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object:1.12 - The Divine Work
class:chapter
subject class:Integral Yoga
subject:Integral Yoga
author class:Sri Aurobindo
class:The Synthesis Of Yoga
class:The Synthesis Of Yoga


The Divine Work


ONE QUESTION remains for the seeker upon the way
of works, when his quest is or seems to have come to its
natural end, - whether any work or what work is left
for the soul after liberation and to what purpose? Equality has
been seated in the nature or governs the whole nature; there has
been achieved a radical deliverance from the ego-idea, from the
pervading ego-sense, from all feelings and impulsions of the ego
and its self-will and desires. The entire self-consecration has been
made not only in thought and heart but in all the complexities
of the being. A complete purity or transcendence of the three
gunas has been harmoniously established. The soul has seen the
Master of its works and lives in his presence or is consciously
contained in his being or is unified with him or feels him in
the heart or above and obeys his dictates. It has known its true
being and cast away the veil of the Ignorance. What work then
remains for the worker in man and with what motive, to what
end, in what spirit will it be done?
*
* *
There is one answer with which we are very familiar in India;
no work at all remains, for the rest is quiescence. When the
soul can live in the eternal presence of the Supreme or when
it is unified with the Absolute, the object of our existence in
the world, if it can be said to have an object, at once ceases.
Man, released from the curse of self-division and the curse of
Ignorance, is released too from that other affliction, the curse of
works. All action would then be a derogation from the supreme
state and a return into the Ignorance. This attitude towards life
is supported by an idea founded on the error of the vital nature
to which action is dictated only by one or all of three inferior

The Divine Work

265

motives, necessity, restless instinct and impulse or desire. The
instinct or impulse quiescent, desire extinguished, what place is
there for works? Some mechanical necessity might remain but
no other, and even that would cease for ever with the fall of
the body. But after all, even so, while life remains, action is
unavoidable. Mere thinking or, in the absence of thought, mere
living is itself an act and a cause of many effects. All existence
in the world is work, force, potency, and has a dynamic effect in
the whole by its mere presence, even the inertia of the clod, even
the silence of the immobile Buddha on the verge of Nirvana.
There is the question only of the manner of the action, the
instruments that are used or that act of themselves, and the spirit
and knowledge of the worker. For in reality, no man works, but
Nature works through him for the self-expression of a Power
within that proceeds from the Infinite. To know that and live
in the presence and in the being of the Master of Nature, free
from desire and the illusion of personal impulsion, is the one
thing needful. That and not the bodily cessation of action is
the true release; for the bondage of works at once ceases. A
man might sit still and motionless for ever and yet be as much
bound to the Ignorance as the animal or the insect. But if he can
make this greater consciousness dynamic within him, then all
the work of all the worlds could pass through him and yet he
would remain at rest, absolute in calm and peace, free from all
bondage. Action in the world is given us first as a means for our
self-development and self-fulfilment; but even if we reached a
last possible divine self-completeness, it would still remain as a
means for the fulfilment of the divine intention in the world and
of the larger universal self of which each being is a portion - a
portion that has come down with it from the Transcendence.
In a certain sense, when his Yoga has reached a certain culmination, works cease for a man; for he has no further personal
necessity of works, no sense of works being done by him; but
there is no need to flee from action or to take refuge in a blissful
inertia. For now he acts as the Divine Existence acts without
any binding necessity and without any compelling ignorance.
Even in doing works he does not work at all; he undertakes

