Just as the mind eventually becomes satiated with material and vital satisfactions and begins to seek out ideals that speak to the mind’s ideal tendencies, at some point even these ideal pursuits, the rules, standards, dharmas, and other frameworks erected by the mind, become unsatisfying. The seeking brings the mind in touch with a greater reality, a wider truth, an absolute that stands above and beyond, an inner recognition of some principle that is not bound by the mind’s own limitations, a spiritual Truth, that then becomes the object of the aspiration and seeking.
Sri Aurobindo discusses this: “The difficulty is that this spirit in its purity seems something yet farther than the mental absolutes from the actualities of life, something not trnaslatable by mind into its own terms, much less into those of life and action.”
This leads to what Sri Aurobindo elsewhere calls “the refusal of the ascetic”, the one-pointed focus on this spiritual realisation to the exclusion of the demands or needs of body, life and mind. An intermediate step involves an attempt to spiritualise the mind, and thereby bring to the life and physical activity some uplifting, through development of moral and ethical standards. “This kind of spirituality linked on in some way to the demands of the normal mind of man, persuaded to the acceptance of useful social duty and current law of social conduct, popularised by cult and ceremony and image is the outward substance of the world’s greater religions. These religions have their individual victories, call in some ray of a higher light, impose some shadow of a larger spiritual or semi-spiritual rule, but cannot effect a complete victory, end flatly in a compromise and in the act of compromise are defeated by life.”
This is in fact the state that Arjuna found himself in on the Kurukshetra battlefield–conflicting dharmas and laws of life, subject to compromises that allowed them to function within the larger framework of the needs of the physical and vital life of humanity, clashed and led to his psychological paralysis and depression.
The attempts by the mind to rationalise all of this has led to systems that promise fulfillment in some next life or in some ever-lasting “hereafter”. The goal is generally set as either an abandonment or an evolution beyond the current terrestrial life, as the idea of a transformation of life by the true spiritual principle seems too difficult and too far away. And this is the state of things that the Gita has sought to untangle, and thereby provide a solution that does not need to abandon life to achieve ultimate salvation.
Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 23, The Core of the Gita’s Meaning, pp. 547-549