The Two Solutions to the Riddle Of Human Life

Sri Aurobindo points out that as it moves towards a conclusion, the Gita provides a succinct summary of its entire central meaning, ensuring that the seeker is able to recognise what the Gita itself holds as essential.

The first phase of this recap is to restate the problem with which the Gita began; namely, the riddle of human life and its meaning. We are confronted by baffling and confusing choices where various standards set up by our vital and physical needs and by society and the development of our mental, moral, emotional and higher reasoning capabilities come into conflict with each other. Eventually we recognise that we are bound within the framework of all of these conflicting needs and demands and we begin to question the ultimate sense, and seek for a methodology that will help us understand what our role in the world is, and help us find a way to be liberated from this bondage.

The second phase is to recognise the two primary lines of solution that were determined: the first is what Sri Aurobindo calls “the refusal of the ascetic” in his magnum opus, The Life Divine. He points out: “The easiest way is to give up the problem as insoluble, life and action as an illusion or an inferior movement of existence to be abandoned as soon as we can rise out of the snare of the world into the truth of the spiritual being.”

The second is the approach taken by the Gita. This approach seeks to find a standpoint from which we can recognise and accept the reality of the world and its evolutionary process, while at the same time, we can become aware of and integrate the life of the Spirit. “This teaching does not evade the difficult problem of reconciling the full active life of man with the inner life in the highest self and spirit; it advances what it holds to be the real solution. It does not deny the efficacy of the ascetic renunciation of life for its own purpose, but it sees that that cuts instead of loosening the knot of the riddle and therefore it accounts it an inferior method and holds its own for the better way.”

“The two paths both lead us out of the lower ignorant normal nature of man to the pure spiritual consciousness and so far both must be held to be valid and even one in essence: but where one stops short and turns back, the other advances with a firm subtlety and high courage, opens a gate on unexplored vistas, completes man in God and unites and reconciles in the spirit soul and Nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 21, Towards the Supreme Secret, pp. 509-510