Research, Essays, Commentaries – Inspired by the Social-Cultural-Political Thought of Sri Aurobindo (PLUS a bit of photography too!)
In this part 2 of our special photo-feature the focus is on a few selected teachings from the Bhagavad Gita that speak of the Karmayoga, the Yoga of Works. Invoking the grace of Sri Krishna and taking guidance from the relevant explanations and passages from Sri Aurobindo’s ‘Essays on the Gita’ we present here a few summary notes – based on our limited intellect and capability – of selected parts from the Gita.
The photographs featured here were taken by Suhas Mehra at an exquisite dance-drama performed at Bharat Niwas, Auroville.
Humbly we offer this work at the feet of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, and the Eternal Flute Player and the Divine Teacher of Kurukshetra, Lord Sri Krishna.
Arjuna seems perplexed after listening to the deep metaphysical truths given by Sri Krishna regarding the permanence of the Atman, the way of being of the yogin stationed in the true self-knowledge, and the Yoga of the Intelligent Will.
Seeking a more definitive guidance he asks Krishna if the pursuit of Knowledge or buddhi-yoga is higher than works why must he engage in a terrible action such as war. He is looking for a “strenuously single road by which the human intelligence can move straight and trenchantly to the supreme good.” (Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, CWSA, Vol. 19, p. 105).
Sri Krishna then teaches him and the humanity the true Yoga of the Works.
Sri Krishna explains that most aspirants and seekers understand the way of Sānkhya as the path of knowledge and intelligence, and see the Yoga as a path of works and the transformation of the dynamic consciousness. As a result of this ordinarily (mis)-understood distinction the path of Sānkhya leads them to entire passivity and the renunciation of works.
The path of Yoga holds the inner renunciation of desire to be quite sufficient and emphasises the “purification of the subjective principle which leads to action and the turning of works Godwards, towards the divine existence and towards liberation.” (p. 81).
He says that actionlessness is not enjoyed by abstention from works nor by mere renunciation of works, nor does such renunciation or abstention leads one to perfection. One may control one’s senses and refuse to give them their natural play, but if one’s mind continues to remember and dwell upon the objects of sense it is only a false notion of self-discipline.
Controlling one’s senses by the mind, without attachment or clinging to the objects of the senses, and engaging with the organs of action with no clinging to the work or the fruit of the works, one pursues action as Yoga, Karmayoga.
The Gita teaches us that complete inaction is not only an impossibility, since everyone is being made to act helplessly by the modes born of Prakriti, but also an error, a confusion, a self-delusion. Desireless and unattached action, niṣkāmakarma, controlled by the liberated buddhi, done without subjection to sense and passion is the first secret of perfection, says Sri Krishna. The Gita thus speaks of the Yoga of the self-liberating intelligent will finding its full meaning by the Yoga of desireless works.
To emphasise the truth of niṣkāmakarma, Sri Krishna gives his own example and sets up his own standard for Arjuna and the humanity. He says,
“I abide in the path of action… the path that all men follow; thou too must abide in action. In the way I act, in that way thou too must act. I am above the necessity of works, for I have nothing to gain by them; I am the Divine who possess all things and all beings in the world and I am myself beyond the world as well as in it and I do not depend upon anything or anyone in all the three worlds for any object; yet I act. This too must be thy manner and spirit of working.” (p. 138).
Sri Aurobindo helps us gain a deeper significance of Sri Krishna, the Avatar, giving his own example when he says that this reveals the whole basis of the Gita’s philosophy of divine works.
“The liberated man is he who has exalted himself into the divine nature and according to that divine nature must be his actions.” (p. 139).
Sri Krishna says that so thick and tangled is the way of works in the world, like a deep forest, gahana, that even the sages have been perplexed and deluded as to what is action, what is wrong action, and what is inaction. He speaks of the action by which one is released from all ills.
The one who in action can see inaction and can see action still continuing in cessation from works, is the man of true reason and discernment, says Sri Krishna. The reference here, as Sri Aurobindo explains, is to the Sānkhya distinction
“…between the free inactive soul, eternally calm, pure and unmoved in the midst of works, and ever active Nature operative as much in inertia and cessation as in the overt turmoil of her visible hurry of labour.” (p. 178).
True rationality and the highest effort of the discriminating reason, the buddhi, can help one see this distinction.
Fixing one’s consciousness in the Self, becoming free from desire and egoism, one must perform all works in the spirit of sacrifice to the Lord. An assurance is given that with a firm and sincere faith in the Supreme Self, the Purushottama, and constantly following this path of Works one is released from the bondage of works.
The Gita also teaches us about the significance of pursuing the works according to one’s truer inner nature, one’s law of being, swadharma. Instead of coercing and suppressing one’s true inner nature, which eventually depresses the natural powers of the being, one must practice the path of self-control with right use and right guidance, which is the control of the lower by the higher self.
Such self-control successfully gives to one’s natural powers their right action and their maximum efficiency. Sri Krishna gives Arjuna a concrete advice:
“Better is one’s own law of works, swadharma, though in itself faulty, than an alien law well-wrought out; death in one’s own law of being is better, perilous is it to follow an alien law.”
A bewildered thinker who continues to judge life and works by the external, uncertain and impermanent distinctions of the lower reason remains perplexed. A liberated person, being free from the will of desire and knowing that the Divine is the lord of all his works, undertakes all types of works but his works are burned up by the fire of knowledge. His mind remains without any stain from action, calm, silent, unperturbed, clean and pure. Having abandoned all attachment to the fruits of his works, ever satisfied and without any kind of dependence, he continues to engage in action as per his nature.