Yoga Is Skill In Works

The Gita confronts the various forms of confusion about action and liberation directly. First, we commonly accept the premise that liberation and action are somehow opposed to one another, which has led to the response of the renunciate who believes that by abandoning action, liberation can be attained. Second, we find that when the Gita asks us to overcome the impulsion of desire as the motive force of our action, that this means we should not take care or pay attention to the quality or perfection of our work.

The Gita not only denies these positions, but it goes a step further when it declares, as Sri Aurobindo reminds us, “Yoga, says the Gita elsewhere, is the true skill in works…” He explains further: “It does not follow that the work is not to be done perfectly, with success, with a right adaptation of means to ends: on the contrary, a perfect working is easier to action done tranquilly in Yoga than to action done in the blindness of hopes and fears, lamed by the judgments of the stumbling reason, running about amidst the eager trepidations of the hasty human will…”

The action undertaken as a divine worker, without desire, and with a calm and focused presence of the mind and heart, will be a powerful and effective action. It may not, however, necessarily yield “success” in terms that we would ordinarily judge it. The yogin does not get concerned about the limited human judgment however; it is simply to do the work given in the spirit of devotion and oneness with a higher divine purpose, come what may.

“The result may be success, as the ordinary mind understands it, or it may seem to that mind to be defeat and failure; but to him it is always the success intended, not by him, but by the all-wise manipulator of action and result, because he does not seek for victory, but only for the fulfilment of the divine will and wisdom which works out its ends through apparent failure as well as and often with greater force than through apparent triumph.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 18, The Divine Worker, pp. 170-171