The Liberated Soul and the Question of Action In the World

Perhaps the most common approach to the question of what work remains to the soul that has attained spiritual realisation is to indicate that there is “no work to be done”. In the West, a similar answer comes up when people speak about retirement from their jobs. “When I retire i will not do anything at all. I have worked my whole life and i will be done with work.” it is very much the same view that has prevailed in many spiritual traditions of the world in relation to liberation. Once you are liberated, there is no work to be done. You sit absorbed in the silent Brahman and that is that! Work, based normally on the motive spring of desire and the drive of the ego-personality, has no causative factor any longer, in this view. While it may be recognised that while life exists, some kind of action occurs, this is looked upon as some kind of external reflex or mechanical force of the mind-life-body of the lower nature, but nothing affecting the soul or its union with the Divine, and nothing to be involved with or take interest in.

Sri Aurobindo observes that such an approach does not adequately address the question. “All existence in the world is work, force, potency, and has a dynamic effect in the whole by its mere presence, even the inertia of the clod, even the silence of the immobile Buddha on the verge of Nirvana. There is the question only of the manner of the action, the instruments that are used or that act of themselves, and the spirit and knowledge of the worker. For in reality, no man works, but Nature works through him for the self-expression of a Power within that proceeds from the Infinite. To know that and live in the presence and in the being of the Master of Nature, free from desire and the illusion of personal impulsion, is the one thing needful. That and not the bodily cessation of action is the true release; for the bondage of works at once ceases. A man might sit still and motionless for ever and yet be as much bound to the Ignorance as the animal or the insect. But if he can make this greater consciousness dynamic within him, then all the work of all the worlds could pass through him and yet he would remain at rest, absolute in calm and peace, free from all bondage. Action in the world is give us first as a means for our self-development and self-fulfilment; but even if we reached a last possible divine self-completeness, it would still remain as a means for the fulfilment of the divine intention in the world and of the larger universal self of which each being is a portion–a portion that has come down with it from the Transcendence.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 12, The Divine Work, pp. 252-253