The Gita’s Three Principles For Spiritual Action

Sri Aurobindo summarizes the essence of the Gita’s teaching regarding spiritual action, by identifying 3 propositions that underlie this teaching: “First, all action must be determined from within because each man has in him something his own, some characteristic principle and inborn power of his nature.” This is what is meant by the term Swabhava, and it signifies that the individual must act from that inner truth of his own being, not because of some external compulsion or habit imposed on him by the social or economic order.

“Next, there are broadly four types of nature each with its characteristic function and ideal rule of work and character and the type indicates the man’s proper field and should trace for him his just circle of function in his outer social existence.” This concept is the inner essence of what became the outer caste system. The caste system turned what was intended to be a truth of the inner nature into just such a compulsion of the outer being that the first principle indicates should not be the driving force!

“Finally, whatever work a man does, if done according to the law of his being, the truth of his nature, can be turned Godwards and made an effective means of spiritual liberation and perfection.” The Gita is quite clear that it is better to follow the law of one’s own nature to carry out one’s work, the concept known as Swadharma, than to follow an apparently better or higher path that is not an expression of one’s inner true essential being.

Sri Aurobindo points out that the entire weight of the social and economic organization of humanity works against the attempt to live out these inner truths. “Life, State, society, family, all surrounding powers seem to be in a league to lay their yoke on our spirit, compel us into their moulds, impose on us their mechanical interest and rough immediate convenience.”

The individual must be able to develop freely according to his inner being. “The individual who develops freely in this manner will be a living soul and mind and will have a much greater power for the service of the race.” It is these individuals who actually lead the advance of society. Following the inner truth of the being, and carrying out the work that results from that inner truth, and applying it in a field of action most suited to the nature, the individual “…can …turn it into a means of growth and and of a greater inner perfection. And whatever it be, if he performs his natural function in the right spirit, if he enlightens it by the ideal mind, if he turns its action to the usees of the Godhead within, serves with it the Spirit manifested in the universe or makes it a conscious instrumentation for the purposes of the Divine in humanity, he can transmute it into a means towards the highest spiritual perfection and freedom.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 20, Swabhava and Swadharma, pp. 499-500

Advertisements