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November 2022 issue of Renaissance – Work and Yoga

In our ‘All Life is Yoga’ series, this month we take up the theme – Work and Yoga. In addition to relevant selections from different volumes of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, our offerings also include insightful writings by M.P. Pandit, Shobha Mitra, Prema Nandkumar, Martha Orton, M.S. Srinivasan, Divyanshi Chugh, Narendra Murty and a video recording of a book discussion with Larry Seidlitz.

Arjuna’s Crisis and Divine Obligation to Act
Editorial by Beloo Mehra

The moment one hears of the word ‘Karmayoga,’ one immediately thinks of the Bhagavad Gita and its teaching of nishkāma karma, disinterested action, of focusing only on our action and not on the results, etc. But as Sri Aurobindo explains powerfully in his ‘Essays on the Gita’:

Undoubtedly, the Gita is a Gospel of Works, but of works which culminate in knowledge, that is, in spiritual realisation and quietude, and of works motived by devotion, that is, a conscious surrender of one’s whole self first into the hands and then into the being of the Supreme, and not at all of works as they are understood by the modern mind, not at all an action dictated by egoistic and altruistic, by personal, social, humanitarian motives, principles, ideals.

Yet this is what present-day interpretations seek to make of the Gita. . . the Gita is not a book of practical ethics, but of the spiritual life.(CWSA, Vol. 19, pp. 30-31)

The Gita with its rich and many-sided thought, its synthesis of different aspects of the spiritual life and the fluency of its argumentation style has been prone to one-sided misrepresentations “born of a partisan intellectuality, ” says Sri Aurobindo (CWSA, Vol. 19, p. 29).

He further attributes this misrepresentation to certain tendencies of the modern mentality which he explains thus:

. . . the modern mind has exiled from its practical motive-power the two essential things, God or the Eternal and spirituality or the God-state, which are the master conceptions of the Gita. It lives in humanity only, and the Gita would have us live in God, though for the world in God; in its life, heart and intellect only, and the Gita would have us live in the spirit; in the mutable Being who is “all creatures”, and the Gita would have us live also in the Immutable and the Supreme; in the changing march of Time, and the Gita would have us live in the Eternal.

Or if these higher things are now beginning to be vaguely envisaged, it is only to make them subservient to man and society; but God and spirituality exist in their own right and not as adjuncts. And in practice the lower in us must learn to exist for the higher, in order that the higher also may in us consciously exist for the lower, to draw it nearer to its own altitudes.(CWSA, Vol. 19, p. 32)

The modern intellectual mind has a tendency to look at the Gita’s teaching as primarily a general spiritual philosophy or ethical doctrine. But Sri Aurobindo emphasises that the whole teaching of the Gita revolves around Arjuna’s original crisis. And this is a very practical crisis in the application of ethics and spirituality to human life.

Therefore, it is essential to first get a clear understanding of the practical crisis that Arjuna faces. It is also essential to understand the significance of the battle of Kurukshetra and its effect on Arjuna’s inner being.



Book of the Month

Integral Yoga at Work: A Study of Practitioners’ Experiences Working in Four Professional Fields (Book Review and Meet the Author)

Tales and Stories

The Tunnel – A Zen Story

Continuing Series

Sri Aurobindo’s Interpretation of Indian Culture: The Mahabharata – 1

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