Nirvana In Action

If one studies the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, one finds that there is a very significant focus on the attainment of the state of Samadhi, an inward drawn consciousness, separated from any attention to the outer existence, the senses, the mind or the ego-sense. Therein is described several stages of Samadhi, each one successively deeper and more abstracted from the world. Yogis throughout the ages have focused on attaining this state of disassociation from the forces, forms and events of the world. There is a clear emphasis on renunciation being the path to liberation, moksha. And generally the concept of Nirvana has been equated with this separation and abstraction from the world.

The Gita, however, defines Nirvana quite differently and makes it clear that it can be achieved and experienced in the midst of the manifested world of action. Sri Aurobindo takes up the Gita’s position with the following translated verse: “Sages win Nirvana in the Brahman, they in whom the stains of sin are effaced and the knot of doubt is cut asunder, masters of their selves, who are occupied in doing good to all creatures….”

The Gita continues: “Yatis (those who practice self-mastery by Yoga and austerity) who are delivered from desire and wrath and have gained self-mastery, for them Nirvana in the Brahman exists all about them, encompasses them, they already live in it because they have knowledge of the Self.”

Sri Aurobindo goes on to summarize the Gita’s concept of Nirvana in action: “Freedom from all stain of the passions, the self-mastery of the equal mind on which that freedom is founded, equality to all beings…and beneficial love for all, final destruction of that doubt and obscurity of the ignorance which keeps us divided from the all-unifying Divine and the knowledge of the One Self within us and in all are evidently the conditions of Nirvana which are laid down in these verses of the Gita, go to constitute it and are its spiritual substance.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 23, Nirvana and Works in the World, pp. 225-226

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