder have admitted that they had their first impulse when they saw an execution. Some vital beings want to have their play here.
Disciple : Why do they do like that ?
Sri Aurobindo : They get supported. But these are not strong beings. Really strong beings are those that are behind world-movements, like Theosophy ; they have not only vital force but mental power.
DiscipleDoes the soul of the man, who is possessed, try to recover the lost ground ?
Sri Aurobindo : After some time, during possession, there is no soul; it is thrust behind, – into the background. Gene­rally, in man the soul is not in front. By yoga the soul is supposed to come to the front. But it can be thrown into the background by these forces taking advantage of some weakness, some vital or physical defect – unless theCentral Being comes down and takes hold of the instruments.
Disciple : Can these forces take possession when the man has got a fine mind – a mind which is higher than the vital impulses ?
Sri Aurobindo : What is man’s mental knowledge before those beings ? What does man know ? Practically nothing. They know the complex of forces at work, while man knows nothing of it. Man has a great destiny if he goes along the right lines, but as he is, he is shut up in the physical consciousness which is a very inferior plane. Even his reason requires data for its knowledge, and argument or reasoning can justify anything. Two quite opposite conclusions can be supported by the aid of the same reasoning.  And your preferences determine which one you accept.  For the data of reasoning, again, you require to depend upon what you see and hear – on your senses. The vital beings are not so foolish as all that, they are not so limited[7].
1.   Sri Aurobindo.  Isha Upanishad.  CWSA vol. 17, p. 122
2.   The Mother.  Collected Works of the Mother, vol. 7, pp. 23-24.
3.   The Mother.  Collected Works of the Mother, vol. 17, p 318.
4.   Nirodbaran.  Talks with Sri Aurobindo, 7 Dec 1940.
5.   Sri Aurobindo. Letters on Yoga, Section on Rebirth, SABCL vol. 22, p 450
6.   Paramhansa Yogananda.  Autobiography of A Yogi.  Chapter 27, Founding a Yoga School in Ranchi.
7.   A.B. Purani. Evening Talks with Sri Aurobindo, Second Series, Psychology, 29th May, 1926