Integrating the Yoga of Love With Both Knowledge and Works

Each of the 3 paths of yoga, knowledge, works and love, addresses a specific aspect of the human being’s psychology. Separately, each one can achieve certain results; together, however, they provide the all-encompassing path that is recommended by the Gita.

The yoga of love and devotion provides the motive force that transforms dry knowledge and hard works into something that is alive, captivating and all-embracing. Sri Aurobindo provides us with his insight into this process: “This love that is knowledge, this love that can be the deep heart of your action, will be your most effective force for an utter consecration and complete perfection. An integral union of the individual’s being with the Divine Being is the condition of a perfect spiritual life.”

He also describes the method: “Turn then altogether towards the Divine; make one with him by knowledge, love and works all your nature. Turn utterly towards him and give up ungrudgingly into his hands your mind and your heart and your will, all your consciousness and even your very senses and body. Let your consciousness be sovereignly moulded by him into a flawless mould of his divine consciousness. Let your heart become a lucid or flaming heart of the Divine. Let your will be an impeccable action of his will. Let your very sense and body be the rapturous sensation and body of the Divine. Adore and sacrifice to him with all you are; remember him in every thought and feeling, every impulsion and act. Persevere until all these things are wholly his and he has taken up even in most common and outward things as in the inmost sacred chamber of your spirit his constant transmuting presence.”

This is the key to turning all thoughts and actions towards the Divine. The seeker is not restricted to silent, aloof meditation, nor specific ritual actions, nor even devotion channeled through specific times of worship; rather, every moment, every action however simple or complex, every thought can be turned Godward through the utter consecration and the turning of the heart to adore and worship the Divine, seen in the abstract and the manifest, in all that exists in the universe, and in one’s deepest heart of Oneness, at all times and in all ways.

Wherever we look, we see the Divine. Whatever we do we consecrate that to the Divine. We identify with the Divine and find Oneness with all beings in that way. This is the fruit of the integration of the yoga of love with the paths of knowledge and works.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 24, The Message of the Gita, pp. 570-571

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The Integration of the Yoga of Works With the Yoga of Love and Devotion

For the normal human consciousness, work is generally carried out either to fulfil desire, achieve some specific goal or result, or as a duty of some sort. It can be accomplished either with passion or under a sense of need or obligation. It is clearly rooted in the ego-personality and the action of the three Gunas of Nature.

The path of Karma Yoga, the yoga of works, attempts to transform these normal motives and create a new calm and free basis for work, done without seeking of the fruit of action, but rather, as a sense of action for the Divine. Sri Aurobindo explains this basis: “But the work done by you must be free and desireless; work done without desire creates no reaction and imposes no bondage. Done in a perfect equality and an unmoved calm and peace, but without any divine passion, it is at first the fine yoke of a spiritual obligation, kartavyam karma, then the uplifting of a divine sacrifice; at its highest it can be the expression of a calm and glad acquiescence in active oneness.”

The Gita, however, stresses the importance of the unification of the yoga of works with the yoga of love and devotion. These are not separate and opposite paths, but rather, complementary movements in a larger movement and focus of the entire being on the Divine. “The oneness in love will do much more: it will replace the first impassive calm by a strong and deep rapture, not the petty ardour of egoistic desire but the ocean of the infinite Ananda. It will bring the moving sense and the pure and divine passion of the presence of the Beloved into your works; there will be an insistent joy of labour for God in yourself and for God in all beings. Love is the crown of works and the crown of knowledge.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 24, The Message of the Gita, pg. 570

The Integration of the Yoga of Knowledge and the Yoga of Love

The yoga of love and devotion, as a major path of spiritual development, has many potential avenues of approach and methods of implementation. We see this in different traditions that emphasize different ways to show one’s dedication and love for the Divine. Some of these arise from a feeling of disappointment in the affairs of the world, some focus on the sense of surrender to a higher Being, some as a means of fulfillment of the goals and wishes that arise in life. Each of these has its value in beginning to turn the consciousness towards a recognition of the divine Being and an expression of gratitude, adoration, good will and love towards that being.