266

The Yoga of Divine Works

no personal initiative. It is the Divine Shakti that works in him
through his nature; his action develops through the spontaneity
of a supreme Force by which his instruments are possessed, of
which he is a part, with whose will his will is identical and his
power is her power. The spirit within him contains, supports
and watches this action; it presides over it in knowledge but is
not glued or clamped to the work by attachment or need, is not
bound by desire of its fruit, is not enslaved to any movement or
impulse.
It is a common error to suppose that action is impossible
or at least meaningless without desire. If desire ceases, we are
told, action also must cease. But this, like other too simply comprehensive generalisations, is more attractive to the cutting and
defining mind than true. The major part of the work done in
the universe is accomplished without any interference of desire; it proceeds by the calm necessity and spontaneous law of
Nature. Even man constantly does work of various kinds by a
spontaneous impulse, intuition, instinct or acts in obedience to
a natural necessity and law of forces without either mental planning or the urge of a conscious vital volition or emotional desire.
Often enough his act is contrary to his intention or his desire; it
proceeds out of him in subjection to a need or compulsion, in
submission to an impulse, in obedience to a force in him that
pushes for self-expression or in conscious pursuance of a higher
principle. Desire is an additional lure to which Nature has given
a great part in the life of animated beings in order to produce a
certain kind of rajasic action necessary for her intermediate ends;
but it is not her sole or even her chief engine. It has its great use
while it endures: it helps us to rise out of inertia, it contradicts
many tamasic forces which would otherwise inhibit action. But
the seeker who has advanced far on the way of works has passed
beyond this intermediate stage in which desire is a helpful engine.
Its push is no longer indispensable for his action, but is rather
a terrible hindrance and source of stumbling, inefficiency and
failure. Others are obliged to obey a personal choice or motive,
but he has to learn to act with an impersonal or a universal
mind or as a part or an instrument of an infinite Person. A

The Divine Work

267

calm indifference, a joyful impartiality or a blissful response to
a divine Force, whatever its dictate, is the condition of his doing
any effective work or undertaking any worth-while action. Not
desire, not attachment must drive him, but a Will that stirs in
a divine peace, a Knowledge that moves from the transcendent
Light, a glad Impulse that is a force from the supreme Ananda.
*
* *
In an advanced stage of the Yoga it is indifferent to the seeker,
in the sense of any personal preference, what action he shall
do or not do; even whether he shall act or not, is not decided
by his personal choice or pleasure. Always he is moved to do
whatever is in consonance with the Truth or whatever the Divine
demands through his nature. A false conclusion is sometimes
drawn from this that the spiritual man, accepting the position
in which Fate or God or his past Karma has placed him, content
to work in the field and cadre of the family, clan, caste, nation,
occupation which are his by birth and circumstance, will not
and even perhaps ought not to make any movement to exceed
them or to pursue any great mundane end. Since he has really
no work to do, since he has only to use works, no matter what
works, as long as he is in the body in order to arrive at liberation or, having arrived, only to obey the supreme Will and do
whatever it dictates, the actual field given him is sufficient for
the purpose. Once free, he has only to continue working in the
sphere assigned to him by Fate and circumstances till the great
hour arrives when he can at last disappear into the Infinite. To
insist on any particular end or to work for some great mundane
object is to fall into the illusion of works; it is to entertain the
error that terrestrial life has an intelligible intention and contains
objects worthy of pursuit. The great theory of Illusion, which is
a practical denial of the Divine in the world, even when in idea
it acknowledges the Presence, is once more before us. But the
Divine is here in the world, - not only in status but in dynamis,
not only as a spiritual self and presence but as power, force,
energy, - and therefore a divine work in the world is possible.

268

The Yoga of Divine Works

There is no narrow principle, no field of cabined action
that can be imposed on the Karmayogin as his rule or his
province. This much is true that every kind of works, whether
small to man's imagination or great, petty in scope or wide, can
be equally used in the progress towards liberation or for selfdiscipline. This much is also true that after liberation a man
may dwell in any sphere of life and in any kind of action and
fulfil there his existence in the Divine. According as he is moved
by the Spirit, he may remain in the sphere assigned to him by
birth and circumstances or break that framework and go forth
to an untrammelled action which shall be the fitting body of
his greatened consciousness and higher knowledge. To the outward eyes of men the inner liberation may make no apparent
difference in his outward acts; or, on the contrary, the freedom
and infinity within may translate itself into an outward dynamic
working so large and new that all regards are drawn by this novel
force. If such be the intention of the Supreme within him, the
liberated soul may be content with a subtle and limited action
within the old human surroundings which will in no way seek
to change their outward appearance. But it may too be called
to a work which will not only alter the forms and sphere of its
own external life but, leaving nothing around it unchanged or
unaffected, create a new world or a new order.
*
* *
A prevalent idea would persuade us that the sole aim of liberation is to secure for the individual soul freedom from physical
rebirth in the unstable life of the universe. If this freedom is once
assured, there is no further work for it in life here or elsewhere or
only that which the continued existence of the body demands or
the unfulfilled effects of past lives necessitate. This little, rapidly
exhausted or consumed by the fire of Yoga, will cease with the
departure of the released soul from the body. The aim of escape
from rebirth, now long fixed in the Indian mentality as the highest object of the soul, has replaced the enjoyment of a heaven
beyond fixed in the mentality of the devout by many religions

