[Advaita-l] Karma yoga: the kinder, softer preparation for self-inquiry and surrender

jaldhar at braincells.com jaldhar at braincells.com
Thu Mar 4 16:28:32 EST 2021

You forgot the cc to the list.  Adding it back.

On Tue, 2 Mar 2021, Akilesh Ayyar wrote:

> That's very black-and-white thinking.

Some things really are black and white despite attempts to obfuscate them.

> If one fears swimming in the ocean,
> one can learn first in the swimming pool. These are not all-or-nothing
> propositions.

The swimming pool in your analogy is karma not karmayoga.

Dharmic acts and Bhakti can also be viewed in terms of the three gunas.

The Tamasic view is if I don't act something terrible will happen to me 
(go to Hell etc.)

The Rajasic view is if I do right actions, I will prosper (gain wealth, 
siddhis etc.)

The Sattvic view is to act purely out of Prem for Bhagavan and a sense of 

The first two are karma and as long as karma is in accordance with shruti, 
smrti, and shistachara it is good but it will not lead to freedom from 
samsara.  Only the third type is karmayoga.

If one is unable to do karmayoga because they are beset by fear and 
ignorance then they should work on that first.  Following the appropriate 
dictates of shastras will help there.

> That is not challenging an illusion of control.
> One is keeping the illusion
> that one is in fact doing things -- "as duty as and a sacrifice."

The only way to to not do things is to physically not do things i.e. 
sannyasa.  No amount of saying "I am not the doer" will help if you are in 
fact doing things.  For people like Arjuna, sannyasa was not a viable 
option at that time so karmayoga is the next best thing.

> These are not two separate things. His decision to follow his so-called duty
> is itself a preference determined by the gunas.

Not sure what you're getting at here.  Arjunas duty to fight was due to 
his birth in a Kshatriya family.  And he certainly had the choice to be a 
coward.  He was convinced to fight by Bhagavan Himself (who is 
naistrigunya) in the guise of his childhood friend and sarathi.

> In fact, Arjuna needed to fight, because, as Bhagavan points out in 18:59,
> his inner nature will compel him to do so. There is no actual choice.

You are confusing "is" and "ought"  Krishna Bhagvan is saying it is ego 
which is making him act cowardly even though he really does want to fight 
and will end up doing so anyway.  So he ought to go with his instincts 
rather than try and surpress them.  But of course he has a choice.  This 
shloka depicts an argument about good choices versus bad choices not 
choice versus no choice.

> No. It's right in the Gita. 4:22:
> "....constant in mind whether in success or in failure, even though he acts,
> he is not bound." Constant in mind is another way of saying emotionally
> unaffected.

Yes but the way you put it is " no matter what happens, good or bad, you 
are not going to be emotionally affected."  If you're mind is already 
roiled by emotion, karmayoga isn't going to help you become constant in 
mind.  But if you are a karmayogi, your mind as a consequence will not 
roiled by emotion.  If that's actually what you meant and I misunderstood 
you, it just goes to show the importance of precision in language.

>       A sthitaprajna is one who
>       has the fortitude to withstand the _consequences_ of karma. 
> A stithaprajna is no longer a karma yogi. He is a jnani.

In 2.54 Arjuna asks Krishna Bhagavan what are the characteristics of a 
sthitaprajna.  Shankaracharya observes:

यो ह्यादित एव संन्यस्य कर्माणि ज्ञानयोगनिष्ठायां प्रवृत्तः, यश्च कर्मयोगेन, तयोः 
‘प्रजहाति’ इत्यारभ्य आ अध्यायपरिसमाप्तेः स्थितप्रज्ञलक्षणं साधनं चोपदिश्यते ।

"To him who has renounced action by means of establishment in jnanayoga 
and to he who has reached that stage by means of karmayoga to both are 
explained from "prajahati..." (2.55) to the end of the adhyaya, the 
hallmarks of the sthitaprajna and the means for attaining that state."

> These are all distinctions without a difference.

One leads to continued rebirth in samsara and the other leads to 
liberation from it.  That's a pretty huge difference.

> BG 4.21: "Performing action with the body alone, without wish, restrained in
> thought and self, with all motives of acquisition abandoned, he incurs no
> evil." That's the attitude of mind at the time of the action that later
> leads to the ability to be indifferent to its later consequences.

Ok but may I point out that nothing in that has anything to do with 
"control" nor does it establish that karmayoga is "easier" or "softer".

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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