Sattwic Renunciation and Works

The type of inner renunciation recommended by the Gita starts from the basis of the application of Sattwa in the understanding and approach taken. Sattwic renunciation develops an inner freedom from bondage while the individual undertakes whatever work needs to be done. Sri Aurobindo describes the characteristics of sattwic renunciation: “The sattwic principle of renunciation is to withdraw not from action, but from the personal demand, the ego factor behind it. It is to do works not dictated by desire but by the law of right living or by the essential nature, its knowledge, its ideal, its faith in itself and the Truth it sees, its sraddha. Or else, on a higher spiritual plane, they are dictated by the will of the Master and done with the mind in Yoga, without any personal attachment either to the action or to the fruit of the action.”

From this perspective there is “…no attachment to pleasant, desireable, lucrative or successful work…”

“There must be no aversion to unpleasant, undesirable or ungratifying action or work that brings or is likely to bring with it suffering, danger, harsh conditions, inauspicious consequences; for that too has to be accepted, totally, selflessly, with a deep understanding of its need and meaning, when it is the work that should be done, kartavyam karma.

To give up the desire for the fruit also encompasses rewards that we expect in some future life or location. The idea of attaining a place in heaven, for instance, incorporates a “reward” that is not part of the sattwic form of renunciation. Only such a poise can liberate the individual from the bondage of the chain of cause and effect, karma. “Action he will do, for some kind of action, less or more, small or great, is inevitable, natural, right for the embodied soul,–action is part of the divine law of living, it is the high dynamics of the Spirit. The essence of renunciation, the true Tyaga, the true Sannyasa, is not any rule of thumb of inaction but a disinterested soul, a selfless mind, the transition from ego to the free impersonal and spiritual nature. The spirit of this inner renunciation is the first mental condition of the highest culminating sattwic discipline.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 19, The Gunas, Mind and Works, pp. 479-480