The Divine Work

269

as their divine lure. Indian religion also upheld that earlier and
lower call when the gross external interpretation of the Vedic
hymns was the dominant creed, and the dualists in later India
also have kept that as part of their supreme spiritual motive.
Undoubtedly a release from the limitations of the mind and body
into an eternal peace, rest, silence of the Spirit, makes a higher
appeal than the offer of a heaven of mental joys or eternised
physical pleasures, but this too after all is a lure; its insistence
on the mind's world-weariness, the life-being's shrinking from
the adventure of birth, strikes a chord of weakness and cannot be
the supreme motive. The desire of personal salvation, however
high its form, is an outcome of ego; it rests on the idea of our
own individuality and its desire for its personal good or welfare,
its longing for a release from suffering or its cry for the extinction
of the trouble of becoming and makes that the supreme aim of
our existence. To rise beyond the desire of personal salvation is
necessary for the complete rejection of this basis of ego. If we
seek the Divine, it should be for the sake of the Divine and for
nothing else, because that is the supreme call of our being, the
deepest truth of the spirit. The pursuit of liberation, of the soul's
freedom, of the realisation of our true and highest self, of union
with the Divine, is justified only because it is the highest law of
our nature, because it is the attraction of that which is lower
in us to that which is highest, because it is the Divine Will in
us. That is its sufficient justification and its one truest reason;
all other motives are excrescences, minor or incidental truths
or useful lures which the soul must abandon, the moment their
utility has passed and the state of oneness with the Supreme and
with all beings has become our normal consciousness and the
bliss of that state our spiritual atmosphere.
Often, we see this desire of personal salvation overcome by
another attraction which also belongs to the higher turn of our
nature and which indicates the essential character of the action
the liberated soul must pursue. It is that which is implied in the
great legend of the Amitabha Buddha who turned away when
his spirit was on the threshold of Nirvana and took the vow
never to cross it while a single being remained in the sorrow

270

The Yoga of Divine Works

and the Ignorance. It is that which underlies the sublime verse
of the Bhagavata Purana, "I desire not the supreme state with
all its eight siddhis nor the cessation of rebirth; may I assume
the sorrow of all creatures who suffer and enter into them so
that they may be made free from grief." It is that which inspires
a remarkable passage in a letter of Swami Vivekananda. "I have
lost all wish for my salvation," wrote the great Vedantin, "may I
be born again and again and suffer thousands of miseries so that
I may worship the only God that exists, the only God I believe in,
the sum-total of all souls, - and above all, my God the wicked,
my God the miserable, my God the poor of all races, of all species
is the special object of my worship. He who is the high and low,
the saint and the sinner, the god and the worm, Him worship,
the visible, the knowable, the real, the omnipresent; break all
other idols. In whom there is neither past life nor future birth,
nor death nor going nor coming, in whom we always have been
and always will be one, Him worship; break all other idols."
The last two sentences contain indeed the whole gist of the
matter. The true salvation or the true freedom from the chain of
rebirth is not the rejection of terrestrial life or the individual's
escape by a spiritual self-annihilation, even as the true renunciation is not the mere physical abandonment of family and society;
it is the inner identification with the Divine in whom there is no
limitation of past life and future birth but instead the eternal
existence of the unborn Soul. He who is free inwardly, even
doing actions, does nothing at all, says the Gita; for it is Nature
that works in him under the control of the Lord of Nature.
Equally, even if he assumes a hundred times the body, he is free
from any chain of birth or mechanical wheel of existence since
he lives in the unborn and undying spirit and not in the life of
the body. Therefore attachment to the escape from rebirth is one
of the idols which, whoever keeps, the sadhaka of the integral
Yoga must break and cast away from him. For his Yoga is not
limited to the realisation of the Transcendent beyond all world
by the individual soul; it embraces also the realisation of the
Universal, "the sum-total of all souls", and cannot therefore be
confined to the movement of a personal salvation and escape.

