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

Raghav Kumar Dwivedula raghavkumar00 at gmail.com
Fri Mar 12 01:41:47 EST 2021

Sri Ramana was rarely prescriptive when it came to lifestyle.  That does
not mean that we can conclude that according to him, a renunciate life was
not important.

Therefore we have to necessarily look for indications from the larger
advaita tradition of Shankara that he was embedded in, to understand his
views on the nivRtti mArga life, sannyAsa.

When someone asked Bhagavan, if he should renounce, Bhagavan said no. And
when asked why Bhagavan himself came away, he pithily replied that he
(Bhagavan) never asked anyone's advice.

Besides, there was also a pramANa from the Arunachala Puranam that no one
needed to take formal sannyAsa if committed to Arunachala kshetra. This was
an exception declared by Lord Shiva which Bhagavan would often quote.

So to understand the place of sannyAsa, you have to examine why Shankara
interprets gItA to prescribe karma yoga and then outer sannyAsa for
attaining jIvanmukti.

Sri Vidyaranya is a separate topic. But its not difficult to do samanvaya
(reconciliation) with Shankara's accepted idea of GYAnam and
paripakva-GYAnam (mature knowledge) mentioned in the gItA. These two words
are not grades, rather the first is GYAnam merely by way of courtesy while
the latter is the primary meaning of GYAnam. The words
sapratibandhaka-GYAnam (self knowledge not free of obstacles) and
apratibandhaka-GYAnam are all duly endorsed in the tradition.

Also there is the need to examine the sources of resistance to leading a
renunciate life in a given person's make-up; it may often be due to avidya
rather than just a harmless trait . And the tendency to rationalize the
pursuits of desires born of avidyA, as harmless play of the guNas is also
addressed by the challenge of renunciate lifestyle.

In any case, the examples of GYAnis among Rishis being grihasthas are
explicitly discounted by Shankara as evidence of the non-necessity of outer
sannyAsa. Like i said, if we directly read texts and choose verses that
accord with our personal worldview, we are likely to diverge from
traditional vedAnta in to cul de sacs like Andrew Cohens and Moojis who
brazenly rationalize their advaita teaching business operations and
psychopathological manipulations of disciples using the non-doership logic.
On the other hand, A sannyāsī who lets say deviates from well-established
norms, has no fig leaf of Advaita shastra logic to justify his venality -
he is to be shunned, according to the advaita sampradaaya. That is why the
traditional non-negotiable criterion for a Guru was that he had to be a
shrotriya and a brahma-niShTha which is not just "established in Brahman"
but also a sannyAsI (who by definition fulfills the necessary tough
criteria of a sannyAsI, not merely a wearer of saffron clothes).

As you said,
"I agree, however, that Shankara's views present a more complicated
question. There are many places in his commentaries where he does indeed
seem to suggest physical sannyasa as a necessity."

I shall stop here.



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