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

Raghav Kumar Dwivedula raghavkumar00 at gmail.com
Thu Mar 11 21:09:41 EST 2021

You missed the point I was making about the emphatic statement that Sri
Shankara and his disciples and Sri Ramana and his closest disciples made by
their very life they lived. They were all renunciates par excellence. If we
choose to ignore this elephant in the room, we can then run around in
semantic circles matching quote for quote to support our stands. The
renunciate lifestyle of the overwhelming majority of traditional acharyas
and jIvanmuktas is not to be glossed over. Such glossing over of the
importance of the renunciate lifestyle is tanatamount to saying, "oh it was
just their 'karma' that they lived such austere lives. Tough luck. We are
smarter and luckier; we can just as well be like Janaka and have it both

Also, your idea that Sri Shankara and traditional advaita vedanta over the
last 1200 years have not considered outer sannyAsa as mandatory for
jIvanmukti, is quite starkly opposed to historical facts. We need to get
over that. Its not a question of cherry picking quotes to support our
particular stand. Its an historical fact that advocates of Shankara vedanta
have traditionally/historically insisted on sannyasa for paripakva GYAnam.
(There is a mention of exceptions like the celestial being Indra, a
non-sannyasi attaining self-knowledge, but these exceptions only proved the
rule, in the eyes of all the acharyas of advaita. )
I have already quoted Shankara bhAShya of Mundakopanishad and
Chandogyopanishat etc., where a clear need for outer renunciation is
mentioned, by talking of a lifestyle based on alms and mendicancy.
 Why does Sri Shankara even mention such things if they were so irrelevant
and just an accident of karma? If you see the Shankara commentaries too and
not just the gita verses, you will get a different gItA perspective on
sannyAsa to what you currently have.

According to Shankara, the verses of the Gita are only to commend karma
yoga but do not supersede the essential place of sannyAsa. Please see the
bhAShya for gItA 18.53 and 18.55. The stage of GYAna-niShThA (identified
with outer sannyAsa involving "bhixAcaryam" - lifestyle based on alms etc
indicating disregard for the outer world) is presented as critical in
attaining paripakva-GYAnam.

Without denying this history of advaita, you could perhaps? still make a
case for sannyAsa being non-mandatory for GYAnam, by pointing to the near
total collapse of the varNAshrama dharma over the last century or so. And
then you have to also choose to contextualize Shankara’s statements
mandating sannyAsa, as being directed at vedic ritualists who advocated
lifelong performance of karma and had no notion of karma yoga.

One way or the other, it cannot be denied that Shankara advocated sannyAsa
- a lifestyle based on alms and mendicancy for the primary eligible
aspirants who pursue vedAntic sadhanas to the fullest extent.  But if you
imagine that Shankara never considered outer sannyAsa mandatory, that is a
negation of history of the entire lineage of acharyas of advaita.

Sri VidyAraNya too has dealt with the question of jiVanmukti extensively.

He implies that grihasthas who pursue vedAnta practices and also continue
their lifestyle of the pursuits of wealth and pleasure (even if pursued
with "non-doership" as you suggest) do not directly attain the same goal as
sannyAsins who actively and successfully foster the pursuit of jIvanmukti.
This may prima facie sound surprising but that is because, again, there is
a difference between GYAnam and paripakva (mature) GYAnam - the latter
being the preserve of renunciates like Sri Ramana and Sri Shankara.

Those grihasthas who continue the lifestyle based on acquisition of
wealth/pleasure for themselves or their self-defined near and dear ones
(exalted grihasthas they may well be), cannot be jIvanmuktas as long as
they languish in that lifestyle. (They will, if they are blessed enough,
eventually drop off their other pursuits and fall in to the nivRtti mArga.
Outer Sannyasa is regarded as necessary.  And then, even thereafter, they
have to awarefully foster the assimilation of Self-knowledge geared to
jIvanmukti - as per VidyAraNya.


P.S. An article on the modern tendency to underplay the idea of
desirelessness and outer renunciation and sannyAsa -

On Thu, 11 Mar, 2021, 10:56 am Akilesh Ayyar via Advaita-l, <
advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org> wrote:

> Namaste,
> Another empirical observation:
> Nowhere in Ramana Maharshi's Talks, Upadesa Saram, 40 verses and
> supplement, or in his Guru Vachaka Kovai will you find any reference to the
> *necessity* of physical sannyasa to moksha. That’s remarkable if it is
> really so important.
> Nor will you find any reference to the idea that the self-inquiry for
> householders does not lead to exactly and precisely the same destination as
> the self-inquiry recommended for physical renunciates.
> Physical sannyasa is some people's karma, that is all. It is not a
> necessity for realization for anyone -- not per Ramana, not per Sankara
> (again, we see clearly it is not an absolute necessity in the case of
> Janaka) and not per the Bhagavad Gita.
> Krishna Bhagavan explains this very clearly in the first shloka of Chapter
> V of the Gita, this misconception about the real meaning of sannyasa.
> "anāśhritaḥ karma-phalaṁ kāryaṁ karma karoti yaḥ
> sa sannyāsī cha yogī cha na niragnir na chākriyaḥ"
> "He who performs that action which is his duty, while renouncing the fruit
> of action, *is a sannyasi* and a yogin; *not* he who is without a
> consecrated fire and who fails to perform sacred rites."
> On Wed, Mar 10, 2021 at 9:17 PM Raghav Kumar Dwivedula via Advaita-l <
> advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org> wrote:
> > Namaste
> > A few noteworthy empirical observations are -
> > Regarding Bhagavan
> > 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.
> >
> > Regarding shAstra
> > Here are a few shAstra references regarding the necessity of a life of
> > outer renunciation.
> > The Mundakopanishad bhAShya introduction clearly mentions outer
> > renunciation as essential for GYANam/jIvanmukti.
> >
> > Quote-
> > "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
> > ।"*Paraphrased
> > - 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
> > discouraged.
> >
> > 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.
> >
> > Om
> > Raghav
> >
> >
> >
> > >
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