[Advaita-l] Dharma

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Fri Dec 3 16:44:37 CST 2004

On Thu, 2 Dec 2004, Kiran B.R. wrote:

First let me say that the futility of picking out random lines from
shastras has already been pointed out.  almost anything can be justified
that way.  Our method of interpretation is more subtle. Context is the
key.  The Gita is a unitary whole.  It is itself onoly 700 verses out of
the 100,000 in the Mahabharata.  And the Mahabharata itself is just part
of the ocean of shastra.  "There is a crisis", "something must be done"
are not excuses for a lack of right understanding.

On to your quotes:

> (1)
> anAshritaH karmaphalaM kAryaM karma karOti yaH |
> sa saMnyAsI cha yOgI cha na niragnirna chAkriyaH ||

He who performs his obligatory duties without hope in their results is the
samnyasi and yogi not one without fire or activities. (6.1)

Remember at the beginning of the Gita, Arjuna had seen his cousin
brothers, teachers, and elders arrayed before him ready to die.  He asks
Krishna whether it would not be better to give up the kingdom rather than
slay such dear ones?  This is Bhagavans rebuke to such thinking.

He says renunciation isn't just giving up responsibility.  We've all met
such people.  If you ask them wy they don't do puja etc. they claim it is
because they are "beyond ritualism" or some such nonsense.  The real
reason is that they are to lazy or ignorant to do it.  Yet they are
perfectly willing to spend time and effort on acquiring material things.
Giving up activity is a must for sannyasa and yoga but just giving up
activity is not enough.  Faith in the power and utility of actions must be
given up first.

 It is not a definition of sannyasi or yogi but an explanation of
the dividing line between the conventional man and such people.  The
dividing line between a [karma]yogi and a sannyasi is explained elsewhere.

(btw why is fire mentioned?  Because agnihotra is the archetype of all

[rearranged the next two]

> (3)
> yadyadAcharati shrEShTastattadEvEtarO janaH |
> sa yatpramANaM kurutE lOkastadanuvartatE ||

> (2)
> na mE pArthAsti kartavyaM triShu lOkEShu kiMchana |
> nAnavAptamavAptavyaM varta Eva cha karmaNi ||

Whatever is done by the great man is emulated by ordinary people.
Whatever standards he sets up are followed by the whole world. (3.21)

O Partha! there is nothing in the the three worlds for me to do,
There is nothing unattained or to be attained yet I act. (3.22)

Again there is nothing relevant to your thesis here.  Bhagavan is
demonstrating His place as the upholder of Pravrtti Dharma even though
Nivrtti Dharma is superior.

> (4)
> na mAM karmANi liMpaMti na mE karmaphalE spRuhA |
> iti mAM yO&bhijAnAti karmabhirna sa badhyatE ||

This is 4.14.  To understand it you must see the shloka before it and the
shloka after it.

chaturvarNyaM mayA srShTaM guNakarmavibhAgashaH |
tasya kartAramapi mAM viddhayakartAramavyayam.h || 13 ||

na mAM karmANi liMpaMti na mE karmaphalE spRuhA |
iti mAM yObhijAnAti karmabhirna sa badhyatE || 14 ||

evaM GYAtvA krtaM karma pUrvairapi mumukShubhiH |
kuru karmaiva tasmAtvaM pUrvaiH pUrvataraM krtaM || 15 ||

The four varnas have been created by me aranged by quality and action.
Though I am their creator, know me as the unchanging non-creator. (4.13)

My actions do not touch me because I do not yearn for their fruits.
Those who Know me thus are freed from the bondage of action." (4.14)

Knowing this, action was also undertaken by the ancient seekers.
You too should also act in the manner of the ancients. (4.15)

A big problem with Ethics is that it is often presented in a very
abstract idealistic sort of way.  But people are not textbook examples.
Gita maybe be Gods instructions on how people should act but it is also
specifically Gods instructions as to how Arjuna should act.  Arjuna is
facing a moral and ethical crisis.  His cousin Duryodhana has repeated
violated Kshatryia norms.  Breaking treaties, usurping power from his own
elders, humiliating his own sister-in-law.  (The Mahabharata explicitly
points to this event as the downfall of the Kuru vamsha.)  The only way
out of this predicament seems to be a war which will destroy the very
people and institutions Arjuna is trying to save.  His gut feeling is to
simply surrender passively to circumstances.  How can Bhagavan ask anymore
of him?

Krshna Bhagavan starts from the very beginning.  Although He Himself is
the unchanging eternal, in the guise of a creator he has established the
caste system amongst humans.  (Shankaracharya adds this qualifier in his
commentary.)  This truth was known to the ancients (Such as
Janaka--Arjunas own ancestor--says Shankaracharya.)  Krishna Bhagavan is
not running a puppet show like the Western God.  He had no personal
desires in setting up this system.  Thus those ancients maintained this
Kshatriya dharma from their own free will and for their own purposes.
The proper course for Arjuna is to remain on that path set in the hallowed
past and ordained by God.

> (5)
> naiva tasya kRutEnArthO nAkRutEnEha kaSchana |
> na chAsya sarvabhUtEShu kaSchidarthavyapAshrayaH ||

3.18.  Kartik has covered this one.

> (..........)
> > > The true karmayOgi cannot be distinguished from the
> > > true sannyAsi. When you see karma in the akarma of the sannyAsi and
> > > akarma in the karma of the karmayOgi,
> >
> > This doesn't even make any sense.
s> When this does:
> karmaNyakarma yaH paSyEdakarmaNi cha karma yaH |
> sa buddhimAn manuShyEShu sa yuktaH kRutsnakarmakRut ||,

Who sees non-action in action and action in non-action,
he is the most intelligent amongst men and does all actions as a yogi.(4.18)

This shloka is refering to the karmayogi only.  Nowhere is the sannyasi
even mentioned.  The karmayogi does not stop to pontificate whether his
actions are really non-actions or not.  He should just get on with doing
his job.  Again look at the context.  Arjuna is seated on a chariot in
between two armies who are about to wage bloody war.  Now is no the time
for him to be dithering about the validity of his actions.

> > > The worst thing that has ever happened to our country is this wrong
> > > conclusion above. It has made us worship the lazy, the weak, the
> > > unclean, the industryless. Never, never was this taught by the Wise.
> > > It was only learnt by the unwise.
> >
> > Again, this makes for a nice speech but it is not borne out by any kind of
> > historical fact.  Apply some industry to your study of Vedanta and you'll
> > see I'm right.
> This is not a historical fact which happened on a particular day and
> captured on TV. It's right before your eyes in India. the laziness,
> the weakness, the lack of cleanliness and industry when it comes to
> anything this-worldy is a basic trait of our country.

Action for the sake of action will not improve things in the slightest.
The Gita teaches enlightened action and part of that is knowing the limits
of action.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
It's a boy! See the pictures - http://www.braincells.com/nilagriva/

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