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

Akilesh Ayyar ayyar at akilesh.com
Fri Mar 5 01:43:34 EST 2021

On Thu, Mar 4, 2021 at 4:28 PM <jaldhar at braincells.com> wrote:

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


> On Tue, 2 Mar 2021, Akilesh Ayyar wrote:
> > 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
> duty.
> 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.

Yes, karma as you define it is easier still than karma yoga. But that does
not mean that karma yoga is not one step easier than self-inquiry or
surrender. Karma yoga still involves decision based on duty. But dharma is
not relevant to one whose mind is fixed on jnana.

The idea that "I will decide what is dharmic and do that in an unattached
way" is, while mentally purifying, accepting rather than challenging the
notion that I am the doer.

Duty as a concept is still basically karmic, is still basically founded on
the dictates of doership. One who is attached to duty still has a sattvic
attachment... which must be eliminated before atma jnana can be attained.
Duty is mithya and bondage, ultimately.

> > 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.

This is misunderstanding the meaning of challenging the illusion of
doership. Challenging that illusion does not involve repeating mechanically
"I am not the doer." It involves turning the mind away from the changing
manifestations at all times and abandoning the worry about what is done or
not done.

As Sankara says in Upadeshasahri verse 210: "For knowing oneself to be
Brahman one has no duty to perform; nor can one be a knower of Brahman when
one has duties to perform. One deceives oneself by having recourse to both

Or see what Gaudapada says in his Mandukya Karika (in the Advaita
Prakarana): "[R]emembering that everything is the Unborn Reality, one does
not certainly see the born [i.e. duality]."

Or see the BG in chapter 2: "And when he withdraws completely the senses
from the objects of the senses, as a tortoise withdraws its limbs into its
shell, his wisdom stands firm."

Without duty, without seeing duality, and without seeing the objects of the
senses, there is no question of deciding what to do in accordance with
dharma -- whether one renounces the fruit or not.

The attempt to live like *that* -- that is self-inquiry and surrender, that
goes beyond karma yoga.

> >
> > 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, the idea of choice is itself merely a kind of theater. The ultimate
outcome is quite determined by the gunas. This is explicit at the end of
the Gita: "What you wish not to do, through delusion, you shall do that
against your will, Arjuna, bound by your own karma, born of your own
material nature. The Lord abides in the hearts of all beings, Arjuna,
causing all beings to revolve, by the power of illusion, as if fixed on a

> >
> > 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.

No, it is going to help you. The effort at karma yoga will *result* in
mental purification, even if your mind is roiled by emotion.

Arjuna says: "The mind, indeed, is unstable, Krishna, turbulent, powerful
and obstinate; I think it is as difficult to control as the wind." (6:34)

Bhagavan replies "Without doubt, O Arjuna, the mind is unsteady and
difficult to restrain, but by practice, Arjuna, and by indifference to
worldly objects, it is restrained." (6:35)

Bhagavan goes on to say that if necessary, perfection in the practice of
yoga will calm the mind over the course of many lifetimes.

> >       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."

Who has reached that stage *by means of *karma yoga... that does not mean
that he is any longer using that means. He is no longer practicing. He is
released from practice, from effort, from all types of yogas, because he
knows who he is. Otherwise jnana yoga could not also lead to that result.

> >
> > 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".

Karma yoga is clearly preliminary.

"For the sage desirous of attaining [karma] yoga, action is said to be the
means; for him who has already attained yoga, tranquility is said to be the
means." (BG 6:3)

So the one who lacks tranquility practices dutiful action while renouncing
the fruit... at the end of which there is mental purification. But that is
not the end of the story!

This is why Krishna says earlier: "No purifier equal to knowledge is found
here in the world; he who is himself perfected in yoga *in time* finds that
knowledge in the Self." Even one who is perfected in karma yoga, lacking
knowledge, is not complete. That knowledge will challenge the idea that he
is acting at all. To understand that knowledge requires a relentless
inward-turning of the mind without regard to action and without regard to
duty... the body and the mind will anyway act of their own accord, but the
spiritual aspirant will to the best of his or her abilities ignore their

After the aspirant after wisdom has a sufficiently still mind, through
karma yoga if necessary, then, "Little by little, he should come to rest,
with the intellect firmly held. His mind having been established in the
Self, he should not think of anything." (BG 6:25)

Akilesh Ayyar
Spiritual guidance - http://www.siftingtothetruth.com/

> --
> Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>


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