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

Sudhanshu Shekhar sudhanshu.iitk at gmail.com
Thu Mar 11 03:19:29 EST 2021

Hari Om Jaladhar ji,

Do you propose impossibility of Moksha without sanyAsa (literal physical
sanyAsa) in a particular birth or across births?


On Thu, 11 Mar, 2021, 1:36 pm Jaldhar H. Vyas via Advaita-l, <
advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org> wrote:

> On Mon, 8 Mar 2021, Akilesh Ayyar wrote:
> > Ok, then that one doesn't act whose mind is fixed on jnana.
> We can just as readily say the mind of one who acts is not fixed on jnana.
> > He is said to be acting only from the standpoint of ajnanis, but that is
> > not the actual state of affairs.
> Whatever the motivation is, at the end of the day he is acting.  And
> actions will have results which will cause other actions ad infinitum.
> The only way to break the cycle is sannyasa.
> > Nope, not at all. In his commentary on the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
> 4.4.23,
> > Shankara says of Janaka, most certainly not a a sannyasi:
> >
> Not yet.  See below.  But in any case as far as Janaka engaged in karma he
> suffered its results.  E.g. we know from Vishnupurana that Janaka the
> father of Sita was the reincarnation of this one.  This indicates that
> despite his knowledge he had not achieved liberation from samsara.
> > "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.
> > ...
> Right.  Now read the very next vakya.
> सोऽहं भगवते विदेहान्ददामि मां चापि सह दास्यायेति
> "Bhagavan I give you [my kingdom of] Videha, and also myself to serve
> you."
> Janaka on receiving the upadesha from Yajnavalkya  immediately renounced
> the world and all posessions even his own body.  The state of jnana is
> incompatible with anything other than sannyasa.  As I mentioned previously
> Swami Vidyaranya makes the distinction between the vividisha who takes
> sannyasa and then achieves jnana and the vidvan who because of his jnana
> takes sannyasa.  But in either case, jnana and sannyasa are inseparable.
> > 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."
> >
> Of course you must have seen what Shankaracharya wrote previously to that.
>   यस्मादेवम् अकर्मसम्बन्धी एष ब्राह्मणस्य महिमा नेति नेत्यादिलक्षणः,
> तस्मात् एवंवित् शान्तः
> बाह्येन्द्रियव्यापारत उपशान्तः, तथा दान्तः अन्तःकरणतृष्णातो निवृत्तः,
> उपरतः
> सर्वैषणाविनिर्मुक्तः सन्न्यासी,
> I include an english translation in case you don't understand.
> "As that praise (mahima) of Brahmavidya characterized by 'neti neti' is
> not connected with karma, 'the knower of it becomes peaceful' i.e.
> pacifying that which is pervaded by the external senses 'calm'
> i.e. detached from the thirsts of the antahkarana, 'withdrawn' i.e. free
> from all desires; **a sannyasi.**"
> Sannyasa is the supreme goal, the highest good, the teaching of the entire
> Veda.  What happens if for whatever reason you cannot take to sannyasa?
> That's where karma and karmayoga comes in.
> > "He who perceives inaction in action, and action in inaction, is wise
> among
> > men; he is a yogi and performs all actions." (4:18)
> >
> Shankaracharyas bhashya on this shloka is quite extensive.  To understand
> it we must first understand the intellectual millieu which is its context.
> The Rshis acquired knowledge of the Vedas.  It was not revealed to them by
> a God or prophet but they "saw" it.  (The literal meaning of Rshi is
> see-r." or they heard it (shruti = that which is heard) in other words
> they experienced it.  Pondering upon the Veda they acquired knowledge of
> dharma which consists of what is to be done or not done.  Thinking still
> further their descendents began to wonder: how does karma become complete?
> How will it lead us to the ultimate goal?  At one extreme were those who
> insist that karma as defined by the Vedas and dependent shastras *is*
> complete.  There is no higher goal than the heavenly worlds enjoyed
> through right action.  At the other extreme some such as Bauddhas, Jains
> etc. passed into nastikata claiming that karma including vedokta karma not
> only doesn't lead to the supreme felicity but is actually harmful to that
> goal and only jnana can do that.  Inbetween some thinkers tried to develop
>   jnana-karma fusion which in turn is of different types depending in on
> whether karma is thought to be an auxillary to jnana, jnana an auxillary
> to karma, both to be equal, etc.  Sureshvaracharya has catalogued many
> such theories in the sambandha section of his
> Brhadaranyakopanishadbhashyavarttika.
> Advaita Vedanta denies jnanakarmasamucchaya and kevalakarma in favor of
> kevalajnana.  But unlike the nastikas, it does not deny the validity of
