© Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust

Desireless Action

Sweet Mother, it is written here: "In the path of works action is the knot we have first to loosen."

The Synthesis of Yoga, p. 94

Why is action a knot?

Because one is attached to action. The knot is the knot of the ego. You act because of desire. Sri Aurobindo says this, doesn't he? The ordinary way of acting is tied to desire in one form or another--a desire, a need--so that is the knot. If you act only to satisfy desire--a desire which you call a need or a necessity or anything else, but in truth, if you go to the very root of the thing, you see that it is the impulse of a desire which makes you act--well, if you act only under the effect of the impulse of desire, you will no longer be able to act when you eliminate the desire.

And this is the first answer people give you. When they are told, "Act without being attached to the result of action, have this consciousness that it is not you who are acting, it is the Divine who is acting", the reply which ninety-nine and a half per cent give is, "But if I feel like that, I don't move any longer! I don't do anything any more; it is always a need, a desire, a personal impulse which makes me act in one way or another." So Sri Aurobindo says, if you want to realise this teaching of the Gita, the first thing to do is to loosen this knot, the knot binding action to desire--so firmly tied are they that if you take away one you take away the other. He says the knot must be loosened in order to be able to remove desire and yet continue to act.

And this is a fact, this is what must be done. The knot must be loosened. It is a small inner operation which you can very easily perform; and when it has been performed, you realise that you act absolutely without any personal motive, but moved by a Force higher than your egoistic force, and also more powerful. And then you act, but the consequences of action no longer return upon you.

This is a wonderful phenomenon of consciousness, and quite concrete. In life you do something--whatever you do, good, bad, indifferent, it doesn't matter--whatever it may be, it immediately has a series of consequences. In fact you do it to obtain a certain result, that is why you act, with an eye to the result. For example, if I stretch out my hand like this to take the mike, I am looking for the result, you see, to make sounds in the mike. And there is always a consequence, always. But if you loosen the knot and let a Force coming from above--or elsewhere--act through you and make you do things, though there are consequences of your action, they don't come to you any longer, for it was not you who initiated the action, it was the Force from above. And the consequences pass above, or else they are guided, willed, directed, controlled by the Force which made you act. And you feel absolutely free, nothing comes back to you of the result of what you have done.

There are people who have had this experience--but these things come first in a flash, for a moment, and then withdraw; it is only when one is quite ready for the transformation that this comes and is established--well, some people have had this experience once, perhaps for a few seconds in their lives, they have had the experience; and then the movement has been withdrawn, the state of consciousness has withdrawn; but the memory [old p. 72]remains. And they imitate that. And if by chance they happen to be people who know how to make speeches, like certain gurus who have disciples to whom they teach the path, they tell them this, "When it is the Divine who acts through you and when you have loosened the knot of desire, you no longer [new p. 72]suffer any moral or other consequences of what you do. And you can do anything whatever: you can kill your neighbour, you can violate a woman, you can do everything the Divine wants in you--and you will never suffer any consequences."

And indeed they do it! Yes, they take the experience as a cloak to cover all their excesses.... This is just by the way, to put you on your guard against people who pretend to be what they are not.

But, as a matter of fact, the result is very simple, for immediately they suffer the consequences of their pretences--they say they don't, but they suffer them.... I knew of a very striking case of a sannyasin who was furious with someone who did not want to be his disciple--already this proved that he was far from having realised this state--and who wished to take revenge. And indeed he had some powers, he had made a very powerful formation to kill this person who had refused to be his disciple. It so happened that this person was in contact with Sri Aurobindo. He told him his story and Sri Aurobindo told it to me. And the result was that the formation made by that man, who was acting with his so-called divine Will, fell back on him in such a way that it was he who died!

And it was simply the fact of re-establishing the truth. There was nothing else to do.

So the moral of the story is that one must not pretend, one must be; that one must be absolutely sincere and not cover up one's desires with fine theories.

I have met many people who claimed they had perfect equality of soul and perfect freedom, and hid themselves behind these theories: "All is the divine Will", and who, in fact, in their thought, were substituting their own will for the divine Will, and were very far from realising what they claimed. They were idlers who didn't want to make any effort and preferred keeping their nature as it was, rather than working to transform it. Voilà!


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