[Advaita-l] kAmya karma

S.N. Sastri sn.sastri at gmail.com
Sun Jan 15 00:19:05 CST 2006

Why is there a stigma of sorts on a person with desire performing the
jyothishtoma purely for the sake of heaven, which is strange since the veda
itself commands the performance of the sacrifice for such a desirous person?


First of all, the intention of SureSvara in saying that desire for the fruit
is to be abandoned when performing vedic rituals should be understood. He
speaks as an advaitin for whom the goal of life is liberation and not
heaven, etc, which are transient. In the Gita, Arjuna is exhorted by Krishna
to go beyond the karma kANDa and take to the path of knowledge. SureSvara
does not say that kAmya karma should not be performed at all. What he says
is that one should not remain satisfied with the mere performance of kAmya
karma because that will not lead to the highest goal of human life, namely,
liberation. All karmas, including jyotishToma, can be performed without
desire, as nishkAma karma, in which case they will lead to purity of mind
which is essential for one who aspires for liberation. In sloka 327 in the
vArtika the words plava and parIkshya refer to MuNDakopanishad, 1.2.7 and
1.2.12 which start with these words. Slokas 326 and 327 contain the argument
of the pUrvapaksha that these mantras censure kAmya karma. SureSvara replies
in Sloka 328 that the censure (ninda) is not in respect of the performance
of the karma itself, but only in respect of the desire for the fruit. This
is in accordance with the advaitic view that one should seek liberation and
not strive for transient results such as heaven which will keep the person
eternally in samsAra. The seeker of liberation should give up all desires
and should perform all actions without attachment to the fruit. Sloka 328
does not say that a man who is content with attaining  heaven should not
perform the yajna with desire. The stigma, if any, is only that striving for
such an ephemeral happiness as that of heaven is not worthwhile for a human
being who has the potentiality to attain everlasting bliss through
liberation from the cycle of births and deaths.


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