[Advaita-l] Pratyavaaya paapam

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Wed Oct 22 06:28:46 CDT 2008

One important thing must be remembered when quoting Sankara
bhagavatpAda about performance or non-performance of karmA.
The context of the discussion is oftentimes a defense of complete 
saMnyAsa vis-a-vis an ancient strict position against it. There is a 
view that karmA can and should be never renounced on the path 
to moksha. There is another view that kAmya karmA, particularly 
ritual actions motivated by specific desires, should be given up, 
but nitya and naimittika karmA-s should not be given up. There is 
a third view, and this is the upanishadic and advaita vedAntic view, 
that all karmA should be given up for one seeking moksha.
When Sankara bhagavatpAda says that no sin attaches to the
non-performance of nitya karmA, he is contrasting the saMnyAsin
from the brahmacArin and/or gRhastha. The no-sin position applies
to one who has formally renounced ALL karma, whether he is a
jnAnI or one who is still seeking jnAna. The key point is that such
a person has made a strong commitment to renunciation of ALL
actions. For the rest of us, who are not ready to walk away from
life in the world as we usually know it, this does not apply.
The other key point to be remembered is that there is a path of
transition from performance of karmA-s to complete saMnyAsa.
Please see gItA, chapter 6 and the bhAshya on it. There is a well
attested path of withdrawal from karmA too - yogArUDhasya
tasyaiva SamaH kAraNa ucyate ... SanaiS Sanair uparamed
buddhyA dhRti-gRhItayA. Obviously, a person who has not yet
completely renounced karmA can still give up some karmA-s in
a gradual fashion. The correct way to do it is under guidance from
a well-qualified guru and it is quite specific to each person. It
cannot be something that one should decide upon a whim.
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