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Namah Journal


Healing through works

James Anderson


We need to look at the way we work because this activity is an arena for either disintegration or healing. Through the Yoga of Works, we can address every pattern that surfaces in everyday living. If we truly give ourselves through work we are healed.


Integral healing embraces every activity of life and all living is work. Any action or activity can be interpreted as such and true work brings inner and outer progress. Growth inspires healing. If we stop growing we die inside. We cannot truly heal unless we progress. Through it we acquire a greater state of equilibrium and well-being. So work is a perfect platform for healing. However the customary way of working only deepens our malaise. It piles on stress and erodes our health and well-being. Take occupational work. So many people become professional casualties where problems accumulate on physical or psychological levels. Crippling physical disorders arise because the body is not governed and directed in a conscious way at work. But when digging a hole for your employer, what is the point of doing it consciously? One simply does one’s labour and the consciousness sinks automatically into autopilot or drowse. It needs yoga to reverse this tendency.

Psychological stress comes because we lose authentic control of our work. This arises because one seeks to possess it. This may seem natural and logical when there is a wage packet at month-end but the truth is, the moment the ego appropriates work we become unbalanced and this can lead to considerable stress. A reverse shift is necessary. The way our lives are demarcated in today’s world only reinforces this distortion. When one is living truly, there are no such distinctions; everything is but a movement to the Supreme. Humanity regards work as chiefly a means to a material end and a way of earning its upkeep. These objectives are obviously necessary but there is no reason to be stripped of consciousness when earning one’s living. Today it takes a quantum shift to rectify this distortion. It has never been more necessary: again, only yoga can facilitate it.

True control in work only arrives when its results are left to the Divine, when something vaster than the ego takes charge. It goes beyond the contemporary pinnacle of ‘duty for duty’s sake’ because work is being offered solely and entirely to the Supreme. The control comes from niṣkāmakarma (selfless action). As soon as one sinks down to sakām karma (selfish action), one succumbs to excessive work pressure and becomes prone to physical or psychological burn-out. The ego cannot master the work it seeks to do and this defect causes untold psychological problems which drag down our whole being. If we wrestle with destiny we become its casualty. Ultimately everything happens for the highest good and not the way we attempt to dictate. When the results are left to the Divine the task ceases to remain our possession. There is no better custodian of work than our Truth inside: if it is brought fully forward, it is infallible. The work is executed also with greater efficiency and precision. So our healing in works begins when we realign to a truer way of working. The reality is, when we become so attached to our personal agendas our consciousness gets easily scattered. If this happens everything is lost; nothing meaningful can be achieved. We lose our connection with the Truth. Alignment is spurned and any possibility of healing gets immediately stunted. It is a recipe for chronic psychological disorder. Our bond with the present is discarded and little can be done if one surrenders this focus. That is why it is easier to maintain alignment when immersed in action. But immersion is only a small part of the solution: the Yoga of Works have a much vaster influence on our growth and well-being.

Will and works

The Yoga of Works demands a total reversal of consciousness in activity. The Integral Yoga has three branches: knowledge, love and works. Necessarily they dovetail and overlap but arguably the Yoga of Works offers the most accessible solution to today’s social dilemmas. This branch is vast in its influence and implications. Essentially every activity can be construed as work. “The Path of Works aims at the dedication of every human activity to the supreme Will (1).” The reality is, our human will is much dispersed — its content so mixed and moving in all directions, it remains embedded in self-satisfaction and vital desire. Quite apart from not helping the doer it cannot effectuate truly. On a relative scale, it is largely ineffective. This personal will has to be offered and relinquished if one is to move forward on this path, “The progressive surrender of our ignorant personal will and its merger into a greater divine or on the highest summits greatest supreme Will is the whole secret of Karma Yoga (2).”

So what are these steps? Sri Aurobindo elucidates perfectly:

“An entire self-consecration, a complete equality, an unspar­ing effacement of the ego, a transforming deliverance of the nature from its ignorant modes of action are the steps by which the surrender of all the being and nature to the Divine Will can be prepared and achieved, — a self-giving true, total and without reserve (3).”

