some dharmic questions

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Tue Apr 22 23:25:41 CDT 2003

On Tue, 22 Apr 2003, Ravi Mayavaram wrote:

> If you read the commentary of shankara (see sanjay's quote "Rid of works is
> he also who is free from activities like penance, charity, etc., that are
> not associated with the sacred fires.") #4 is not interpreted as you do.
> niragnir indicates the abandoning of karma that is associated with sacred
> fires and akriyaH indicates the abandoning of those that does not use fire,
> such as penance etc. Thus both types/aspects of karma is indicated.

Hmm.  Here are Shankaracharyas words in the original kevalaM niragniH akriya eva saMyAsI yogI cha iti mantavyah |
nirgatA agnayaH karmA~ngabhUtA yasmAt sa niragniH akriyaH cha
anagnisAdhanA api avidyamAnAH kriyAH tapodAnAdikA yasya asau akriyaH ||

"The view that one who is always without Fire or activities is a sannyasi
and yogi should not be held.  The one who has renounced the fire which is
the accessory to rituals is 'niragni' while the one who does not do those
actions deemed ignorant [?  avidyamAnAh] which do not employ fire such as
tapa and dana is 'akriya'."

> Combined performance of these two types is required, which is indicated in
> iishavAsyopanishad as well. Just doing one alone will not help.

Are you referring to crossing over death by means of vidya and avidya?
There, Shankaracharya interprets avidya as upasana.  Tapa would count as
upasana but dana?  And why is the word kriya (= karma) used instead of
upasana?  On the other hand, the daily Vaishvadeva homa is called
aupasana.  But then again that involves agni.

I guess a couple of things confused me.  When I saw akriya I thought
of nishkriya which in Gujarati means a ne'erdowell.  Also I saw that
Shankaracharya calls the niragni one who has renounced the fire implying
that at one time he did have fire (Perhaps this refers to the idea that
the vanaprastha should "draw the fires into himself")  whereas the akriya
simply does not do tapa, dana etc.

Most mysterious.  Unfortunately the edition of the bhashya I have only has
excerpts from Anandagiritika and not on this shloka.  It would be
interesting to know if he or some other tikakar can elucidate what
Shankaracharya is saying here.

But for reference, here are what some other Advaita acharyas have to say
on the subject.

In Gudarthadipika, Swami Madhusudana Saraswati says:

...tasmAdayaM yadyapi na niragniragnisAdhyashrautakarmatyAgI na bhavati na
chAkriyo'gninirapekshasmArtakriyAtyAgi cha na bhavati...

In other words he is saying that niragni means renouncing the shrauta
karmas, while akriya means renouncing the smarta karmas.

In Subodhini, Shridhar Swami says:

...niragni: agnisAdhyeShTakhyakarmatyAgI, na chAkriyaH
anagnisAdhyapUrtAkhyakarmatyAgI cha ||

He thinks that Niragni means renouncing the karmas that involve fire while
akriya means renouncing the rest of them that don't involve fire.

In Shankaranandi, Swami Shankarananda says:

niragnireva saMyAsIti na akriya eva yogIti cha na kiMtu
phalakAmasaMkalpatyAgena chittanaishchalyena madekabhaktyA cha yaH karma
karoti grhasthaH so'pi cha saMyAsI yogI cha bhavatItyarthaH |

"The meaning is that the one without fire is not a sanyasi and the one who
does not act is not a [karma]yogi. but by giving up desire for the fruits
of action, purifying the mind, and with single-minded devotion, doing
those actions, a householder too becomes a sanyasi and a yogi."

 > >
> I saw a similar reading for akriyaH in  a shriivaishhNava bhaashya (which
> condenses the views of both raamanjua and vedanta deshika ).

They do not admit that one can give up the nitya and mnaimittika karmas at

> As shankara points out, this verse 6-1 has to be read along with 6-3.
> One has no choice but to do karma till one ascends the peak of yoga, as it
> aids him. After that it becomes an impediment and not an aid, hence, has to
> be abandoned.

This much is clear in the minds of all the commentators.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at>
It's a girl! See the pictures -

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