The Divine Work

271

Even in his transcendence of cosmic limitations he is still one
with all in God; a divine work remains for him in the universe.
*
* *
That work cannot be fixed by any mind-made rule or human
standard; for his consciousness has moved away from human
law and limits and passed into the divine liberty, away from
government by the external and transient into the self-rule of
the inner and eternal, away from the binding forms of the finite
into the free self-determination of the Infinite. "Howsoever he
lives and acts," says the Gita, "he lives and acts in Me." The rules
which the intellect of men lays down cannot apply to the liberated soul, - by the external criteria and tests which their mental
associations and prejudgments prescribe, such a one cannot be
judged; he is outside the narrow jurisdiction of these fallible tribunals. It is immaterial whether he wears the garb of the ascetic
or lives the full life of the householder; whether he spends his
days in what men call holy works or in the many-sided activities
of the world; whether he devotes himself to the direct leading
of men to the Light like Buddha, Christ or Shankara or governs
kingdoms like Janaka or stands before men like Sri Krishna as a
politician or a leader of armies; what he eats or drinks; what are
his habits or his pursuits; whether he fails or succeeds; whether
his work be one of construction or of destruction; whether he
supports or restores an old order or labours to replace it by
a new; whether his associates are those whom men delight to
honour or those whom their sense of superior righteousness outcastes and reprobates; whether his life and deeds are approved
by his contemporaries or he is condemned as a misleader of men
and a fomenter of religious, moral or social heresies. He is not
governed by the judgments of men or the laws laid down by the
ignorant; he obeys an inner voice and is moved by an unseen
Power. His real life is within and this is its description that he
lives, moves and acts in God, in the Divine, in the Infinite.
But if his action is governed by no external rule, one rule it
will observe that is not external; it will be dictated by no personal

272

The Yoga of Divine Works

desire or aim, but will be a part of a conscious and eventually a
well-ordered because self-ordered divine working in the world.
The Gita declares that the action of the liberated man must be
directed not by desire, but towards the keeping together of the
world, its government, guidance, impulsion, maintenance in the
path appointed to it. This injunction has been interpreted in the
sense that the world being an illusion in which most men must be
kept, since they are unfit for liberation, he must so act outwardly
as to cherish in them an attachment to their customary works
laid down for them by the social law. If so, it would be a poor
and petty rule and every noble heart would reject it to follow
rather the divine vow of Amitabha Buddha, the sublime prayer
of the Bhagavata, the passionate aspiration of Vivekananda. But
if we accept rather the view that the world is a divinely guided
movement of Nature emerging in man towards God and that this
is the work in which the Lord of the Gita declares that he is ever
occupied although he himself has nothing ungained that he has
yet to win, then a deep and true sense will appear for this great injunction. To participate in that divine work, to live for God in the
world will be the rule of the Karmayogin; to live for God in the
world and therefore so to act that the Divine may more and more
manifest himself and the world go forward by whatever way of
its obscure pilgrimage and move nearer to the divine ideal.
How he shall do this, in what particular way, can be decided
by no general rule. It must develop or define itself from within;
the decision lies between God and our self, the Supreme Self
and the individual self that is the instrument of the work; even
before liberation, it is from the inner self, as soon as we become
conscious of it, that there rises the sanction, the spiritually determined choice. It is altogether from within that must come the
knowledge of the work that has to be done. There is no particular
work, no law or form or outwardly fixed or invariable way of
works which can be said to be that of the liberated being. The
phrase used in the Gita to express this work that has to be done
has indeed been interpreted in the sense that we must do our
duty without regard to the fruit. But this is a conception born
of European culture which is ethical rather than spiritual and

