The Justification of Karmayoga As a Means of Spiritual Realisation

We can now see and appreciate the Gita’s approach to spiritual development. The Gita does not ask the seeker to abandon life, or any of the elements that constitute the human being,– mind, life and body. The actual work or actions to be carried out, in fact, may remain the same before realisation and after. The Gita points out that the important change is the status of the consciousness from its normal basis in mind-life-body to the uninvolved consciousness that is outside and independent of the individual ego-personality.

Sri Aurobindo describes it thus: “This upward transference of our centre of being and the consequent transformation of our whole existence and consciousness, with a resultant change in the whole spirit and motive of our action, the action often remaining precisely the same in all outward appearances, makes the gist of the Gita’s Karmayoga. Change your being, be reborn into the spirit and by that new birth proceed with the action to which the Spirit within has appointed you, may be said to be the heart of its message.”

The issues that remain, as Sri Aurobindo points out, are then “…the way to the change, to this upward transference, this new divine birth, and the nature of the work or rather the spirit in which it has to be done…”

By virtue of a change in standpoint of the consciousness, one automatically develops a new spirit of the action undertaken. Instead of being fixated on the desires, ambitions, fears, and other motivations of the egoistic personality, the individual acts from a disinterested view for purpose of carrying out the intention of the divine manifestation. With this change comes about a release from the attachment to either a specific form of action or a specific result. There is also a release from the internalization of the action as being “good” or “bad”, “virtuous” or “sinful”.

Sri Aurobindo concludes that “…the soul in us develops itself by life and works and, not indeed so much the action itself, but the way of our soul’s inner force of working determines its relations to the Spirit. This is, indeed, the justification of Karmayoga as a practical means of the higher self-realisation.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 24, The Gist of the Karmayoga, pp. 239-240

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