> karma altogether.  Rather, it explains the Veda teaches two paths for two
> different classes of people.
> This is the background to the idea which is being taught in this shloka.
> "He who perceives inaction in action" - the adherent of kevalakarmavada
> thinks that action is all there is and rubbishes the idea that one can be
> free of it.  But action cannot lead to the ultimate goal of life.  If one
> is rowing a boat with only one oar, one can make strenuous effort but will
> still only go round and round in circles.  The yogi knowns it is jnana not
> karma which leads to liberation.
> "He who perceives action in inaction"  The adherent of kevalakarmavada
> further faults the kevalajnanavadi for abandoning the Veda by denying the
> validity of the karma taught therein.  And for good reason because the
> nastikas did exactly that.  The advaitin explains that he is _not_ denying
> the validity of karma for those for which it is appropriate but it is
> simply not relevant for the situation of a jnani.  What the
> kevalakarmavadi perceives as "inaction" (i.e not prescribed by Vedic
> dictates) is in fact prescribed by the Veda (i.e. a kind of "action" by
> that definition) and in fact is the supreme purport of the Veda because as
> is explained in i.e. 4.24 all aspects of the yajna are founded on Brahman.
> (Note all this discussion concerns yajna but it applies to all karma even
> secular laukika types because yajna is the archetype of karma.)
> The yogi is wise because he knows that both paths are valid.  Notice the
> use of the verb pashyati "he sees".  Nothing in this shloka implies that
> both paths must be followed at the same time or even that they are both
> equal.  Only that both should be known as founded on Veda.
> > "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 karma referred to is prarabdha karma.  Due to circumstances jnana may
> not immediately be followed by sannyasa until this residue is dissolved.
> But it will happen Bhagavan assures us.  It most certainly doesn't mean a
> sannyasi can keep performing new activities without penalty.
> > 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.
> >
> Is true renunciation anything like a true Scotsman?  I must say that for
> someone who was condemning reading books not long ago, you seem to be
> inordinately dependent on books - and only translations at that.  If you
> were at all familiar with the history and practices of Advaita Vedanta you
> would know that sannyasa only means physical science.  From before
> Shankaracharya to the present day this is how it has been understood.
> "mental renunciation" is a modern-day dodge invented by the kind of people
> who want to be "spiritual" as a fashion statement but not at the risk of
> actually inconveniencing their placid lives.
> > 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
> How can smoking be part of your nature if it kills you?  A simpler
> explanation is that they keep smoking because their desires are so strong
> they are addicted.  It may be very difficult but they can successfully
> overcome addiction.  Similarly, one who does not perform their duty with
> the excuse of jnana even though they are grhasthas or keeps dabbling in
> worldly affairs even though they are sannyasis are overcome by desire and
> are not acting according to their nature.
> > 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)
> >
> Another argument made by kevalakarmavadis was that it is impossible to
> live without karma and you sannyasis are hypocrites because even you e.g.
> beg for alms.  But this kind of bare minimum activity for the preservation
> of life is not considered the same as karma in general which is
> characterized by samkalpa or intention.  In a puja for example, we
> formalize it aham amukakarma karishye but it is present in any motivated
> action. Sannyasis eat only because living things try and remain alive.
> Breathing, digesting etc. are not considered karma for the same reason.
> It's something living things do by virtue of being alive not for specific
> reasons.
> When the sannyasi asks the grhini for bhiksha he doesn't ask for a menu
> and proceed to order main course, salad and dessert etc.  He is "content
> with whatever comes to him"  So it will not bind him.
> > 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.
> Just as there are warning labels on heavy machinery saying "do not operate
> under the influence of drugs or alcohol" if a person is not emotionally
> unstable they should deal with that problem first and then proceed to
> karmayoga.
> --
> Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
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