The Divine Work

273

external rather than inwardly profound in its concepts. No such
general thing as duty exists; we have only duties, often in conflict
with each other, and these are determined by our environment,
our social relations, our external status in life. They are of great
value in training the immature moral nature and setting up a
standard which discourages the action of selfish desire. It has
already been said that so long as the seeker has no inner light,
he must govern himself by the best light he has, and duty, a
principle, a cause are among the standards he may temporarily
erect and observe. But for all that, duties are external things, not
stuff of the soul and cannot be the ultimate standard of action in
this path. It is the duty of the soldier to fight when called upon,
even to fire upon his own kith and kin; but such a standard
or any akin to it cannot be imposed on the liberated man. On
the other hand, to love or have compassion, to obey the highest
truth of our being, to follow the command of the Divine are not
duties; these things are a law of the nature as it rises towards
the Divine, an outflowing of action from a soul-state, a high
reality of the spirit. The action of the liberated doer of works
must be even such an outflowing from the soul; it must come to
him or out of him as a natural result of his spiritual union with
the Divine and not be formed by an edifying construction of the
mental thought and will, the practical reason or the social sense.
In the ordinary life a personal, social or traditional constructed
rule, standard or ideal is the guide; once the spiritual journey has
begun, this must be replaced by an inner and outer rule or way of
living necessary for our self-discipline, liberation and perfection,
a way of living proper to the path we follow or enjoined by the
spiritual guide and master, the Guru, or else dictated by a Guide
within us. But in the last state of the soul's infinity and freedom
all outward standards are replaced or laid aside and there is left
only a spontaneous and integral obedience to the Divine with
whom we are in union and an action spontaneously fulfilling the
integral spiritual truth of our being and nature.
*
* *

274

The Yoga of Divine Works

It is this deeper sense in which we must accept the dictum of the
Gita that action determined and governed by the nature must be
our law of works. It is not, certainly, the superficial temperament
or the character or habitual impulses that are meant, but in the
literal sense of the Sanskrit word our "own being", our essential
nature, the divine stuff of our souls. Whatever springs from this
root or flows from these sources is profound, essential, right;
the rest - opinions, impulses, habits, desires - may be merely
surface formations or casual vagaries of the being or impositions
from outside. They shift and change, but this remains constant.
It is not the executive forms taken by Nature in us that are
ourselves or the abidingly constant and expressive shape of
ourselves; it is the spiritual being in us - and this includes the
soul-becoming of it - that persists through time in the universe.
We cannot, however, easily distinguish this true inner law
of our being; it is kept screened from us so long as the heart
and intellect remain unpurified from egoism: till then we follow
superficial and impermanent ideas, impulses, desires, suggestions and impositions of all kinds from our environment or work
out formations of our temporary mental, vital, physical personality - that passing experimental and structural self which has
been made for us by an interaction between our being and the
pressure of a lower cosmic Nature. In proportion as we are
purified, the true being within declares itself more clearly; our
will is less entangled in suggestions from outside or shut up in
our own superficial mental constructions. Egoism renounced,
the nature purified, action will come from the soul's dictates,
from the depths or the heights of the spirit, or it will be openly
governed by the Lord who was all the time seated secretly within
our hearts. The supreme and final word of the Gita for the Yogin
is that he should leave all conventional formulas of belief and
action, all fixed and external rules of conduct, all constructions
of the outward or surface Nature, dharmas, and take refuge in
the Divine alone. Free from desire and attachment, one with
all beings, living in the infinite Truth and Purity and acting out
of the profoundest deeps of his inner consciousness, governed
by his immortal, divine and highest Self, all his works will be

