Two Concerns About the Basis For Action By the Liberated Soul

Sri Aurobindo reminds us of various issues or difficulties that arise when we recognize the existence of a Soul separate from Nature. While classical Sankhya simply accepts that when we free ourselves from the illusion of reality created by Nature through the action of the Gunas, we then identify ourselves with the unmoving, unattached Soul which is calm and blissful in its uninvolved status. The question arises then, if action is located with Prakriti (Nature), on what basis does the uninvolved Purusha relate to the action called for by the Gita; and second, if all action is free, why should anyone undertake the kind of ultimately violent action represented by the battle of Kurukshetra?

Sri Aurobindo describes the first concern: “If we say with the Sankhya that the will is in Nature and not in the Self, still there must be a motive in Nature and the power in her to draw the soul into its workings by interest, ego and attachment, and when these things cease to reflect themselves in the soul consciousness, her power ceases and the motive of works ceases with it. But the Gita does not accept this view, which seems indeed to necessitate the existence of many Purushas and not one universal Purusha, otherwise the separate experience of the soul and its separate liberation while millions of others are still involved, would not be intelligible. Nature is not a separate principle, but the power of the Supreme going forth in cosmic creation. But if the Supreme is only this immutable Self and the individual is only something that has gone forth from him in the Power, then the moment it returns and takes its poise in the self, everything must cease except the supreme unity and the supreme calm.”

“Secondly, even if in some mysterious way action still continues, yet since the Self is equal to all things, it cannot matter whether works are done or, if they are done, it cannot matter what work is done. Why then this insistence on the most violent and disastrous form of action, this chariot, this battle, this warrior, this divine charioteer?”

These are questions which have troubled thinkers, philosophers and theologians throughout history and the Gita has to provide us solutions in order to justify its position.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 24, The Gist of the Karmayoga, pg. 245

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