The Gita’s Solution to Achieving Liberation While Doing Work In the World

The consistent focus of the Gita, regardless of the various issues it has taken up and woven into its line of development, is the reconciliation of works with liberation, the unification of the spiritual consciousness separated from the life effort and that effort itself. The Gita began with the crisis faced by Arjuna as he was psychologically and emotionally overpowered by the intensity of the realisation that he was about to go into battle and have to destroy the lives of family, friends, respected teachers, leaders and elders. Sri Krishna set himself the task of both liberating Arjuna from the anguish and psychological paralysis he was experiencing, while concurrently providing him a basis upon which he could act and carry out his mission. Along the way, Arjuna was provided insight into the true nature of existence, the reconciling principle that united the silent and uninvolved principle that was the basis of the realisation of the renunciates with the involved, active consciousness that participated in the life of the world.

Solutions to the problem that were current at the time had to be reviewed and addressed, as they colored Arjuna’s reaction to the situation. Having renounced the idea of fighting and killing for the sake of fame, kingdom, wealth, power, Arjuna determined that he should not fight, but should rather allow himself to be killed if it came to that. He understood for a moment the insight that the ascetics and renunciates recognize, that the fruits of action in the world are transitory, painful and illusory. Sri Krishna therefore had to take up the question and show Arjuna that the true liberation is not dependent on abandonment of one’s destined work.

Sri Aurobindo summarizes the approach the Gita proposes: “To live inwardly calm, detached, silent in the silence of the impersonal and universal Self and yet do dynamically the works of dynamic Nature, and more largely, to be one with the Eternal within us and to do all the will of the Eternal in the world expressed through a sublimated force, a divine height of the personal nature uplifted, liberated, universalised, made one with God-nature,–this is the Gita’s solution.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 16, The Fullness of Spiritual Action, pp. 435-436

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