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No work the world needs should be shunned

December 01
02:10 2010

Sri Aurobindo

To attain to the divine birth -a divinizing new birth of the soul into a higher consciousness – and to do divine works both as a means towards that before it is attained and as an expression of it after it is attained, is then all the Karmayoga of the Gita.

The Gita does not try to define works by any outward signs through which it can be recognizable to an external gaze, measurable by the criticism of the world; it deliberately renounces even the ordinary ethical distinctions by which men seek to guide themselves in the light of the human reason.

The signs by which it distinguishes divine works are all profoundly intimate and subjective; the stamp by which they are known is invisible, spiritual, supra-ethical.

They are recognizable only by the light of the soul from which they come. For, it says “what is action and what is inaction, as to this even the sages are perplexed and deluded,” because, judging by practical, social, ethical, intellectual standards, they discriminate by accidentals and do not go to the root of the matter; “I will declare to thee that action by the knowledge of which thou shalt be released from all ills.

One has to understand about action as well as to understand about wrong action and about inaction one has to understand; thick and tangled is the way of works.”

Action in the world is like a deep forest, gahana, through which man goes stumbling as best he can, by the light of the ideas of his time, the standards of his personality, his environment, or rather of many times, many personalities, layers of thought and ethics from many social stages all inextricably confused together, temporal and conventional amidst all their claim to absoluteness and immutable truth, empirical and irrational in spite of their aping of right reason.

And finally the sage seeking in the midst of it all a highest foundation of fixed law and an original truth finds himself obliged to raise the last supreme question, whether all action and life itself are not a delusion and a snare and whether cessation from action, akarma, is not the last resort of the tired and disillusioned human soul.

But, says Krishna, in this matter even the sages are perplexed and deluded. For by action, by works, not by inaction comes the knowledge and the release.

What then is the solution? What is that type of works by which we shall be released from the ills of life, from this doubt, this error, this grief, from this mixed, impure and baffling result even of our purest and best-intentioned acts, from these million forms of evil and suffering?

No outward distinctions need be made, is the reply; no work the world needs, be shunned; no limit or hedge set round our human activities; on the contrary all actions should be done, but from a soul in Yoga with the Divine, yuktah krtsnakarmakrt. Akarma, cessation from action is not the way; the man who has attained to the insight of the highest reason, perceives that such inaction is itself a constant action, a state subject to the workings of Nature and her qualities.

The mind that takes refuge in physical inactivity, is still under the delusion that it and not Nature is the doer of works; it has mistaken inertia for liberation; it does not see that even in what seems absolute inertia greater than that of the stone or clod, Nature is at work, keeps unimpaired her hold.

Sri Aurobindo
Excerpted from Essays on the Gita

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