The Sunlit Path|Jul 19, 2011 11:52 AM| by:

Work and Yoga

Many of us come to the Ashram with our own notions of what one must do when one comes – Work for instance can be understood to mean different things for different aspirants. Sri Aurobindo tells us in no uncertain terms what Work means in the Ashram.

What you write shows that you had a wrong idea of the work. The work in the Ashram was not meant as a service to humanity or to a section of it called the sadhaks of the Ashram. It was not meant either as an opportunity for a joyful social life and a flow of sentiments and attachments between the sadhaks and an expression of the vital movements, a free vital interchange whether with some or all. The work was meant as a service to the Divine and as a field for the inner opening to the Divine, surrender to the Divine alone, rejection of ego and all the ordinary vital movements and the training in a psychic elevation, selflessness, obedience, renunciation of all mental, vital or other self-assertion of the limited personality. Self-affirmation is not the aim, the formation of a collective vital ego is also not the aim. The merging of the little ego in union with the Divine, purification, surrender, the substitution of the Divine guidance for one’s own ignorant self-guidance based on one’s personal ideas and personal feelings is the aim of Karmayoga, the surrender of one’s own will to the Divine Will.

If one feels human beings to be near and the Divine to be far and seeks the Divine through service and love of human beings and not the direct service and love of the Divine, then one is following a wrong principle – for that is the principle of the mental, vital and moral not the spiritual life.

Work here and work done in the world are of course not the same thing. The work there is not in any way a divine work in special – it is ordinary work in the world. But still one must take it as a training and do it in the spirit of Karmayoga – what matters there is not the nature of the work in itself, but the spirit in which it is done. It must be in the spirit of the Gita, without desire, with detachment, without repulsion, but doing it as perfectly as possible, not for the sake of the family or promotion or to please the superiors, but simply because it is the thing that has been given in hand to do. It is a field of inner training, nothing else. One has to learn in it these things, equality, desirelessness, dedication. It is not the work as a thing for its own sake, but one’s doing of it and one’s way of doing it that one has to dedicate to the Divine. Done in that spirit, it does not matter what the work is. If one trains oneself spiritually like that, then one will be ready to do in the true way whatever special work directly for the Divine, (such as the Ashram work) one may any day be given to do.


Obviously the life here is not that of a place where the mind and vital can hope to be satisfied and fulfilled or lead a lively life. It is only if one can live within that it becomes satisfactory …. But for one who has the assured inner life, there is no dullness. Realisation within must be the first object; work for the Divine on the basis of the true inner self and a new consciousness, not on the basis of the old, is the result that can follow. Till then work and life can be only a means of sadhana, not a “self-fulfillment” or a brilliant and interesting vital life on the old basis.


The work here is not intended for showing one’s capacity or having a position or as a means of physical nearness to the Mother, but as a field and an opportunity for the Karmayoga part of the integral yoga, for learning to work in the true yogic way, dedication through service, practical selflessness, obedience, scrupulousness, discipline, setting the Divine and the Divine’s work first and oneself last, harmony patience, forbearance, etc. When the workers learn these things and cease to be ego-centric, as most of you now are, then will come the time for work in which capacity can really be shown, although even then the showing of capacity will be an incident and can never be the main consideration or the object of divine work.

Sri Aurobindo