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

Akilesh Ayyar ayyar at akilesh.com
Thu Mar 11 08:49:44 EST 2021

On Thu, Mar 11, 2021 at 3:06 AM <jaldhar at braincells.com> 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.

No we can't. If people exist, people act. "Indeed, no one, even in the
twinkling of an eye, ever exists without performing action; Everyone is
forced to perform action, even actio which is against his will, by the
qualities which originate in material nature." (BG 3:5)

The whole point of the BG is that real action is not defined by its outer

> > 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.

Hrm. Rama re-incarnates as Krishna, who gets the arrow in his foot because
of Rama's deceit. Does this mean Vishnu has not attained liberation from
samsara? This is a profound misunderstanding of the meaning of liberation
from samsara.

The end of rebirth is not a literal end to rebirth, but the comprehension
that there is no birth in the first place.

> > "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.

Inseparable is not the same as necessary for the realization. Janaka was
NOT a physical sannyasi and THEN he became a knower of Brahman and THEN he
offers the kingdom.

Which offer, by the way, we do not if it was accepted.

What we do know is what Bhagavan says in the Gita of Janaka:

"Perfection was attained by kings like Janaka With action alone." (3:20)

> > 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.**"

Again, that merely begs the question of what a sannyasi really is. You
claim it is only physical renunciation. Bhagavan claims it is mental
renunciation of the fruit of action even while performing one's duty and is
*not* defined merely by giving up action (BG 6:1).

> 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.
> ...
> "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.

Thanks for the history lesson, but the interpretation makes no sense. Two
slokas later Bhagavan explains further: "He who has abandoned all
attachment to the fruits of action, always content, not dependent, even
when performing action, does, in effect, nothing at all." It really
couldn't be any clearer.

> > "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.

It does. I've already pointed out the verse two slokas before that.
"Performing action with the body alone, without wish, restrained in
thought and self, with all motives of acquisition abandoned, he incurs no
evil." (4:21)

This is clearly not prarabhdha but new actions. What determines the evil
incurred is clearly the mental attitude.

> > 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.

Your nature is not what's "good" for you. Your nature is what you actually

The gunas compel action and set desire. If people smoke, it IS because
that's their nature. If and when they stop, that too is because that is in
comport with 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.
That doesn't respond to the text I clearly quoted. Arjuna's mind IS roiled
by emotion to the extent that he drops his weapons on the battlefield. In
response Krishna urges karma yoga AS a purifier. It couldn't be any clearer
that karma yoga is recommended as a purifying mechanism to the mind roiled
by emotion.

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


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