Khulna Speech of Sri Aurobindo

GENTLEMEN, today I will speak a few words on the Gita. The main object of that philosophy is found in the Vedanta, which is the basis of Hindu thought and life, and according to the Vedanta, life is dominated by maya or avidya. We are driven into action because we are ignorant of our true selves, of the true nature of the world. We identify ourselves with our bodies, our desires, our sorrows,and not our spirits. We lose ourselves in our happiness, griefs and pleasures. By these motives we are driven into action. This life is a chain of bondage which keeps us revolving. We are surrounded on all sides by forces which we cannot control. As man has a perpetual desire for freedom, he is driven by forces he cannot control. Under the influence of these forces within or without, action takes place. The object of Hindu philosophy is to make man no longer a slave, but to escape from bondage and to make human beings free. Hindu philosophy tries to go into the root of things. What is the real beginning of maya? . . . . Whatever we may try, from the nature of the world we cannot escape from bondage. There is a knowledge, by attaining which we can become free.

In the Gita we find that Srikrishna unites the Vedanta philosophy with the philosophy of Sankhya. Modern science denies that man has a soul. Science considers only the laws of nature. It regards nature as material, and man as merely a product of nature. It says man is a creation of natural forces. All his actions are results of fixed laws, and he has no freedom.

According to the Sankhya, man has a soul and is essentially the Purusha and not matter. The spirit does not act. The soul is calm and motionless. Prakriti is always shifting and changing, and under her influence all actions take place. Prakriti acts. Man can only free himself by recognising that he is the Purusha. Srikrishna adopts this theory of Sankhya in the Gita, and he also adopts the philosophy of Vedanta. He says that man has an immortal soul, but there is also a universal soul. Man is merely part of God. He is merely a part of something that is eternal, infinite, omniscient and omnipotent. This eternal power is what really exists, and in all that we see, hear, feel, it is He alone who exists. It is He alone whom we feel and see. Parameshwara builds up this world by His maya. He is the master of the great illusion which we call maya. This He made to express Himself, the One. All these things around us are transitory. Within us is that which cannot change, which is eternally free and happy. If man feels himself miserable, it is because he in his ignorance allows himself to be dominated by egoism (ahankara). He thinks that he is all. He does not realise that God is the master of this lila. He thinks that it is I who act, I who am the lord of my body, and because he thinks so, he is bound by his action. By these forces he is driven from birth to birth. The great illusion is that this body which he inhabits is himself; next he identifies himself with the mind and thinks it is I who think, see and feel. In reality, according to the Gita, God is within the heart of every creature. The second thing you have to recognise is that you are only a part of Him, who is eternal, omniscient and omnipotent.

His first answer to Arjuna is that the feeling which has come upon him is not the pure feeling. It is a feeling of egoism. Still Arjuna does not understand how that can be. How can it be my dharma to kill my own brothers and relations? How can it be to slaughter my nation and house? Srikrishna answers according to the spirit of Hindu ideas. He says that it is your dharma, because you are a Kshatriya. This is a dharma of a particular kind. The duty of the Kshatriya is not the same as that of the Brahmin, and that of the Shudra is not equal to that of the Kshatriya. If a Shudra adopts the dharma of a Brahmin, he brings about the confusion of all laws and leads to the destruction and not to the betterment of mankind. It is nature which teaches you your own dharma. This is your dharma. If you shrink from upholding the cause of virtue, truth and justice, out of a feeling which is inconsistent, you are guilty, you bring in confusion, you encourage yourself to give up your duty. Still Arjuna is not satisfied.

Srikrishna goes still deeper. He says that the whole of our life is determined by maya which is of three kinds — sattwa, rajas, andtamas. Their nature is this. Sattwa leads to knowledge, rajas leads to action, and tamas leads to inaction and ignorance. These are the qualities of nature which govern the world. The swabhava which leads you to work is determined by the three gunas. Action is determined by swabhava. All action leads to bondage and is full of defects. What you call virtue or virtues, they have defects in themselves. The virtue of Brahmins is a great virtue. You shall not kill. This is what ahinsa means. If the virtue of ahinsa comes to the Kshatriya, if you say I will not kill, there is no one to protect the country. The happiness of the people will be broken down. Injustice and lawlessness will reign. The virtue becomes a source of misery, and you become instrumental in bringing misery and conflict to the people. Your duty to your family seems to conflict with your duty to society, that of society to the nation, and that of the nation to mankind. How shall we follow the path which leads to salvation? It is difficult to say what is right and what is wrong. How to decide it then? There is one way: do action in yoga, and then you rise above ignorance, and sin cannot touch you, and you rise above all that hampers you and binds you. What is yoga?Not a certain process. When we think of yoga, we think of a man who shuts himself up in a cave and subjects himself to certain practices. He frees himself from all bondage. But Srikrishna uses yoga in a different sense. He says: Do action in yoga. The first element is samata. Samata means you shall look with equal eyes upon happiness and misfortune, praise and blame, honour and dishonour, and success and failure. You shall regard none of these, but with a calm and unshaken mind you should proceed with the work which you are given to do, unshaken by the praise or censure of the world. The man who has this samata has no friends and no enemies. He looks upon all with equal feelings, because he has knowledge, because he has looked into himself, then out into the world. He finds himself everywhere and all in himself. He finds himself in all because God is in all. Whether he looks at the high or low, he sees no difference and sees that in every creature there is Narayana. He sees that he is only an ansha of one who is in every particle of matter. If there be any differences, they are only temporary and outward. He is only that through which Vasudeva carries on his lila. He is not anxious to know what will happen tomorrow, because the action is not guided by laws.The man who has communion with God has no reason to be guided by laws, because he knows God is alone and all. He is not troubled by the fruits of his action. “You have the right to action, to work, but not to the fruit. Work and leave the result to me. Those men whom you shrink from slaying are already slain. These men would all perish. Therefore the fruit is already obtained beforehand by me. Your anxiety for the result is ignorance.”

