First Step Toward Liberation and Perfection Through Works

The Gita’s view on works is essentially the opposite of what we normally start with from the human standpoint. To the Gita, this entire creation is manifested by the Supreme Lord and Nature is the executive power put forth by the Lord to carry out His intentions. All of the actions of the various beings, forms, forces in the Creation are part of that larger Consciousness-Will and elements of the action of that Nature, not the result of independent actors as we normally suppose ourselves to be.

Looked at from this viewpoint, the attitude of the individual towards works, in order to achieve the liberation envisaged by the Gita, is to give up seeking after the fruits of works or any egoistic fulfillment through those works; rather, one must take the attitude of doing the works as an act of dedicated sacrifice to the Supreme Lord, until such time as one achieves the liberation, at which point the view and purpose are unified with the Divine’s view.

The major difficulty, once one starts on this path, is to truly achieve a disinterested action not openly or secretly feeding and supporting the ego’s attempt to fulfill itself as if it were separate and independent. Even those who claim to be doing “God’s work” are in many instances secretly substituting the ego’s claims for a true disinterested action.

Sri Aurobindo takes up the theme: “Man ordinarily offers his sacrifice openly or under a disguise to his own ego; his oblation is the false action of his own self-will and ignorance. Or he offers his knowledge, action, aspiration, works of energy and effort to the gods for partial, temporal and personal aims.”

“The man of knowledge, the liberated soul offers on the contrary all his activities to the one eternal Godhead without any attachment to their fruit or to the satisfaction of his lower personal desires. He works for God, not for himself, for the universal welfare, for the Soul of the world and not for any particular object which is of his own personal creation or for any construction of his mental will or object of his vital longings, as a divine agent, not as a principal and separate profiteer in the world-commerce. And this, it must be noted, is a thing that cannot be really done except in proportion as the mind arrives at equality, universality, wide impersonality and a clear freedom from every disguise of the insistent ego: for without these things the claim to be thus acting is a pretension or an illusion.”

“To work impersonally, desirelessly and without attachment to the fruits of our work, for the sake of God and the world and the greater Self and the fulfilment of the universal will,–this is the first step towards liberation and perfection.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 16, The Fullness of Spiritual Action, pp. 442-443