The Unreconciled Contradiction

The reversal of consciousness, the reorienting of the focus inward and upward, is part of the traditional path of knowledge; this path, however, traditionally involves giving up action, or at least as much of it as can be given up while we remain anchored in the human body, and focusing all the attention on this inward spiritual reality, through meditation, concentration and achievement of a state of spiritual trance.

At the same time, Sri Krishna is urging Arjuna to not give up works, but in fact, to carry out an extreme example of action–being the protagonist in an enormous battle in a civil war that involves is family, friends, teachers and respected elders, and in so doing, be the leading actor in carrying out the deaths of many of those people.

This does not appear to fit the traditional model of the path of knowledge as Arjuna has come to understand it, and he is noticeably perplexed and confused by what appears to him to be a major contradiction in the teaching.

Sri Aurobindo describes Arjuna’s feelings: “Arjuna complains that he has been given a contradictory and confusing doctrine, not the clear, strenuously single road by which the human intelligence can move straight and trenchantly to the supreme good.”

It is the object of the Gita to face this contradiction squarely and it devotes substantial effort in the following chapters to work out Arjuna’s concerns.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 11, Works and Sacrifice, pp. 98-99,

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