The Call of God Overrides All Other Duties

It is possible to interpret the teaching of the Gita as suggesting that one should find salvation by performing one’s duty in life as determined by one’s station. Sri Aurobindo makes it clear that this interpretation cannot be the Gita’s deepest sense and inner meaning. He points out that in fact, it is the very conflict of various duties in Arjuna’s life that have caused the crisis in the first place! “For the whole point of the teaching, that from which it arises, that which compels the disciple to seek the Teacher, is an inextricable clash of the various related conceptions of duty ending in the collapse of the whole useful intellectual and moral edifice erected by the human mind.”

We all face some circumstances where we find conflicting calls upon us, that seem to ask us to give up one value in order to attain another. Arjuna’s call is to find a way through these conflicts to a place where they can be reconciled or overpassed. Rather than being a gospel of “do your duty”, the Gita asks us to actually go beyond all these duties and live a life of and for the spirit. “The Gita does not teach the disinterested performance of duties but the following of the divine life, the abandonment of all Dharmas, sarvadharman, to take refuge in the Supreme alone, and the divine activity of a Buddha, a Ramakrishna, a Vivekananda is perfectly in consonance with this teaching.” Thus, the Buddha leaving behind the kingdom to find his spiritual salvation, and other great seers, yogis and sages who abandoned their family life and career to focus on the spiritual realization and call, are not at odds with the Gita’s teaching.

“Nay, although the Gita prefers action to inaction, it does not rule out the renunciation of works, but accepts it as one of the ways to the Divine. If that can only be attained by renouncing works and life and all duties and the call is strong within us, then into the bonfire they must go, and there is no help for it. The call of God is imperative and cannot be weighed against any other considerations.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 4, The Core of the Teaching, pp. 29-30,