The Inner Rule of Conduct For the Karma Yogin

Once it is established that the practitioner of the Yoga cannot be bound nor judged by external rules or codes of conduct, the question naturally arises as to what guides the action of the Karma Yogin. One possible line of solution was developed by Nietzsche when he posited that the “superman”, the superior individual, was not bound by the moral or social codes of society, but had to make his own rules in the world. In practice, this approach can lead to the aggrandisement of the ego and the development of unrestrained fulfillment of desire. The practitioner of Yoga has already come to understand that he cannot act under the impulsion of desire. Thus, a new inner rule of conduct must be developed for the practitioner of Yoga to find and guide himself by.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “The Gita declares that the action of the liberated man must be directed not by desire, but towards the keeping together of the world, its government, guidance, impulsion, maintenance in the path appointed to it.”

Since the path of Mayavada, which holds the outer world to be an illusion has had so much sway in the past, a more or less cynical understanding of this directive has arisen; namely, that those who are liberated need to keep those who cannot achieve liberation “in line” by guiding and managing their actions.

Another approach is the one represented by the Bodhisattva vow and similar pronouncements, where the soul that is capable of liberation voluntarily chooses to remain in the world until all beings are fully liberated.

Sri Aurobindo’s approach, however, addresses the inherent underlying limitations of the approaches based on the “illusory” nature of the universe. He treats the world as real, and as a manifestation of the Divine in becoming, and thus, the work represented by the Gita’s injunction is actually a way to actualize the inner guidance of the Divine standpoint in the external life of the seeker.

“To participate in that divine work, to live for God in the world will be the rule of the Karmayogin; to live for God in the world and therefore so to act that the Divine may more and more manifest himself and the world go forward by whatever way of its obscure pilgrimage and move nearer to the divine ideal.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 12, The Divine Work, pp. 259-260