Desireless Action: The Gita’s Solution

In these early chapters of the Gita, the issues are being raised, the concerns are being reviewed and the direction toward a solution is being set, with the intention to deal more fully and comprehensively with each aspect of the proposed solution at the next level of review later in the process.

Recognizing the difficulty of achieving the Gita’s prescription for “desireless action” is the first step for us to seriously address the issue and find out how the Gita proposes to proceed. In fact, the Gita follows a multi-pronged approach as well as a “layered” approach so that we can move through a sequential series of “steps” along the way to achieve the goal, rather than some kind of “all or nothing” procedure.

Sri Aurobindo describes the basic approach of the Gita to overcome the impulsion of desire as the basis of action: “By doing all works with sacrifice as the only object, is the reply of the divine Teacher. ‘By doing works otherwise than for sacrifice, this world of men is in bondage to works; for sacrifice practice works…becoming free from all attachment.’

We should remember here that the Gita has a broader view of sacrifice than what the word ordinarily means for us. It is not a matter of practicing a rite or ritual necessarily, nor is it “giving up” something for a short period of time. Rather, it is the attitude of acting out of Oneness and devotion toward the universal Being of whom we are a part, and of which we are an element of his manifestation. So essentially we are asked to act for the purpose and in Oneness with the universal Being and treat all our action as an act and demonstration of our devotion.

“But so long as we are dominated by the ego-sense we cannot perceive or act in the spirit of this truth, but act for the satisfaction of the ego and in the spirit of the ego, otherwise than for sacrifice. Egoism is the knot of the bondage. By acting Godwards, without any thought of ego, we loosen this knot and finally arrive at freedom.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 11, Works and Sacrifice, pg. 104,