The Rationale and Limitations of the Paths of Devotion and Works in the Quest for Realisation

In the review of the abstract intellect it was recognised that there are both serious positive benefits and serious limitations to the seeking carried out by that power of consciousness. One of the main limitations was the inability of the abstract mind to satisfy the legitimate seeking and goals of the other parts of our complex human nature. If we once accept both the reality and the necessity of these other parts of our being, it is no longer acceptable to “cut the knot” by simply suppressing or denying them in an austere abstract practice. This provides us then the rationale for accepting the aspiration of the heart and the will in the being and a need to find a way to harness them into the yogic practice.

Sri Aurobindo describes the issue: “Not only his abstracting contemplative intellect but his yearning heart, his active will, his positive mind in search of some Truth to which his existence and the existence of the world is a manifold key, have their straining towards the Eternal and Infinite and seek to find in it their divine Source and the justification of their being and their nature.”

“From this need arise the religions of love and works, whose strength is that they satisfy and lead Godwards the most active and developed powers of our humanity,–for only by starting from these can knowledge be effective.”

The limitations of these paths however is that they focus almost entirely on the outer life and the external world, and thereby do not provide real leverage to achieve the high and powerful seeking available to the abstract intellectual path. A balance is required that integrates both the quietistic contemplative intellect with the active devotional and will-directed actions to bring about a complete realisation.

“No God-knowledge can be integral, perfect or universally satisfying which leaves unfulfilled their absolute claim, no wisdom utterly wise which in its intolerant asceticism of search negates or in the pride of pure knowledge belittles the spiritual reality behind these ways of the Godhead.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part I, Chapter 7, The Supreme Word of the Gita, pp. 324-326

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