Sri Aurobindo describes this: “There is a devotion which seeks God in suffering for consolation and succour and deliverance: there is a devotion which seeks him for his gifts, for divine aid and protection and as a fountain of the satisfaction of desire: there is a devotion that, still ignorant, turns to him for light and knowledge.”

Each of these forms remains subject to the operation of the Gunas of Nature and still therefore remain bound in some way to the ego-personality and the limitations of the human mentality.

The Gita acknowledges the yoga of love as a legitimate path of spiritual practice, but does not accept these limitations; rather, it seeks an integration such that the devotion and love are carried out by the God-knower, thus bringing together the fruits of the yoga of knowledge and the yoga of love.

The result of this is: “Develop in yourself this God-engrossed love; the heart spiritualised and lifted beyond the limitations of its lower nature will reveal to you most intimately the secrets of God’s immeasurable being, bring into you the whole touch and influx and glory of his divine Power and open to you the mysteries of an eternal rapture. It is perfect love that is the key to a perfect knowledge.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 24, The Message of the Gita, pp. 569-570

The Threefold Delight of the Yoga of Devotion and Love

We have different parts of our being that find their fulfillment through different activities. The mind of knowledge, the will in action, the devotion of the heart are each aspects that are part of the complete human experience. While one part may take the lead in a particular individual, all three eventually need to find their fulfillment to be an integral and complete experience.

Just as there are three major aspects, there is a path of yoga that is based on the primary role of one or the other of these aspects. These paths are not in conflict with each other, but actually quite complementary. At any point in time, we may take up and focus on one of these, to meet the needs and tendencies of our nature, but eventually all three join together to yield the complete result.

For each of these paths, there is a form of delight that accompanies the focus. Sri Aurobindo explains this further: “The knowledge of the impersonal self brings its own Ananda; there is a joy of impersonality, a singleness of joy of the pure spirit. But an integral knowledge brings a greater triple delight. It opens the gates of the Transcendent’s bliss; it releases into the limitless delight of a universal impersonality; it discovers the rapture of all this multitudinous manifestation: for there is a joy of the Eternal in Nature. This Ananda in the Jiva, a portion here of the Divine, takes the form of an ecstasy founded in the Godhead who is his source, in his supreme self, in the Master of his existence. An entire God-love and adoration extends to a love of the world and all its forms and powers and creatures; in all the Divine is seen, is found, is adored, is served or is felt in oneness. Add to knowledge and works this crown of the eternal triune delight; admit this love, learn this worship: make it one spirit with works and knowledge. That is the apex of the perfect perfection.”

Traditionally, those who follow the austere path of the yoga of knowledge tend to treat the yoga of works or the yoga of love as lesser paths, unable to ascend to the heights of true knowledge; yet, the Gita makes it quite clear that such an austere path of knowledge is itself one-sided and incomplete, and that the true perfection comes from a shift that embraces both the silent, impersonal Brahman and the Divine in the universal manifestation, with a full participation and joy of the experience and the process.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 24, The Message of the Gita, pg. 569

The Perfection of the Yoga of Works

The ultimate perfection of the yoga of works occurs when there is a complete identity with the divine Spirit and a total surrender of the human instrument to the Will and action seen and manifested by that Spirit. The preparatory steps, consisting of the non-attachment to the fruits, followed by non-attachment to being the “doer” of the works, are intended to transition the human being to that divine standpoint.

Sri Aurobindo explains the requirement: “Let your natural being be an occasion, an instrument, a channel of power, a means of manifestation. Offer up your will to him and make it one with his eternal will: surrender all your actions in the silence of your self and spirit to the transcendent Master of your nature. This cannot be really done or done perfectly so long as there is any ego sense in you or any mental claim or vital clamour. Action done in the least degree for the sake of the ego or tinged with the desire and will of the ego is not a perfect sacrifice. Nor can this great thing be well and truly done so long as there is inequality anywhere or any stamp of ignorant shrinking and preference.”

