message to my friends

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vidya at CCO.CALTECH.EDU
Sat Aug 8 19:31:52 CDT 1998

> > Q. "Why then did you leave home in your youth?"
> > A. "That was my prarabdha.  One's course of conduct in this life
> > is determined by one's prarabdha.  My prarabdha lies this way,
> > yours lies that way."  Talks p251
> >
> Sorry but this notion of destiny is baloney.  All that prarabdha is, is
> the effects of your prior actions.  Those actions required free will and a
> sense of doership.  Similiarly it is ones actions today which determine
> the "destiny" of tomorrow.  Renunciation means the renunciation of
> prarabdha karma as much as any other kind.

This needs to be qualified. The original question was about leaving home,
not necessarily becoming a sannyAsin. There are probably a few hundred
thousands of kids who run away from home. Only one among them leaves for
the reasons Ramana Maharishi left home. If he told somebody to do
otherwise, he probably recognized that the person was not ready. One
cannot, after all, (and should not) renounce for the wrong reasons, and
expect something miraculous to happen because of it. That does not mean
that we should say that physical renunciation is unnecessary.

prArabdha karma is that portion of the previous karmas which begin to
yield effect within this life. That is why it is also sometimes called
SarIrArabdha karma (e.g. SankarAcArya's bRhadAraNyaka bhAshya 1. 4. 7).
Yes, Ramana Maharishi's leaving home may have been determined by his
prArabdha karma, but the fact that he lived thereafter, totally immersed
in the Atman was not determined by anybody's prArabdha. Everywhere through
his teachings, one central teaching shines through, and that is totally
advaita vedAntic - true renunciation is the loss of the sense of doership.
To cast this in terms of mental saMnyAsa vs. physical saMnyAsa does gross
injustice to the very concept of saMnyAsa. As far as I can see, what the
proponents of physical saMnyAsa are saying here is not that wearing an
ochre robe is true saMnyAsa, but that it is a very useful discipline.
Moreover, one should not say that it is unnecessary, because one has
mentally renounced. In my opinion, physical saMnyAsa eventually follows,
in the case of true mental saMnyAsa. One has to be brutally honest with
oneself in this issue.

As for Janaka, he had responsibilities towards his kingdom. You can say
that this was his prArabdha. If he had been born in another family, he
would not have had such responsibilities. Still, do we know for sure that
he died as a ruling king? How do we know that he did not appoint a
successor, to retire to the forest later in his life? Indeed, this was an
ancient practice with Indian kings. His is a legendary example, to teach
people about the importance of nishkAmya karma. However, nishkAmya karma
(desireless action) by itself cannot stand without positing
naishkarmyasiddhi (actionlessness) as a higher value, a higher ideal and a
higher reality. If there were no such higher thing, why even teach the
concept of nishkAmya karma? Nobody undertakes any karma, mundane or
ritual, without some kind of kAma or the other.


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