Humanity has relied on social action, technology, and education as pillars of advancement and the development of humanity. Yet if we examine things closely we find that we are still driven primarily by the forces of ego and desire, even when they cloak themselves in a veneer of altruism or philanthropy. All of our science, all of our religious ideals, all of our moral rules, all of our technological advancement, all of our education may improve the surface of life, but they have done very little, if anything, to solve the problems caused by greed, self-dealing, possessiveness and a narrow approach that only seeks the short-term benefit of the individual (and his close group of associates, whether family, friends, community, religious following, ideological brethren, etc.) without attending to the wider needs of the rest of humanity, the environment, the other beings who share the planet with us or, indeed, the universal creation and its ultimate intent and purposes.
What is required is something that has never been fully understood or implemented widely in humanity, and that is a conscious effort to change consciousness, to widen, to embrace the divine purpose, and to act from that standpoint rather than from the ego-personality’s own narrow vision.
When we recognise that all of these outer attempts for progress do not address the underlying core issues, we begin to understand the message of the Gita and its view of karma yoga, with the inner standpoint and view the essential determining factor not the outer work. Such a view recognises that the ‘illusion of importance’ is another ego-screen that we raise up to continue the old patterns. We exercise a sense of vanity that we are doing something important or valuable when we tackle the ‘big issues’ and fail to recognise much of the time that we still have not succeeded in addressing the needed change in human nature. In reality, simple tasks undertaken from the divine standpoint are essential to the needed transformation far more than major projects undertaken in the spirit and under the impulsion of the ego.
Sri Aurobindo notes: “The only work that spiritually purifies is that which is done without personal motives, without desire for fame or public recognition or worldly greatness, without insistence on one’s own mental motives or vital lusts and demands or physical preferences, without vanity or crude self-assertion or claim for position or prestige, done for the sake of the Divine alone…. All work done in an egoistic spirit, however good for people in the world of the Ignorance, is of no avail to the seeker of the yoga.”
“All should be done quietly from within — working, speaking, reading, writing as part of the real consciousness — not with the dispersed and unquiet movement of the ordinary consciousness.”
“Of course the idea of bigness and smallness is quite foreign to the spiritual truth…. Spiritually there is nothing big or small. Such ideas are like those of the literary people who think writing a poem is a high work and making shoes or cooking the dinner is a small and low one. But all is equal in the eyes of the Spirit — and it is only the spirit within with which it is done that matters. It is the same with a particular kind of work, there is nothing big or small.”
Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Growing Within: The Psychology of Inner Development, Chapter V Growth of Consciousness, Means and Methods, pp. 96-97