Discussion on the gItA

Vidyasankar vsundaresan at HOTMAIL.COM
Mon Jan 14 00:19:48 CST 2002

For quite some time now, I have been a silent spectator on our list, so
here is a brief comment on the following exchange.

It seems to me that Hemant and Subrahmanian are talking a little at cross
purposes on this topic.


>He indicates that Arjuna at that point is not fully fit for receving jnAna
>and hence should perform karma yoga.  If you see Sri Sankara's comments on
>previous verses too, he says till one is really fit to enquire (jnAna), one
>should perform pious acts like building tanks etc.

This is a misunderstanding of Sankaracharya's comments on Gita 2.46. He
does not tell us that building tanks is a pious act and that one should
therefore do it. What he says is the following -

When there is a flood all around, the limited amount of water in wells and
tanks are superfluous. Similarly, for the man of knowledge, work is
superfluous. On the other hand, before acquiring the competence for jnAna,
one should do work, even if their ends are as limited as the water in a
well or a tank. What is involved here is not just a pious act like building
tanks, but the need to perform ALL the appropriate duties, without
attachment to their fruits.

>From my limited understanding, he does not preach karma sanyAsa as cure-
all for
>everybody.  Infact he urges people to participate in karma till one is
>for receiving the final knowledge.

This is correct.

>Can you clarify where exactly Sankara exhorts students karma-sanyAsa in his
>interpretation of gItA?

There are numerous places where he talks about karma-saMnyAsa, but it
should be remembered that there is a gradual progression from karma-yoga to

Hemant -

>The underlying assumptions
>are as follows :
>a) jnAna and only jnAana is the means for the highest release.

This is not an assumption on Sankaracharya's part, but a statement repeated
many times over in Sruti and Smrti, including the Gita itself.

>If you have a pro-jnAna temperament Sankara's interpretation is for you.

It is more than a question of temperament. It is a question of competence.
One can have a pro-jnAna temperament, because of one's intellectual
inclinations, but the same person need not have the necessary competence
for the rigorous demands of jnAna-yoga.

>Somebody has said with telling effect that interpretation is the revenge
>of the intellect upon art. The gItA is first poetry and only next

Maybe so, but the fact remains that if you read Sankaracharya's
interpretation carefully, it preserves the artistic beauty and integrity of
the text at the same time as laying a strong intellectual foundation for
the philosophy.

>This is because he is the priya of the lord and one to whom he reveals his
>viSva rUpa. In the tenth chapter (vibhUtiyoga X.37) Sri kRsna
>declares, "Of the vRishnI's  I am vAsudeva, of the pandavAs I am

Do note that Krishna reveals the viSvarUpa at the kaurava court too, before
the war even begins. One should not put too fine a point on who is dear and
who is not dear to the Lord.

>advaitic sAdhana we would do well to familiarize ourself with the basic
>teachings of  Sri Sankara and only next go to the interpretations which
>have the element of subjective bias.

That is a preconception in more ways than one. The basic teachings of
Sankaracharya are accessible primarily through his interpretations of the
three prasthAna-s. It is impossible to say, "this much is basic teaching;
the rest is interpretation." Secondly, if we are to think that we can
understand the Gita independent of anybody's prior interpretation of it, we
are very much mistaken. The element of subjective bias will creep into each
and every person's understanding of a text like the Gita. There is no
escaping this fact. As for Sankaracharya's interpretation, it allows room
for everybody, from the one inclined to do work, to the evolved jnAnI who
transcends the need for all work. In this, the interpretation mirrors the
Gita itself. Beginning with the third verse in the third chapter, where the
karma-yoga and jnAna-yoga have been clearly demarcated, there is a
remarkable amount of room for everybody.

Finally, we must also remember that every jnAnI was at one point of time a
person who did work. There is a process involved from pravRtti-dharma to
nivRtti-dharma. That most people are not competent for the second is not
reason enough to claim that the Gita does not teach nivRtti-dharma at all.

>From ADVAITA-L at LISTS.ADVAITA-VEDANTA.ORG Tue Jan 15 16:59:18 2002
Message-Id: <TUE.15.JAN.2002.165918.0500.ADVAITAL at LISTS.ADVAITAVEDANTA.ORG>
Date: Tue, 15 Jan 2002 16:59:18 -0500
Reply-To: List for advaita vedanta as taught by Shri Shankara
To: List for advaita vedanta as taught by Shri Shankara
From: "Jaldhar H. Vyas" <jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM>
Subject: Re: ADVAITA-L Digest - 9 Jan 2002 to 10 Jan 2002 (#2002-8)
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: TEXT/PLAIN; charset=US-ASCII

On Fri, 11 Jan 2002, nanda chandran wrote:

> >Only a true sannyAsI is morally fit to assert =
> >jaganmithyA.
> Sanyaasins or jeevanmuktaas?

Sannyasis make that assertion.  Sannyasa is essentially, not a set of
robes, staff, kamandalu etc.  but a rejection of the values of the world.
But the assertion only becomes fact in the light of the experience of

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at debian.org>
It's a girl! See the pictures - http://www.braincells.com/shailaja/

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list