What’s the Right Thing to Do: A Meditation on Dharma, Reason and Offering – Part 4

Essay published in Collaboration: Journal of the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Vol. 40 (2), pp. 29-33.

In the presence of great music we have no alternative but to live nobly


In order to facilitate the right working out of our inner law of being, we must act according to a decision or choice based on the highest light we can reach in our present state of conscious evolution. In most cases, the highest light we have access to is the light of our Reason. The more developed our Reason is, the more light it can shine upon the other parts of our being, particularly the vital-emotional part which most of the time is being pulled in different directions by its many desires, passions and impulses. Sri Aurobindo tells us that while the human reason is not capable of leading humanity – individually or collectively – to their highest perfection, yet there is an important role that intellect or reason plays in opening the gate to a greater self-consciousness. He writes:

The rational or intellectual man is not the last and highest ideal of manhood, nor would a rational society be the last and highest expression of the possibilities of an aggregate human life, — unless indeed we give to this word, reason, a wider meaning than it now possesses and include in it the combined wisdom of all our powers of knowledge, those which stand below and above the understanding and logical mind as well as this strictly rational part of our nature. The Spirit that manifests itself in man and dominates secretly the phases of his development, is greater and profounder than his intellect and drives towards a perfection that cannot be shut in by the arbitrary constructions of the human reason.

Meanwhile, the intellect performs its function; it leads man to the gates of a greater self-consciousness and places him with unbandaged eyes on that wide threshold where a more luminous Angel has to take him by the hand.[1]

The more refined our Reason is, the more open it will be to higher inspirations and the light from regions above itself, making it inch closer to its dharma, its spontaneously right way of being. How to make the instrument of Reason more refined and well-developed is a question worth serious reflection, but that’s better left for another article. Suffice it to say here, that a well-honed reason will not be easily swayed away by the conventional norms, family expectations, societal pressures, ordinary mental preferences and prejudices, and other such factors which often discourage an individual (or a group) to decide freely when facing a dilemma. Reason would throw light on the peripheral nature of these and other ‘vital-emotional-mental’ factors that cloud decision-making process, and not allow them to influence the decision waiting to be made.

When faced with a dilemma, the best we can do is step back and give ourselves a mental and emotional space from the situation at hand. Only then we can see the situation and its associated dilemma in the calm light of Reason and decide how to act. Choose we must, and then act we must, based on the choice we have made. This is the most reasonable thing to do.

Then comes the most important part. Remember and Offer. This is what makes the reasonable thing into a dharmic one. Once we have made a decision in the highest light of our reason, we must remember to offer it to the Highest Source. Because as Sri Aurobindo reminds us:

…reason is in its nature an imperfect light with a large but still restricted mission and that once it applies itself to life and action it becomes subject to what it studies and the servant and counsellor of the forces in whose obscure and ill-understood struggle it intervenes. It can in its nature be used and has always been used to justify any idea, theory of life, system of society or government, ideal of individual or collective action to which the will of man attaches itself for the moment or through the centuries.

…For it is really that [the spirit in man] which decides and the reason is only a brilliant servant and minister of this veiled and secret sovereign.

….The root powers of human life, its intimate causes are below, irrational, and they are above, suprarational. But this is true that by constant enlargement, purification, openness the reason of man is bound to arrive at an intelligent sense even of that which is hidden from it, a power of passive, yet sympathetic reflection of the Light that surpasses it.[2]

How to open enlarge, open and purify the reason so as to arrive at an “intelligent sense” of that which is hidden and is guiding all the decision and action? One simple practice is that ‘Remember and Offer’. Let us take a brief look at this and see how it may help us get closer to our understanding of what is the dharmic thing to do when we are faced with a dilemma, with a choice between right and right, perhaps.

[1] Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Volume 25, p. 114
[2] Ibid., pp. 120-123.
Have you read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3?

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