We have to learn to give ourselves to the Master of Works. This is our very Truth inside. There is no sense of separation. It is the Divine Mother who is so deeply embedded in our heart. Self-consecration is certainly a gradual process and it is the first step in the conversion of our will. It is a very steep climb and a time for huge personal effort. One needs to begin this ascent armed with aspiration and remembrance. For a beginning, Sri Aurobindo advises that, “If you can’t as yet remember the Divine all the time you are working, it does not greatly matter. To remember and dedicate at the beginning and give thanks at the end ought to be enough for the present. Or at the most to remember too when there is a pause (4).“ Over time, the connection grows and one works more and more inside Her Presence. A continuous, unbroken invocation and offering is the aim. I find nāma-japa such a help in this context. Once the mantra is fixed, it becomes a rock on which everything rests! Whenever we remember we invoke and simultaneously offer. Conversely the invocation reinforces the sense of remembrance.

In my experience, I find this connection essential because motion or activity has a way sometimes of pulling the consciousness outwards. If one is not attentive, losing the thread becomes a habit. The action takes over and I somehow lose orientation inside and my consecration shrinks. It’s like a gravitational force. Sometimes when the work is in part routine, the mind gets listless and distracted. Execution suffers and it is very difficult to retrieve the single-pointedness needed for the work. Fatigue will inevitably set in when the consciousness lags. The quality of work we perform is always a vivid reflection of our inner health. All these blemishes happen because we lose track of the true Will. If that happens, I dust myself down, call, offer and try to re-start the work in a new light and a new vein. Whenever we reconnect with our true station, we discover the Supreme Will once again. This is why remembrance is so important. Thousands of adjustments, effective realignments, have to be made before the connection becomes spontaneous. We need to remember always who and what we are. We need to remember always who the work is for. Our poise needs to be static inside to maintain alignment and assist our growth and healing. The orientation needs to come from there and this remembrance needs nurturing whether one is physically active or not. The works just provide a greater challenge. They are a very meaningful proposition if one wants yoga to embrace every aspect of living. Here is where this unique yoga comes into operation. Naturally when we are static and quiescent, the patterns that churn away continuously inside us in everyday life become often dormant, but at work they have a way of surfacing all the time. The interaction and kinesis mean that disruptions can frequently arise. These inner distortions lie at the root of man’s disease. So if one is sufficiently conscious and attentive, work is the perfect arena for short-circuiting any falsity that rises up in us. So the opportunity to heal comes to us 24/7 — we need just to stay awake. The moment a negative pattern surfaces there is an opportunity to annul it immediately at the root. However one needs to be in the truest state of consciousness to achieve the complete result. A piecemeal remedy will only provide a piecemeal solution.

Moving towards equality

With true work we move upwards to level ground. We are ‘equalising’ our nature. As we climb higher we have to secure ourselves on an equal footing. As we rise, the lower parts of our nature must be offered to the descending Force. As we offer we move gradually upwards onto more stable footing. If we don’t, at any minute, our practice risks a calamitous fall. The road to equality is painstaking and the process begins when we become aware of our inner movements. We try to observe them disinterestedly and draw back. Next we draw back from the instruments themselves and then disentangle ourselves from the play of nature outside. Gradually our inner being starts to awaken and we become conscious of a silent Spectator dispassionately watching over every movement inside. We then align to this silent Spectator. When we have learnt to detach ourselves from movements inside it is much easier to distance ourselves from situations that arise from outside. We learn to step back from the dramas of life!

Colossal effort is required but always there is a Force that acts. Really, it is not something that we can do singlehandedly and there is no better forum for this than works. There is always a Presence pressing to unify our nature but we must constantly invoke it. As we invoke, the light of the soul steps forward to reconcile the divisions of our nature and the opposites of our duality. As the nature edges towards oneness, our will becomes more unified too. Every progress through works is interrelated. Our individuality becomes more defined and conscious. We expand into a vaster air. But even this prize of our individuality too must be offered as not a single remnant of separation can ultimately remain.

