Integral Knowledge For Acting With Renunciation

The integral Yoga does not accept the traditional form of outer renunciation as the true basis of spiritual realization. For the integral Yoga, which seeks to transform life rather than abandon it, the renunciation asked for is more subtle: an inner, rather than an outer, renunciation. Sri Aurobindo observes that normal action is driven by egoism. Arjuna, the protagonist of the battle of Kurukshetra in the Mahabharata, was driven by rajasic egoism when he appeared on the battlefield. His realization of the sin and harm to the social structure that would result from the battle led him to respond with the tamasic ego and express the will to quit the fight and renounce the kingdom, the fame and wealth, and even his life is necessary. Sri Aurobindo notes that in a purely traditional sense, this renunciation would be seen as noble and would have been accepted, bringing another great soul to the recognition of the illusion of the world and its fruits, and focusing that soul on its own salvation. But Sri Krishna rejects Arjuna’s renunciation, upbraids him for his weakness and enjoins him to fight, win and enjoy the kingdom. Sri Krishna’s admonishment is that Arjuna should practice the inner renunciation, not the outer renunciation. He should give up seeking the fruits of the work he is doing, and eventually give up even the sense of himself as the doer of those works.

Sri Aurobindo summarizes: “The criterion is within, as the Gita insists. It is to have the soul free from craving and attachment, but free from the attachment to inaction as well as from the egoistic impulse to action, free from attachment to the forms of virtue as well as from the attraction to sin. It is to be rid of ‘I-ness’ and ‘my-ness’ so as to live in the one Self and act in the one Self; to reject the egoism of refusing to work through the individual centre of the universal Being as well as to egoism of serving the individual mind and life and body to the exclusion of others. To live in the Self is not to dwell for oneself alone in the Infinite immersed and oblivious of all things in that ocean of impersonal self-delight; but it is to live as the Self and in the Self equal in this embodiment and all embodiments and beyond all embodiments. This is the integral knowledge.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 5, Renunciation, pp. 316-317