Understanding the Past Through the Filter of the Present

It will be useful to briefly review the implicit assumptions and understandings around the yoga of knowledge and the yoga of works that were current at the time of the Gita in relation to our more modern concepts, so that we can more correctly evaluate and appreciate the Gita’s message. It is a common fallacy to view information and ideas of the past through the lens of the present day. With the passage of time, and intervening modifications that have occurred, the terms may have taken on quite different significance.

The Yoga of Knowledge, which at the time of the Gita was primarily based on the Sankhya philosophy and analytical practices, has come down to us today having been taken up successively with the rise of Buddhism and then later by the rise of the Vedantic tradition of Shankara and the Mayavada path.

Similarly, the Yoga of Works underwent a transition, to a great degree due to the influence of the Gita itself on later practitioners and we can see even the influence of the Gita in the Mahayana branch of Buddhism with its emphasis on compassionate action.

In each case, there is a somewhat different focus and emphasis, although eventually the paths of Knowledge tended to be quietistic, focused on liberation from being bound to the life actions, whether one saw it as a lower nature, a chain of cause and effect of nature, or an illusion of nature.

The liberation took the form of either a merging into the motionless, eternal Brahman, or an infinite unmoving Nirvana.

The question concerns us as the Gita focuses heavily on the concept of the lower Nature, Prakriti, which in later times was more or less overpassed in favor of the view that creation came about through a cosmic illusion or Maya.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 9, Sankhya, Yoga and Vedanta, pp. 77-79,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.