[Advaita-l] Karma yoga: the kinder, softer preparation for self-inquiry and surrender
Raghav Kumar Dwivedula
raghavkumar00 at gmail.com
Wed Mar 10 21:17:28 EST 2021
A few noteworthy empirical observations are -
1. Sri Ramana Maharshi himself was a outward renunciate par excellence.
2. His disciples like Muruganar, Annamalai Swami, Yogi Ramaiah, Vishwanatha
Swami, Sri Balarama Reddy, Ramanatha Brahmachari, etc., who intensely
lived his teaching and stayed with him, were all very austere renunciates,
naiShThika brahmacharis etc., and certainly not the Janaka-types.
3. Sri Ramana adopted a 'kinder softer' version of the self-enquiry
approach for householders by encouraging them to practise wherever they
were and not merely outwardly renounce things. For such grihasthas, he
discouraged any inorganic outward lifestyle changes and stressed surrender
and developing an attitude of non-doership. (An attitude of non-doership is
different from knowledge of non-doership.)
4. But He adopted a much 'tougher' upadesha for those who were living near
him in the nivRtti mArga, such as the disciples mentioned under point 2.
For example he deftly deflected young Balaram Reddy from getting married.
And told another brahmachari Annamalai Swami to consume just one piece of
coconut, a piece of dried mango, and a few groundnuts a day for
purification mind and body. The idea is, no "Janaka-logic" of rationalizing
outer luxurious life while claiming 'freedom from doership' was
countenanced by Bhagavan for his disciples in category 2. Again, When
Bhagavan's nephew Vishwanatha Swami expressed his desire to renounce his
other pursuits and stick to a naiShThika brahmacharya life of outer
renunciation, he endorsed it.
Here are a few shAstra references regarding the necessity of a life of
The Mundakopanishad bhAShya introduction clearly mentions outer
renunciation as essential for GYANam/jIvanmukti.
"ज्ञानमात्रे यद्यपि सर्वाश्रमिणामधिकारः, तथापि संन्यासनिष्ठैव ब्रह्मविद्या
मोक्षसाधनं न कर्मसहितेति ‘भैक्षचर्यां चरन्तः’ (मु. उ. १ । २ । ११)
‘संन्यासयोगात्’ (मु. उ. ३ । २ । ६) इति च ब्रुवन्दर्शयति ।
विद्याकर्मविरोधाच्च । न हि ब्रह्मात्मैकत्वदर्शनेन सह कर्म स्वप्नेऽपि
सम्पादयितुं शक्यम् ; विद्यायाः कालविशेषाभावादनियतनिमित्तत्वाच्च
कालसङ्कोचानुपपत्तेः । यत्तु गृहस्थेषु ब्रह्मविद्यासम्प्रदायकर्तृत्वादि
लिङ्गं न तत्स्थितं न्यायं बाधितुमुत्सहते ; न हि विधिशतेनापि
तमःप्रकाशयोरेकत्र सद्भावः शक्यते कर्तुम् , किमुत लिङ्गैः केवलैरिति
- This [Mundaka] Upanisad shows that though people in all stages of life
have a right to Knowledge as such, still the **Knowledge of Brahman,
founded on samnyAsa only** and not as associated with karma, is the means
for emancipation. "***Living upon alms***", " Through adopting sannyAsa" as
the Upanishad says. And this follows from the opposition between knowledge
and karma . . . As for the indirect indications (suggesting that knowledge
and karma can co-exist), to wit, **the fact that among the householders are
found some with whom started the traditional lines of the knowers of
Brahman that cannot override the established rule**. For when the
co-existence of light and darkness cannot be brought about even by a
hundred injunctions, much less can it be done so by mere indications.*"
Chhandogya also makes outer renunciation mandatory.
तस्मादिदं त्यक्तसर्वबाह्यैषणैः अनन्यशरणैः परमहंसपरिव्राजकैः
अत्याश्रमिभिर्वेदान्तविज्ञानपरैरेव वेदनीयं पूज्यतमैः प्राजापत्यं च इमं
सम्प्रदायमनुसरद्भिः उपनिबद्धं प्रकरणचतुष्टयेन । तथा अनुशासति अद्यापि ‘त एव
नान्ये’ इति ॥
*[Advaita] can be understood only by those highly worshipped persons who
have **renounced all longings for external things, who seek no other refuge
– who are ParamaHamsa, *wandering mendicants***, who have reached the final
life-stage and are totally devoted to the Philosophy of the Vedanta. **And
even to this day, it is only these persons – and none others – who carry on
this teaching**.*– Chandogya Up Bhasya, 8.12.2
*When what has been said in this book has been rightly comprehended,
nothing further remains to be known. But **only renunciates from all action
will rightly understand it**. **Desireless, *peaceful ascetics* who have
renounced all activities and whose minds are focused within will understand
the teachings in the spirit in which they are meant.*
– Suresvara’s Naiskamya Siddhi, 4.72-73
End of quotes
(I have used the translations of the above verses available online. More
accurate translations are possible.)
Pursuit of *GYAna yoga* (of doing shravaNam, mananam and nidhidhyAsanam) is
possible for grihasthas even without outer renunciation. At that point they
are still karma yogis with a commitment to internalize the Advaita vision.
However, even for them, *GYAnam* and *jIvanmukti* presuppose nivRtti
lifestyle of either sannyAsa/brahmacharya/vanaprastha at some point. The
advaita tradition clearly looks at outer renunciation as a rule and the
Janaka archetype as the exception.
These venerable acharyas possibly recognized a common pitfall of
intellectual dishonesty in outwardly leading a so-called regular life of
pursuing pleasure, wealth and dharma, while assuming to have "non-doership"
and rationalizing all their peccadillos under the garb of advaita vedantic
jargon of the "play of the three guNas" etc. Such expediency was
This is not to deny the other common error of premature renunciation which
is the other pitfall. Mere change of robes without adequate grounding in
karma yoga is not endorsed anywhere.
The maximum 'latitude' granted by shAstra is that, other than sannyAsIs,
there were also committed (नैष्ठिक) brahmachArIs and vAnaprasthIs
(householders who pursued an austere outer lifestyle living in forests.)who
were eligible for GYAnam.
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