Differences between Vedantic schools

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Tue Aug 31 03:08:11 CDT 1999

On Sat, 28 Aug 1999, Shrisha Rao wrote:

> Quite; `kurvanneveha karmANi', etc.  But this brings up the question of
> how anyone at all can afford to give up karma wholesale and still stay
> within the pale of scriptural injunction.
> > To give them up there better be a good reason.  To say the sannyasi
> > follows a different path you will have to explain what about him is so
> > different.
> Need you ask?

Well, yes. :-)  I know why the Advaitin sannyasi gives up karma.  I don't
know why the dvaitin sannyasi does.  Hence the questions.

>  For one thing, let's turn the board around and look at
> things from your angle.

Note even if it should somehow be proved that the Advaita view on karma is
wrong, it doesn't mean the dvaita view is right.

> If you say that sannyAsI-s don't have to perform
> karma because they're into j~nAna, then is the j~nAna merely a function of
> their having taken the vows and the robes of sannyAsa?

What is meant by sannyasa?  According to the shastras there are four types
bahudaka, kuchitaka, hansa, and paramhansa.  The first three are generally
apart from society but still in some ways connected with it so their
adoption of symbols such as the danda etc. is not so bad.  The
fourth type, the paramhansa is different and is the type of greatest
interest here. In the kaupinyapanchaka, Shankaracharya extolls the
paramhansa who is naked but for a loincloth, (so no question of robes :-),
with matted hair and covered in bhasma, who wanders from place to place.
He meditates on the Omkara or stays completely silent.  He is completely
apart from any karma, religious or secular.  This according to
Shankaracharya is the one who will achieve moksha.  It is true that even
the paramhansa may on occasion observe social conventions.  In the Gita
(karmayoga) Bhagavan says

saktaah karmanyvidvamso yatha kurvanti bhaarata |
kuryadvidvamstathaasktshchikeershurlokasamgraham || 26 ||

>From attachment to action do ignorant men act, O Bhaarata !
So wise men should act only for the welfare of the world.

na buddhibhedam janayedajnanaam karmasanginaam |
joshayetsarvakarmani vidvanyuktaah samaacharan || 27 ||

They should not cause them (the ignorant) mental confusion which will
drive them apart from karma.  They should enthusiastically engage them in
all karmas.

This is key.  The Advaitin does not glibly say Jnana is superior.  It is
superior overall because it deals with the imperishable while karma deals
with the perishable but _only_for_the_person_who_is_capable_of_it.  For
the rest, karma is the appropriate choice and it would be wrong for the
wise man to recommend an inappropriate one.

Any social conventions he undertakes are for others benefit not for his

>  If so, then we
> would have the absurd situation of suggesting that many renowned Advaitins
> of the past were not j~nAnI-s simply because they did not undertake the
> Ashrama,

One such was Vachaspati Mishra.  The story is that his commentary on the
Brahmasutrabhashya was called Bhamati after his wife.  Because he lived a
life of such ascetic rigor that they never had any children and this was
his way of giving his wife the immortality which was otherwise denied to
her.  Now I don't know if this story is historically true or not but the
important thing is why did it need to be told at all?  It would seem for
Advaitins it is the idea a grhastha could be a jnani which was absurd
nothing else.

Ah! one may exclaim.  That story only shows that he _acted_ like a
sannyasi not that he became one.  I would answer that for a paramahansa
the actions or lack of them are all there is to it.  For one who has
nothing and is everything, how can he "become" anything?

 Or look at Apayya Dikshita who took sannyasa on his
deathbed.  Why did he bother?  He was the acknowledged master of Advaita
Vedanta.  Yet he felt that his life was not complete without sannyasa.  He
felt he had to take it.

> and conversely, that certain individuals who do little justice to
> the robe and class are nonetheless j~nAnI-s.

In many places in the Gitabhashya Shankaracharya makes a distinction between
(karma)yoga and sannyasa.  One is renunciation of karmaphala, another
is renunciation of karma itself. Now see for example ch. 5, v. 2.  Here  a
distinction is made between renunciation of karma and
_renunciation_of_karma_accompanied_by_jnana_.  Bhagawan says karmayoga is
better than the first kind of karmasannyasa.  But the second kind is
better than both the others.  A would-be sannyasi who is not engaged in
the acquisition of jnana is worse off than the person who never took
sannyasa at all.

>  In fact, the karma-mArga and
> krama-mukti would be mere chimera, for all anyone would have to do would
> be to undertake the Ashrama, and bingo, that would give jIvan-mukti.

They would have to take the ashram with the attitude of mumukshatva.
Otherwise they would only be self-delusional.

> If that absurdity be disallowed, then it becomes necessary to accept that
> some sannyAsI-s at least are not j~nAnI-s, and thus, the exception you're
> claiming for j~nAna cannot hold in their case.  So why don't they wear the
> yaj~nopavIta and perform sandhyA, etc.?  The only rational explanation is
> that it is the Ashrama, rather than the personal qualification for j~nAna,
> which determines that such action is not required.

The absurdity is based on false premises.  The question to ask is are they
_trying_ to achieve jnana?  Is the burning desire for moksha foremost in
their minds?  If not, then yes they should be wearing yagnopavit, doing
sandhya etc.  As householders because they are not really sannyasis at

> I must add at this point that I have seen no evidence to suggest that
> anything you've said in this matter is actually Advaita *as taught by Sri
> Shankara*.  Perhaps it is your understanding of what you've heard or read
> somewhere, but I'd much rather prefer to stick to cold, hard quotes and
> explanations by Shankara and go from there.

Well I've indicated which parts of the Gitabhashya contain relevant
discussions.  If I haven't typed it all out it's because it's very late.
But you can see for yourself.  Or ask Vidya or Anand.  I'm quite confident
what I've said is according to the siddhanta.

One thing I haven't done is prove the Advaita view is better than the
Vishishtadvaita one (jnanakarmasamucchayavada.)  That will be my next post
in which I'll summon cold, hard quotes from the sambandhavartika of

 In fact, I don't seem to find
> much real Advaita here except for occasional material from Anand H. and
> Vidyasankar.

Are you refering to the the recent discussion about the Vedas?  If there
is one canard I can dispel about Advaita Vedanta is that it considers the
injunctions of the Vedas and shastras to be inferior or irrelevant.
True, they are of no use to a jnani but nor is anything else.  For the
rest of us, the shastras are of vital importance and very much "real"
advaita vedanta.

Oh and to all list members, if there is some subject you are interested
in, you needn't wait for one of the frequent posters to bring it up.  Post

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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