From Bondage To Liberation In Action

Having come to the direct apparent contradiction between action in the world and spiritual existence, the Gita tells us that there is in fact a resolution. The general method of the Gita has been to find a reconciling term that embraces the contradictions through a higher synthesis. This was evident with its focus on the Purushottama as the solution to the apparent contradiction between the Kshara Purusha and the Akshara Purusha.

Applying this same methodology to action in Nature, then, should provide us a way to be liberated from the bondage of works, without at the same time having to abandon all work. The Gita has presented this apparent contradiction and insisted that there is a solution. We must start first by reviewing the “horns” of the apparent dilemma, as described by Sri Aurobindo:

“To act is to be subject to the three qualities of Nature; to be beyond these conditions of her working is to be silent in the spirit….These three are fundamental properties of Prakriti, necessary operations of the executive Nature-force which takes shape here in us and the Jiva himself is only a portion of the Divine in this Prakriti. If then the liberated man still does works, still moves in the kinetic movement, it must be so that he moves and acts, in Nature and by the limitation of her qualities, subject to their reactions, not, in so far as the natural part of him persists, in the freedom of the Divine. But the Gita has said exactly the opposite, that the liberated Yogin is delivered from the Guna reactions and whatever he does, however he lives, moves and acts in God, in the power of his freedom and immortality, in the law of the supreme eternal Infinite….There seems here to be a contradiction, an impasse.”

The principle of the solution to this contradiction lies in the Higher Nature which manifests itself through the action of the Lower Nature: “What moves the world is not really the modes of Prakriti,– these are only the lower aspect, the mechanism of our normal nature. The real motive power is a divine spiritual Will which uses at present these inferior conditions, but is itself not limited, not dominated, not mechanised, as is the human will, by the Gunas. No doubt, since these modes are so universal in their action, they must proceed from something inherent in the power of the Spirit; there must be powers in the divine Will-force from which these aspects of Prakriti have their origin. For everything in the lower normal nature is derived from the higher spiritual power of being of the Purushottama…; it does not come into being de novo and without a spiritual cause.”

With this clue we can find the resolution the Gita proposes toward achieving liberation while continuing to act in the world.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 17, Deva and Asura, pp. 448-449