Action Done Without the Motive of Desire

When we act from the human standpoint, we seek a result based on achieving some object of desire, either in the positive sense of gaining something we covet, or in the negative sense of avoiding some kind of pain or suffering. The objects of desire may not be tangible objects; they may also be objects that attract the vital force, such as a seeking after power, or the emotions, or the mind. Traditional paths of Yoga have therefore counseled abandonment of all actions because they are tied up with the desires and bind the individual to the objects being sought. When the Yogin, who has understood this mechanism and gone beyond action based on desire, undertakes his own action, it is therefore not done under any kind of compulsion or necessity, but done desirelessly.

Sri Aurobindo explains: He is not attached, bound and limited by any nor has he any personal motive of fame, greatness or personal satisfaction in these works; he can leave or pursue them as the Divine in him wills, but he need not otherwise abandon them in his pursuit of the higher integral knowledge. He will do these things just as the supreme Power acts and creates, for a certain spiritual joy in creation and expression or to help in the holding together and right ordering or leading of this world of God’s workings.”

Sri Aurobindo reminds us that the Gita asks the enlightened seeker to continue to do works as a model of action for those who have not yet understood these things. “For the world must proceed in its great upward aspiring; men and nations must not be led to fall away from even an ignorant activity into a worse ignorance of inaction or to sink down into that miserable disintegration and tendency of dissolution which comes upon communities and peoples when there predominates the tamasic principle, the principle whether of obscure confusion and error or of weariness and inertia.”

It is essential to focus on the realisation of the Divine, but this does not mean that the Divine’s manifestation and creation in the world needs to be thrown away; on the contrary, the seer of Oneness sees the Divine in the world and in the manifestation and acts accordingly. “The spiritual life does not need, for its purity, to destroy interest in all things except the Inexpressible or to cut at the roots of the Sciences, the Arts and Life. It may well be one of the effects of an integral spiritual knowledge and activity to lift them out of their limitations, substitute for our mind’s ignorant, limited, tepid or trepidant pleasure in them a free, intense and uplifting urge of delight and supply a new source of creative spiritual power and illumination by which they can be carried more swiftly and profoundly towards their absolute light in knowledge and their yet undreamed possibilities and most dynamic energy of content and form and practice.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 5, The Ascent of the Sacrifice-1, The Works of Knowledge–The Psychic Being, pp. 134-135

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