This results in a radically different basis of any action: “To allow your every act to be shaped through you by the divine Will in its immaculate sovereignty is the highest degree of perfection that comes by doing works in Yoga. That done, your nature will follow its cosmic walk in a complete and constant union with the Supreme, express the highest Self, obey the Ishwara.”

This way of works is preferable to the attempt to renounce or abandon works, as it identifies the being with the divine manifestation. It also must be recognised that total renunciation of works is not even possible while one lives in the body. Those seeking the highest divine realisation also have an obligation to support the divine manifestation and set the example for the rest.

The Gita points out that “The best, the greatest set the standard which the rest of humanity strive to follow. Then, since action is the nature of the embodied spirit, since works are the will of the eternal Worker, the great spirits, the master-minds should set this example. World-workers should they be, doing all works of the world without reservation,–God-workers free, glad and desireless, liberated souls and natures.”

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 24, The Message of the Gita, pp. 568-569

Moving From Ego-Centred Action to Divine-Centred Action

It is a great first step to achieve equality regarding the results of one’s efforts, the fruits of action. The Gita makes it clear, however, that for its goal of a transition from the human to the divine standpoint in the consciousness, this is not the complete solution. The second step is to recognise that in fact, the nexus of the ego-personality is not the true actor; rather, it is Nature acting under the impulsion of the divine Spirit through each individual form, including through the ego-personality that each person possesses.

Sri Aurobindo describes this crucial second step: “Cease to regard your works as your own; as you have abandoned the fruits of your work, so you must surrender the work also to the Lord of action and sacrifice. Recognise that your nature determines your action; your nature rules the immediate motion of your Swabhava and decides the expressive turn and development of your spirit in the paths of the executive force of Prakriti.”

“Make of all you do from the greatest and most unusual effort to the smallest daily act, make of each act of your min, each act of your heart, each act of your body, of every inner and outer turn, of every thought and will and feeling, of every step and pause and movement a sacrifice to the Master of all sacrifice and Tapasya.”

As we systematically shift our awareness in this direction, we find that we can act more freely, without trying to claim that the action is our own, or that we initiated it, or are, in the end, responsible for it and its results. This shift brings about both the new awareness and a deep sense of peace and contentment as we carry out the greater Will of the divine intention.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 24, The Message of the Gita, pp. 567-568

Non-Attachment To the Fruits of Works

The Gita recommends that the seeker of this spiritual transformation through the yoga of works should focus on achieving several steps that, successively, loosen the hold of the ego on the psychological standpoint. The first of these steps is to do whatever one does without being attached to the results, the fruits of the effort.

Sri Aurobindo amplifies this: “For you must deeply feel that the fruits belong not to you but to the Master of the world. Consecrate your labour and leave its returns to the Spirit who manifests and fulfils himself in the universal movement. The outcome of your action is determined by his will alone and whatever it be, good or evil fortune, success or failure, it is turned by him to the accomplishment of his world purpose. An entirely desireless and disinterested working of the personal will and the whole instrumental nature is the first rule of Karmayoga. Demand no fruit, accept whatever result is given to you; accept it with equality and a calm gladness: successful or foiled, prosperous or afflicted, continue unafraid, untroubled and unwavering on the steep path of the divine action.”

This first step is an essential one, and most of us have to focus enormous attention on how we deal with the consequences of action in our own lives. If we can begin to develop the equality spoken of here, and see that sincere consecrated effort is all we really can do, with the result left up to the much broader and comprehensive intention of the spiritual consciousness that manifests and evolves all existence, we will acquire this first foundation to prepare ourselves for the further steps in the yoga of works. Both the Gita and Sri Aurobindo consider this to be simply the beginning, not the end of the individual effort in the transition from the human to the divine standpoint of living and acting.

Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, Second Series, Part II, Chapter 24, The Message of the Gita, pg. 567