Equality has a deep affinity to works. Without works there would be insufficient stimulae for equality to emerge. Works are what make equality the pinnacle of Integral Health: an equality that reigns over every plane of the being. Through works our equality becomes more active and positive. It becomes dynamic enough to absorb and shed light on every interchange. This dynamism allows us to negotiate every contour of life with serenity and ease. When common ground is found between soul and nature, true equality is attained.

Healing and transformation

So works are more than a matter of doing one’s duties and chores. In a very real way, work can become an avenue to transformation. To transform though, one needs to be healed first. The implications of this yoga surpass even healing and they embrace all living if life is looked upon as a consecration to the Divine. The more we give, the more we heal. If we see the process to the very end we will be transformed. Not many souls are ready for this. The healing starts always inside and works outwards. The Yoga of Works, when practised in a true way, can transform and heal just as much as knowledge and love. Very often there is a need to rest if one wants to heal but Karmayoga demonstrates in a vivid way that one can also be healed in the very thick of action. This is not symptomatic cure — it goes right down to the source of everyday living. It is a panacea for the malady of life. There is a time for rest and a time for action. Both can give an equally curative experience.

I believe that the steps identified by Sri Aurobindo are all interconnected. There is indeed a sense of sequence but each depends and becomes whole in conjunction with the others. It is not a chronological straight-line progression. We move forward bit by bit but each piece somehow makes the structure of the whole more solid and secure. One is expanding spherically in work but the growth comes only by virtue of giving one’s identity to the Supreme. It is the sense of separateness which has to go. Only then can our will be truly unified.

Once the yoga unwinds, we move more into the realm of receptivity. We receive because we give everything that we are. We don’t seek to take; it is spontaneously given. In physical activity, by keeping our body open, a Higher Force descends which not only energises and strengthens but completes the work in a more perfect way. In sedentary work, our mind opens to become a clear channel and our thinking becomes more purposeful and focused. The Force imparts a knowledge which realigns everything in a truer way. Whatever is right descends according to our truest calling. Our intuition expands and we become more attuned to the signals that the Universe is leaving. The Yoga of Works is like a laboratory of the Spirit! Here, a myriad of patterns come to the surface. The permutations are endless but the remedy is invariably the same: it is the simple joy of self-giving. Only then can an immutable peace and equality reign in the field of action. These steps head always in this direction right up to the point where our nature is laid entirely bare at every step and every moment to the influence of the soul.

Sri Aurobindo compares action to a knot1. Desire and ego are at the centre. When one is on the upward path, they lie at the source of every suffering and woe. We live in illusion and consider ourselves free but really we are just slaves to this ignorance. We become part of that vast picture of social dissatisfaction and misery. Desire and ego will entwine and tighten endlessly until both are faced and addressed. The mind can only throttle and not master these two opponents of our true nature. The Yoga of Works calls for more than half-way measures or a sense of duty, it “… aims at something absolute, unmitigated, uncompromis­ing, a turn, an attitude that will change the whole poise of the soul (5).” We move forward through equality towards a complete reversal of consciousness, a complete immersion in the Supreme. This is why the Yoga of Works offers the true panacea for everyday life. It is truly a need of the times.


1. Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library, Volume 20. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1970; 1970, p. 34.

2. Sri Aurobindo. The Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo, Volume 12. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust; 1997, p. 351.

3. Sri Aurobindo. SABCL, Volume 20, p. 209.

4. Sri Aurobindo SABCL, Volume 23. 1970, pp. 529-30.

5. Sri Aurobindo. SABCL, Volume 20, p. 95.

6. Ibid., p. 94.

1“... in the path of works action is the knot we have first to loosen, we must endeavour to loosen it where it is centrally tied, in desire and in ego; for otherwise we shall cut only stray strands and not the heart of our bondage (6).”

James Anderson is a member of SAIIIHR and coordinating editor of NAMAH.

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