The Gita’s Rationale For Action In the World

Depending on the goal one sets, there will be a different focus for the efforts made. Many people have taken the position that the goal is to unify with the silent, immobile, impersonal Brahman, and in such case, making any kind of effort in the outer nature or taking any kind of action in the outer world, seems to them unnecessary and more or less a distraction. Those who follow the traditional path of Sannyasa tend to set the silent Brahman as such a goal and one can then see that they are consistent when they dismiss action as an illusion or a distracting influence.

The question the arises, if this is actually the true case, why the Gita goes to such lengths to encourage action in the world. The Gita’s position is that attaining the silence, the immobile status of the Brahman is indeed a requisite stage, but that it is a way-point, not the final goal. Existence is not just silence and immobility, just as it is not just action and outward focus; rather, both aspects are part of one reality, what Sri Aurobindo calls in The Life Divine , “reality omnipresent.”

“Self and Nature are in the end one thing; a total and perfect spirituality makes us one with all the Divine in self and in nature.”

“And to get to that greatest spiritual perfection we have indeed to be immobile in the self, silent in all our members, but also to act in the power, Shakti, Prakriti, the true and high force of the Spirit. And if we ask how a simultaneity of what seem to be two opposites is possible, the answer is that that is the very nature of a complete spiritual being; always it has this double poise of the Infinite.”

“the impersonal self is silent; we too must be inwardly silent, impersonal, withdrawn into the spirit. The impersonal self looks on all action as done not by it but by Prakriti; it regards with a pure equality all the working of her qualities, modes and forces: the soul impersonalised in the self must similarly regard all our actions as done not by itself but by the qualities of Prakriti; it must be equal in all things….”

“…we are asked to impose on the intelligence and will the attitude of sacrifice, all our action inwardly changed and turned into an offering to the Lord of Nature, to the Being of whom she is the self-power,…, the supreme Spirit. Even we have eventually to renounce all into his hands, to abandon all personal initiation of action…to keep our natural selves only as an instrument of his works and his purpose.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 21, Towards the Supreme Secret, pp. 512-513