Katha upanishhad verse I.2.23

Gummuluru Murthy gmurthy at MORGAN.UCS.MUN.CA
Thu Apr 10 12:05:41 CDT 1997

First I give specific answers to Shri Vidyasankar's comments and then try
to explain my view of lethargy using an analogy.

On Wed, 9 Apr 1997, Vidyasankar Sundaresan wrote:

> On Wed, 9 Apr 1997, Gummuluru Murthy wrote:
> [..]
> > But, isn't lethargy a property of the mind only ? Even the buddhi
> > (the intellect) is not touched by it, let alone the Atman, the Lord of the
> > chariot.
> >
> > I define lethargy as the disinclination of the mind to apply to the task
> > at hand. Body has nothing to do with it and it simply follows. For even
> > the most "lethargic" person has an active mind. If the buddhi is pure,
> > the concept of lethargy vainshes.
> >
> > Thus, I submit that the argument that acceptance of non-volition would
> > lead to lethargy does not hold.
> Not so. What is the entity that accepts non-volition? It is not the Atman,
> because there is nothing for the Atman to accept or reject.

The entity that accepts non-volition is the jeeva.

> If the manas has not been trained well
> enough, so that it remains disinclined to apply to the task at hand, but
> the buddhi accepts non-volition at an intellectual level, what then?

I think the first and second parts of the sentence are mutually exclusive.

> Isn't
> there the possibility that the lethargic mind, however active, will
> continue to be disincline to apply itself to the task at hand?

Yes, it is possible at the vyavahaaric level, but the jeeva has to climb
a few steps to recognize that.

> Precisely
> because the acceptance of non-volition will cause the lethargic mind to
> think that there is no task at all?

Lethargy is a disinclination of the mind to apply to a task at hand. If
the mind does not see a task, there is no lethargy.

> Are you saying that a pure buddhi can
> only go with a well-trained manas, or that only a pure buddhi can accept
> non-volition?

I give the chariot analogy of the Katha upanishhad below. I interpret that
Manas (like the reins) is only a conduit from the sense organs (the
horses) to the buddhi (charioteer). It is a two-way conduit.

> The problem is that so long as one talks of volition, or non-volition, or
> tasks at hand to be accomplished, one is still in duality. The very fact
> that one still talks of the presence or absence of free will indicates
> that one has still not gone beyond duality.

Yes, that is true. There is no escape unless the Atman chooses to reveal
Itself to Itself.

Now, I put forward my thinking on the matter. I would be grateful for
any corrections.

Firstly we keep in mind Shri Chinmayananda's wise statement that any
argument is correct and proper at the level at which it is made. Shri
Vidyasankar's statement is justifiable to an extent at the vyavahaarika
level. It would seem that by subscribing to concept of non-volition,
people may get lethargic. I submit that (even at vyavahaarika level),
lethargy has nothing to do with subscription to non-volition. It is
simply an excuse to the inherent weakness. Such "lethargic" persons are
not even honest to themselves and have a long way to climb.

At the paramartha level, of course, there is no lethargy, there is no
duality, and the recognition is made that the whole world and the cosmos
is inside the Self.

We are all at levels intermediate between these two extremes. I would like
to use the chariot analogy of the Katha upanishhad to try to make my point
that subscription to non-volition would not lead to lethargy. In this
analogy (from Katha u.), the chariot is the body, the horses that power
the chariot are the sense organs, the charioteer is the buddhi, the reins
are the mind and the Lord of the chariot is the Atman. The Lord of the
chariot, in conjunction with the chariot, charioteer, the reins and the
horses becomes jeeva and is the enjoyer or subject of the journey. The
journey takes place on the road of sense objects. Although this journey
is the journey of jeeva of many lives (until it recognizes what it really
is), we will consider a part of this journey dealing with this particular

We regard the reins as simply an extension of the charioteer. If the
charioteer (buddhi) is pure and dharmic, proper controls will be extended
through the reins(mind) on the horses (sense organs) and the journey will
be according to the objective of the dharmic buddhi.

If the buddhi is not dharmic, proper control of the horses cannot be
applied by the reins, and the journey would be aimless wandering. This
could be interpreted as partly lethargy by the other travellers.

Acceptance of non-volition by the jeeva is a dharmic concept. In this,
mind is always under control of the buddhi. In this, the situation
described by Shri Vidyasankar above does not arise.

Lethargy is a description given by the fellow travellers to the individual
whom they think is not applying oneself to the task. They see a "task" for
this individual and the improper or inappropriate application of the mind
of this individual to the task. It has a meaning only in a vyavahaaric
sense. At other levels, these "tasks" gradually fade out.

I would be most grateful for any corrections in the use of this analogy
or the concept.

> Vidyasankar

Gummuluru Murthy
Sarvaagamaanaa maachaarah prathamam parikalpathe !
                                          Sage Vyasa in Maha Bharatha

For all (incoming) knowledge, discipline is the most fundamental.

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