The destiny of the world is fixed. When a man has to do anything he must know that the fruits are with God. Man is to do what God wills. Yoga means freedom from dwandwa. The Yogin is free from the bondage of pleasure and pain, of anger and hatred and attachment, of liking and disliking, because he looks with equal eyes on all. He does not shrink from misfortune or misery, happiness or unhappiness. He rises above the bondage of the body, because no man can give him pleasure or pain, because he has his own source of strength, of delight and happiness. This is the freedom which the Gita says the yoga gives, the freedom which we ordinarily mean by mukti. This is the freedom which the Gita promises. He says if you act in yoga, you rise above grief and pain, even above all things. You are free from fear or sin, because you do not act for yourself. You do not act because you will get pleasure, but for the sake of God; that is how you are to reach yoga. If you wish to be happy, you must give up all your works to God. You must do all your work for His sake, and therefore sin does not touch you. It is only because of selfishness that sin touches you. If you realise that Narayana is in all, it follows that you lose the smaller, the individual limited self. You look to wider things. You see yourself in the family, in the community, race, humanity, and all things in the world. You forget yourself altogether. You work for the race and others, for mankind. It is not God’s work when you follow after your selfishness.

The Gita says: “Your welfare is God’s business.” If you work for Him you have no fear, because God stretches out His hand of mercy to you. It is to that which the yoga leads. The teaching of the Gita, if it is followed, delivers you from all possibility of sin, of sorrow.

He says: “Take refuge in me. I shall free you from all evil. Do everything as a sacrifice to me.” That is the goal towards which you move. The name of Hari will free you from all evil. This is the way in which Srikrishna has solved the problem put by Arjuna.

Arjuna says: “It is my duty to fight for justice, it is my duty as a Kshatriya not to turn from Dharmayuddha, but I am perplexed,because the consequences will be so terrible. The people I am to slay are dear to me. How can I kill them?”

Krishna says: “There is no doubt an apparent conflict of duties, but that is the nature of life. Life is itself a problem, a very entangled thread, which it is impossible to undo. But it is I who do all these things, I who am leading you to the fulfilment of your duties. Leave it to me. If you do your duty, it is a thing which I am bringing about. You are not doing it from selfishness. It is a thing necessary for my purpose. It is a thing which is decreed, already done, but it is now to be effected in the material world. Whatever happens, it happens for the best. I now give you my knowledge, the key to yoga. I remove the veil of ignorance from you. I give you the meaning of yoga.”

In the Gita SriKrishna gives certain rules by which a man may hold communion with God. The Gita says that man is not a bundle of outward cares and griefs, of things that do not last. Man is a garment which is put off from time to time, but there is within us something which is omniscient and eternal and cannot be drowned. Srikrishna gave Arjuna the divya chakshu, with which he saw the Vishwarupa. He now sees Vasudeva everywhere. He sees within him things that cannot be seen by the mysteries of science. With this knowledge comes to him that force. How can I act, yet be free from bondage? The Gita says that the man who has knowledge has to do exactly what other men do. He has to live as a man in his family, race and nation. But there is a difference which is internal and not external. By the internal difference he acts in communion with God; others act in pursuance of their desires. He knows by experience how a man can act when he is free from desire. This force of action is the force of God Himself. He is not troubled by the result of action; he gets eternal bliss. This is the whole teaching of the Gita. It is yoga which gives utter perfection in action. The man who works for God is not shaken by doubts. The teaching of the Gita is a teaching for life, and not a teaching for the life of a closet. It is a teaching which means perfection of action. It makes man great. It gives him the utter strength, the utter bliss which is the goal of life in the world.

Note: Delivered at Khulna, Bengal, on 25 June 1909. Noted down by police agents and reproduced in a Government of Bengal confidential file. A note preceding the report of the speech says that “about three-fourths of it have been taken down”. The text needed emendation in many places.


Believer in Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga and His Vision of Universal Unity and Supramental Consciousness. “Man is not final, He is just an intermediate being”.

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Sanjeev Patra

Believer in Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga and His Vision of Universal Unity and Supramental Consciousness. “Man is not final, He is just an intermediate being”.