The Deeper Sense of the Gita’s Teaching on the Law of Works

Sri Aurobindo observes that the Gita is commonly interpreted to fix an individual’s works by the caste he is born into, his position in society, or other external factors, but that this does not represent the deeper sense that the Gita is trying to convey. The Gita expressly points out that all the external factors cannot be determinative, and that one must abandon all these external laws or Dharmas and adhere to the spiritual truth of the being, the inner soul-reality, to find the work to be done.

Taking up this theme, Sri Aurobindo states: “It is this deeper sense in which we must accept the dictum of the Gita that action determined and governed by the nature must be our law of works. it is not, certainly, the superficial temperament or the character or habitual impulses that are meant, but in the literal sense of the Sanskrit word our “own being”, our essential nature, the divine stuff of our souls. Whatever springs from this root or flows from these sources is profound, essential, right; the rest–opinions, impulses, habits, desires–may be merely surface formations or casual vagaries of the being or impositions from outside. They shift and change but this remains constant. it is not the executive forms taken by Nature in us that are ourselves or the abidingly constant and expressive shape of ourselves, it is the spiritual being in us–and this includes the soul-becoming of it–that persists through time in the universe.”

The rigidity of the external forms that have developed over the centuries is not the deeper sense of the Gita’s teaching on the law of works. When the Gita asks the seeker to give up attachment to the outer forms, laws, codes and standards and adhere to the inner spiritual truth of the being that is One with the Divine being in manifestation, it moves us immediately away from all these external interpretations. There may be various key developed talents and temperaments that the individual puts into practice, but these do not define the soul, nor limit the soul in its growth and evolutionary potential. They may be utilized for a time and then abandoned when the next stage of the development is prepared and ready to manifest. Rigid distinctions based on race, gender, birth, caste, religious background all must give way to the deeper inner truth of the soul.

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 12, The Divine Work, pp. 261-262