Works and Realisation

Perhaps one of the most striking things about the Gita is its clear-sighted view of the process and the goal of the practice of yoga, avoiding both the extremes of materialistic focus on the fulfillment of desire in the world and the outright physical renunciation of action. Both of these viewpoints have their strong adherents, and each one makes a strong case for the truth it represents. The Gita accepts core elements of each, while avoiding the conclusions that lead to either extreme. It does this through the integration of the practice of the yoga of knowledge with the yoga of works. The Gita accomplishes this by highlighting the essence of each of these paths. Works then become a path of realisation and, once the realisation is attained, an action of fulfillment.

Sri Aurobindo highlights several verses from the Gita which make its position clear: “Whoever does the work to be done without resort to its fruits, he is the Sannyasin (renunciate) and the Yogin, not the man who lights not the sacrificial fire and does not the works. What they have called renunciation (Sannyasa), know to be in truth Yoga; for none becomes a Yogin who has not renounced the desire-will in the mind.”

“Works… are to be done while ascending the hill of Yoga, for then works are the cause….of self-perfection, of liberation, of Nirvana in the Brahman; for by doing works with a steady practice of the inner renunciation this perfection, this liberation, this conquest of the desire-mind and the ego-self and the lower nature are easily accomplished.”

The Gita explains the role of the inner, not the outer renunciation: “For when one does not get attached to the objects of sense or to works and has renounced all will of desire in the mind, then is he said to have ascended to the top of yoga.”

Sri Aurobindo comments: “That, as we know already, is the spirit in which the liberated man does works; he does them without desire and attachment, without the egoistic personal will and the mental seeking which is the parent of desire. He has conquered his lower self, reached the perfect calim in which his highest self is manifest to him, that highest self always concentrated in its own being…, in Samadhi, not only in the trance of the inward-drawn consciousness, but always, in the waking state of the mind as well, in exposure to the causes of desire and of the disturbance of calm, to grief and pleasure, heat and cold, honour and disgrace, all the dualities….”

Works can provide both a path to realisation and the action resulting from the fruition of yoga.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 23, Nirvana and Works in the World, pp. 228-229