Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Thu Apr 16 23:00:30 CDT 1998

On Wed, 15 Apr 1998, Vivek Anand Ganesan wrote:

> Namashkar,
>    I thank everyone who answered my previous question.   After reading
> the posts, I would like to clarify my doubts regarding karma.
>    The most common meaning attributed to "karma" is that of action.
> But, what action?  In Shruti, it seems to be linked to "action related
> to performing the prescribed rites and rituals".  On the other hand,
> in Smriti it is considered to be "dispassionate action" i.e. "karma
> yoga".

Karma is of three kinds.  Nitya or that which is performed daily.
Naimittika or that which is performed at certain times or events or
places. And Kamya which is performed for a particular purpose.  The first
two can be performed dispassionately, the third by definition cannot.
Karma does specifically refer to ritual acts but in traditional thinking
rituals include mundane activities such as sneezing as well as "spiritual"

> The advaitic tradition also mentions other karmas like
> "Nishkamya karma".

Although they agree on 80% of issues the big quarrel between Purva
Mimamsakas and Uttara Mimamsakas (or Vedantins) was over the scope of
karma.   The Purva Mimamsakas believe that it is valid till the day you
die and even a sannyasin is obligated to continue performing actions.
However a person desiring Moksha should refrain from kamya karmas and only
perform the nitya and naimittika ones out of a sense of obligation.
Shankaracharya teaches that even that isn't good enough and _all_ karma
should be given up.

> Also, karma is considered to be the bond that
> holds one to samsara.  In the last sense, it is not something to be
> accrued.  ( So, it is bad, right?)


>    I kindly request an explanation of the concept of karma and its
> different connotations and their contexts.  What is the role of karma
> within Advaita?

Karma has no role within Advaita Vedanta.  At best it can prepare and
purify a person for the Advaita path.  For the person who is not ready,
karma is completely mandatory. (But preferably of the nishkamya kind
mentioned above.)

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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