Works and Liberation From Works

Most people seek for success and fulfillment in their lives in the world. They focus on, and pray for, powers that will aid them in achieving in this worldly success. Sri Krishna makes a distinction between praying to the gods for powers, and prayers directed to the highest for liberation from the impulsions of desire and the corresponding will to attain worldly wealth, fame or power. The normal human life revolves around the four-fold aims that have been defined as kama (desire and sensual satisfactions), artha (wealth or material prosperity and success), dharma (duty, religious activities and adherence to a higher standard or code of living), and (eventually) moksha (liberation, which for most is defined as the abandonment of the aims and actions revolving around the first three). This constitutes the “human fulfillment.”

Sri Aurobindo takes up the discussion regarding the higher fulfilment: “The other, the divine self-fulfilment in man by the sacrifice with knowledge to the supreme Godhead, is much more difficult; its results belong to a higher plane of existence and they are less easily grasped.”

The world is set up that as individuals go through the seeking for the fourfold aims of life, they grow toward that stage where they can transfer their focus and devotion to the higher principle, and recognize the truth, not only of worldly fulfilment and works, but also the consciousness that abides in unmoving, inactive, pure consciousness; and then the consciousness that holds both the active and the inactive together, in harmony and oneness, without conflict.

“Therefore the doer of divine works even while following the four-fold law has to know and live in that which is beyond, in the impersonal Self and so in the supreme Godhead. ‘He who thus knows Me is not bound by his works. So knowing was work done by the men of old who sought liberation; do therefore, thou also, work of that more ancient kind done by ancient men.’ ”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 15, The Possibility and Purpose of Avatarhood, pg. 139