The Two Wings of the Soul’s Ascent

Many people recommend taking up either the path of knowledge, or the path of works, or the path of devotion. The Bhagavad Gita makes it clear that rather than being opposing paths, they are actually complementary and supportive to one another in terms of the soul’s evolutionary growth. The first reconciliation the Gita makes is that between knowledge and yoga, which is described as works done for the general welfare without attachment or desire.

Sri Aurobindo describes the mutual support these two methods provide to one another: “The two wings indeed assist each other’s flight; acting together, yet with a subtle alternation of mutual aid, …, they increase one another mutually by interchange of substance. As the works grow more and more desireless, equal-minded, sacrificial in spirit, the knowledge increases; with the increase of the knowledge the soul becomes firmer in the desireless sacrificial equality of its works.”

“The liberated man is able to do works as a sacrifice because he is freed from attachment through his mind, heart and spirit being firmly founded in self-knowledge….”

The increase in self-knowledge then further supports the development of the true work done as the instrument of the divine consciousness, which removes the sense of the ego as the doer and leads to the free action of a divine soul carrying out the manifestation of the divine purpose in the world of action.

The action of knowledge is said to be the ultimate purifier of action, and together, knowledge and yoga bring about the liberation of the individual from the bondage to works, desire and the action of the 3 gunas of Nature.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 20, Equality and Knowledge, pg. 191