The Divine Work

275

directed by the Power within through that essential spirit and
nature in us which, knowing, warring, working, loving, serving,
is always divine, towards the fulfilment of God in the world, an
expression of the Eternal in Time.
A divine action arising spontaneously, freely, infallibly from
the light and force of our spiritual self in union with the Divine
is the last state of this integral Yoga of Works. The truest reason
why we must seek liberation is not to be delivered, individually, from the sorrow of the world, though that deliverance too
will be given to us, but that we may be one with the Divine,
the Supreme, the Eternal. The truest reason why we must seek
perfection, a supreme status, purity, knowledge, strength, love,
capacity, is not that personally we may enjoy the divine Nature
or be even as the gods, though that enjoyment too will be ours,
but because this liberation and perfection are the divine Will in
us, the highest truth of our self in Nature, the always intended
goal of a progressive manifestation in the universe. The divine
Nature, free and perfect and blissful, must be manifested in the
individual in order that it may manifest in the world. Even in the
Ignorance the individual lives really in the universal and for the
universal Purpose, for in the very act of pursuing the purposes
and desires of his ego, he is forced by Nature to contribute by
his egoistic action to her work and purpose in the worlds; but
it is without conscious intention, imperfectly done, and his contribution is to her half-evolved and half-conscient, her imperfect
and crude movement. To escape from ego and be united with
the Divine is at once the liberation and the consummation of
his individuality; so liberated, purified, perfected, the individual
- the divine soul - lives consciously and entirely, as was from
the first intended, in and for the cosmic and transcendent Divine
and for his Will in the universe.
In the Way of Knowledge we may arrive at a point where
we can leap out of personality and universe, escape from all
thought and will and works and all way of Nature and, absorbed
and taken up into Eternity, plunge into the Transcendence; that,
though not obligatory on the God-knower, may be the soul's
decision, the turn pursued by the self within us. In the Way of

276

The Yoga of Divine Works

Devotion we may reach through an intensity of adoration and
joy union with the supreme All-Beloved and remain eternally in
the ecstasy of his presence, absorbed in him alone, intimately
in one world of bliss with him; that then may be our being's
impulsion, its spiritual choice. But in the Way of Works another
prospect opens; for travelling on that path, we can enter into
liberation and perfection by becoming of one law and power of
nature with the Eternal; we are identified with him in our will
and dynamic self as much as in our spiritual status; a divine way
of works is the natural outcome of this union, a divine living in a
spiritual freedom the body of its self-expression. In the Integral
Yoga these three lines of approach give up their exclusions,
meet and coalesce or spring out of each other; liberated from
the mind's veil over the self, we live in the Transcendence, enter
by the adoration of the heart into the oneness of a supreme love
and bliss, and all our forces of being uplifted into the one Force,
our will and works surrendered into the one Will and Power,
assume the dynamic perfection of the divine Nature.




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1:While life remains, action is unavoidable. ~ Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis Of Yoga 1.12 - The Divine Work,
2:No such general thing as duty exists; we have only duties, often in conflict with each other. ~ Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis Of Yoga 1.12 - The Divine Work,
3:Action in the world is given us first as a means for our self-development and self-fulfilment. ~ Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis Of Yoga 1.12 - The Divine Work,
4:Duties are external things, not stuff of the soul and cannot be the ultimate standard of action. ~ Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis Of Yoga 1.12 - The Divine Work,
5:A man might sit still and motionless for ever and yet be as much bound to the Ignorance as the animal or the insect. ~ Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis Of Yoga 1.12 - The Divine Work,
6:No man works, but Nature works through him for the self-expression of a Power within that proceeds from the Infinite. ~ Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis Of Yoga 1.12 - The Divine Work,
7:The divine Nature, free and perfect and blissful, must be manifested in the individual in order that it may manifest in the world. ~ Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis Of Yoga 1.12 - The Divine Work,
8:The major part of the work done in the universe is accomplished without any interference of desire; it proceeds by the calm necessity and spontaneous law of Nature. ~ Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis Of Yoga 1.12 - The Divine Work,
9:The truest reason why we must seek liberation is not to be delivered, individually, from the sorrow of the world, though that deliverance too will be given to us, but that we may be one with the Divine, the Supreme, the Eternal. ~ Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis Of Yoga 1.12 - The Divine Work,

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