Transcending Good and Evil Through Integration of Knowledge, Works and Devotion

One of the first results of the rise of Sattwa in the being is the development of principles to govern action and reaction, and thus, the development of what we may call the field of ethics. Because this development is still tied to the dualities, the ethical being is generally preoccupied with the question of good and evil, sin and virtue, right action and wrong action. It does not matter whether the individual is practicing a specific form of yoga or other spiritual practices; rather, it is the inner development in this direction that shows the inner state and readiness for the next stages. Even a highly ethical personality does not achieve the result that the Gita is aiming at, however. As we see in the preliminary practices of Raja Yoga, a pure, clear, ethical, harmonious personality and action is a starting point for the higher aim. The Gita asks the seeker to transcend the action of the Gunas and the dualities.

Sri Aurobindo describes this process: “Man, therefore, has first of all to become ethical, …and then to rise to heights beyond any mere ethical rule of living, to the light, largeness and power of the spiritual nature, where he gets beyond the grasp of the dualities and its delusion, dvandva-moha.”

“We have already seen that for this end self-knowledge, equality, impersonality are the first necessities, and that that is the way of reconciliation between knowledge and works, between spirituality and activity in the world, between the ever immobile quietism of the timeless self and the eternal play of the pragmatic energy of Nature.”

At this juncture, the Gita reminds us that devotion, bhakti, also plays an essential role. “Not knowledge and works alone are demanded of him now, but bhakti also, devotion to the Divine, love and adoration and the soul’s desire of the Highest.” This engages the emotional being in the seeking in a way that neither the rarefied heights of knowledge or the practical focus on dedicated works can do.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part I, Chapter 2, The Synthesis of Devotion and Knowledge, pp. 268-269