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

Akilesh Ayyar ayyar at akilesh.com
Mon Mar 8 18:09:20 EST 2021

On Mon, Mar 8, 2021 at 4:42 PM <jaldhar at braincells.com> wrote:

> On Fri, 5 Mar 2021, Akilesh Ayyar wrote:
> > 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.
> Dharma is relevant to one who acts regardless of what he is thinking as he
> does it.

Ok, then that one doesn't act whose mind is fixed on jnana. He is said to
be acting only from the standpoint of ajnanis, but that is not the actual
state of affairs.

> > 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
> > sides."
> As I'm sure you are well aware, Shankaracharya only considers a sannyasi
> (and of them only the highest rank, the paramahamsas) as knowers of
> Brahman.

Nope, not at all. In his commentary on the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.4.23,
Shankara says of Janaka, most certainly not a a sannyasi:

"Such a man becomes in this state a Brahmana (lit. a knower of Brahman) in
the primary sense of the word. *This* identity with the Self of all *is the
world of Brahman*, the world that is Brahman, in a real, not figurative,
sense, *O Emperor, and you have attained it*, this world of Brahman, which
is fearless, and is described as 'Not this, not this'-- *said Yajnavalkya*.
The topic of the knowledge of Brahman is finished, together with its
offshoots and procedure as well as renunciation. The highest end of man is
also completely dealt with. This much is to be attained by a man, this is
the culmination, this is the supreme goal, this is the highest good.
Attaining this one achieves all that has to be achieved and becomes a
knower of Brahman. This is the teaching of the entire Vedas."

> Now if one is a seeker (even moreso if you are a grhastha seeker as most
> of the readers of this list are) you are literally on both sides.

It is precisely to combat this misunderstanding that the Gita was written.

"He who perceives inaction in action, and action in inaction, is wise among
men; he is a yogi and performs all actions." (4:18)

"The work of one who is free from attachment, who is liberated, whose
thought is established in knowledge, who does work only as a sacrifice, is
wholly dissolved." (4:23)

The idea of literal sannyasa as superior is contrary to the message of the
Gita. Renunciation does *not* mean physical sannyasa. Physical sannyasa is
compatible with true renunciation but is not required.

> > 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.
> >
> Yes to "live" like that.  Just talking about it is not enough.  Even
> Ramana who is frequently cited as the authority for such sentiments,
> expressed them alone from atop a mountain.  If after logging off advaita-l
> one is not returning to an ashram on a mountain, ones self-inquiry is
> incomplete and one has not surrendered.  Such a person is not beyond
> anything and if they are shirking their dharmic duties they are actually
> regressing backward.

That's certainly not what Ramana believed. And it is not what the Bhagavad
Gita teaches.

> > 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 machine."
> >
> Krishna Bhagavan gives the commonsense advice that one should not try and
> fight nature; it is futile in the long run.  But people do exactly that.
> Not only in dharmic matters.  Think of how many people continue to eat
> junk food, smoke, drink etc. knowing full well it is bad for their health.

The question is what their nature is, and what is futile to fight?
Presumably the fact that they keep smoking means that it is their nature --
since that is in fact what they do -- and the attempt to fight it is silly.
Is that what you mean?

> But back to the dharmic arena, there is a certain type of wouldbe
> "spiritual" person who thinks that by talking about "self-enquiry" or
> "mentally renouncing" etc. they are somehow exempt from the obligations
> set forth in the shastras.  Such people are nastikas; that is not
> at all what Advaita Vedanta proposes.  In a few days we will be observing
> Shivaratri.  At that time we will not be paying attention to the parts of
> shastras relating to e.g. Janmashtami.  But it is not because we repudiate
> the parts relating to janmashtami or anything like that.  They are simply
> not relevant to Shivaratri.  Similarly, on Janmashtami we ignore the parts
> concerning Shivaratri.  The Advaitin answers criticism from the karmakandi
> "we do not deny the validity of the karmakanda but for the brahmavid there
> is no cause to act so for him, there is no scope for the karmakanda to be
> operative."  This also goes the other way.  If one is even slightly
> entangled in worldly affairs, the dictates and obligations of dharma hold
> sway no matter how many hours one spends in meditation or whatever.

This is a total misunderstanding of the Gita, again, per the above. It is
the mental state and not the fact of physical action that determines
whether there is some kind of binding action happening.

"Content with whatever comes to him, transcending the dualities, free from
envy, constant in mind whether in success or in failure, even though he
acts, he is not bound." (4:22)

> > 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.
> The "effort" as you put it is in stopping your mind from being roiled by
> emotion.  "emotionally unstable karmayogi" is an oxymoron.

Huh? The mind is roiled by emotion. When it is roiled, effort brings it
back. The roiling is what requires the effort. The effort *eventually*,
over time, reduces the emotion. It doesn't happen all at once.

> >
> > 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.
> Ok but the practice (abhyasa) and indifference (vairagya) referred to
> means sannyasa.  This is Shankaracharyas comments on 6.41
> योगमार्गे प्रवृत्तः संन्यासी सामर्थ्यात् प्राप्य गत्वा पुण्यकृताम्
> अश्वमेधादियाजिनां लोकान् ,
> तत्र च उषित्वा वासमनुभूय शाश्वतीः नित्याः समाः संवत्सरान् , तद्भोगक्षये
> शुचीनां
> यथोक्तकारिणां श्रीमतां विभूतिमतां गेहे गृहे योगभ्रष्टः अभिजायते ॥ ४१ ॥
> The sannyasi who fails to achieve liberation in this life (jivanmukti) is
> reborn in more favorable circumstances first in the same heavenly worlds
> that are the reward of those who have done righteous deeds, and then here
> in a family that is pure (i.e. yathoktakari, those who do their duty.)
> Mental control and renunciation of action are orthogonal.  They reinforce
> each other but can proceed at different paces.  It is possible to succeed
> in one and fail in the other though liberation will require perfection in
> both.

The only real renunciation of action is jnana. Not physical sannyasa.

> >
> > 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.
> This is why I showed you the bhashya so you could see that you are
> mistaken.  Jnanis should be sthitaprajnas but sthitaprajnas are not
> necessarily jnanis.  In fact steadiness of mind is not necessarily even
> adhyatmik.  Consider that Arjuna is a soldier.  An expert archer, he could
> hit a bird and pierce its' eye from far away.  That kind of skill requires
> tremendous ability to focus the mind.  Military discipline in general is
> designed to remove ego and make the soldier act as part of a unit.  The
> difference is that oneness is limited to a particular regiment etc.  The
> sadhaka aims to be one with all.

Stithaprajnas are most certainly jnanis. In the very first shloka
describing them, Bhagavan says:

"When he leaves behind all desires emerging from the mind, Arjuna, and is
content in the Sel fb yht eSelf, then he he is said to be one whose wisdom
is steady."

It's literally the definition of a jnani.

> Shankaracharya introducing this shloka says:
> ध्यानयोगस्य फलनिरपेक्षः कर्मयोगो बहिरङ्गं साधनमिति तं संन्यासत्वेन
> स्तुत्वा अधुना कर्मयोगस्य
> ध्यानयोगसाधनत्वं दर्शयति
> karmayoga is a preliminary (bahiranga) to dhyanayoga which as we have
> seen, Shankaracharya equates with sannyasa.  Not some amorphous
> "self-inquiry" or "surrender."

Again, true sannyasa, as the Gita shows, is not the physical sannyasa.

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

Akilesh Ayyar
Spiritual guidance: https://www.siftingtothetruth.com/

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