Katha upanishad verse I.2.23

Charles Wikner WIKNER at NACDH4.NAC.AC.ZA
Thu Apr 17 04:26:19 CDT 1997

Gummuluru Murthy <gmurthy at MORGAN.UCS.MUN.CA> wrote:

> > Surely non-volition and dharma are contradictory?
> I do not see them to be contradictory. If the buddhi is dharmic, I mean
> by being dharmic, that it has purity, it has control of the senses, in
> which case, the mind, which is a conduit between buddhi and the senses
> behaves in a sattvic way]
> > In this, mind is always under control of the buddhi.
> >
> > How can there be control without volition?
I do not understand. How can a mind kept under check by pure buddhi imply
> volition ?
> > The concept of non-volition is pure poison at the vyaavahaarika level;
> I would like to know why it is pure poison at the vyavahaarika level.

There are obviously different understandings of the term "non-volition".
If we can clarify the meaning of the term, then much of the confusion
should disappear.

Am I correct in inferring from your post that you see it as the
surrender of the individual will to that of the Lord, so that it
is the Lord's Will (i.e. dharma) that governs the actions of the

That understanding is reasonable, but let us examine the meaning
of "non-volition" as_it_was_introduced_into_this_thread.

"Volition" may be succinctly described as "the action of desire",
that is to say, action caused by desire.  Observe that the phrase
does not specify whether the desire arises from the individual or
from the Lord.  The term "non-volition" then has the meaning of
"not the action of desire".  But since we observe action everywhere,
the meaning must be refined to "the action of non-desire", in other
words causeless activity.

The only way to make sense of this at the vyaavahaarika level is
to equate "non-volition" with those actions arising from vaasanaas,
habit or senses.  This animal-like behaviour that denies intelligent
choice to buddhi, is the very way that the term has been used on this
thread.  To take an illustrative example:

Cameron Reilly wrote:
> Thoughts appear spontaneously in awareness. This thought leads to more
> thought which leads eventually to action. Where does this process leave
> room for choice?

To me, this sounds like the choice has already been made to
follow habit, whereas in fact there is plenty of opportunity
for buddhi to interrupt the flow of thought, or to direct the
attention elsewhere -- but that would be a volitional activity.
As Gummuluru has pointed out, this very situation is described
in Katha 1.2.2.

At the vyaavahaarika level this non-volition not only denies
the personal will (and responsibility for resultant actions),
but it also denies the Lord's Will.  How about that?
Since the Lord's Will is dharma, and non-volition denies the
the Lord's Will, it follows that non-volition and dharma are
contradictory -- at the vyaavahaarika level.

Having now denied any intelligent function to buddhi, this
non-volition goes on to assign an unintelligent one to it:
it equates the ego with the Witness, the Self.  Is that the
Truth?  It sounds like delusion or megalomania to me. Observe:

Cameron Reilly wrote:
> If one can witness
> the mind and the spontaneous arrival and progression of thought, and then
> understand that there is no such thing as 'volition', then one enters into
> a state of non-volitional living, which in turn leads to the immolation of
> the Ego into the Self - for what is the Ego without volition?

My answer to that question would be: a gibbering idiot.

What is understood by his phrase "non-volitional living" ?
It sounds like life governed by the senses and habit; there
is no mention of dharma there.  Egotism rules, OK?

It is interesting that the quoted passage spells the word
"ego" with a capital letter, twice.

In case you think I misconstrue his writings, elsewhere on
this thread:

Cameron Reilly wrote:
> It's not just a Jnani that acts without
> volition - it is all of us.

All of us - plural.  So we are speaking at the vyaavahaarika level.

Quotes from Cameron Reilly have been included because it was he
that introduced the concept of non-volition into this thread,
and I have explained my understanding of his use of the term.
Perhaps it is now a little clearer why the concept is attractive
to the ego, and why it is poison at the vyaavahaarika level?

Regards, Charles.

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