[Advaita-l] On Karma Yoga: Part IV - Swadharma

kuntimaddi sadananda kuntimaddisada at yahoo.com
Wed Dec 28 19:55:01 CST 2005


We have discussed the obligatory duties or niyata karmas.  But what
about the kaamya karma-s or desire prompted actions.  Should one perform
or not. Does one have a choice not to perform?  Asking us not to have
desires is a useless advice since we already have them.  It was
mentioned that among the purushaarthaas, we have artha and kaama along
with dharma and moksha.  During marriage time one declares in front of
the fire, ‘dharmeca, artheca, kaameca naati charaami’, I take this lady
as my wife to follow the three purushaarthaa-s only.  

The desires are classified as two types. One is dhaarmic or righteous
and the other is adhaarmic or unrighteous.  Dharma depends on the
aashrama or simply one’s status in the family and in the society.

Krishna says: 
shreyaan swadharmo viguNaH paradharmaat svanushhTitaat|
svadharme ndidhanam shreyaH paradharmo bhayaavahaH|

Krishna says that it is better to follow one’s dharma than dharma of
others, even if he can do that better. It is better to die while doing
one’s dharma than taking up dharma of others, since in the final
analysis the later would lead to a fearful end. Swadharma has been
interpreted has varnaashrama dharma, which depends on one’s guNa and
karma. Since Krishna is a universal teacher (jagat guru) and the Geeta’s
teaching has universal application, varnaasrama dharma based on guNa and
Karma is a universal classification, relevant not just for Bhaarat.
Those who have predominate saatvic guNa are intellectually oriented and
prone to a contemplative mode of living, and it is better for them to
study, teach and contemplate on the higher nature. Those who have
predominantly rajasic guNa are action-oriented and cannot sit down and
contemplate, their swadharma demands an active life of constructing,
maintaining law and order and improving the standard of living for all
beings. They are worker of the society – religious workers, political
workers, social workers, etc.  And those who are tamasic by nature and
do not have any self-motivated drive and do not have the capacity to
study, or act independently, it is better for them to follow their
leaders and act as instructed. They are laborers.  Their motivation for
work is only sense-enjoyment.  There are intermediate class whose major
concern is only their bottom line, the business minded persons, who work
towards their gain. They look for name and fame or self-glory, even
while performing noble actions that benefit the totality.  Thus Krishna
provides a universal classification based on both guNa and karma. This
classification is provided to evaluate oneself to determine his own
swadharma and is not meant for evaluating others, since one cannot
evaluate others as these guNas are based on mental attitudes than
physical attributes.  Applying the converse, those who work for their
selfish ends only are laborers (they could be Ph.Ds), those who work for
the benefit of society are workers where primary beneficiary is the
society, and those who study, teach and contemplate on the higher
reality are contemplative seekers.  This classification is universal. 
Being in a conducive environment or born to saatvic, rajasic or tamasic
parents could cause to foster similar guNa-s, but that by itself does
not define one’s swadharma.  One can see that children born to the same
parents having different types of guNa and karma.  One’s samskaara
dictated by his guNa and karma alone determine one swadharma.  By
following one’s dharma one evolves to higher – from tamasic to rajasic
to saatvic is the path of evolution.  Saatvic nature alone takes one to
go beyond all guNas through contemplation.  ‘dhyaanena aatmani

We may note here, as a slight divergence, that Bhagavaan Ramanuja
provides a peculiar interpretation for swadharma and paradharma.
Swadharma is interpreted as doing karma yoga and paradharma is
interpreted as doing jnaana yoga – where jnaana yoga in his system
involves realization of one’s own self (jiivaatma), which is not the
final end in itself.  Self realization is only a step towards
realization of Paramaatma, which can happen only when that self that is
realized completely surrenders – which is called prapatti or
sharanNaagati.  For that, Bhakti is the only means and not jnaana or
karma, or to put it correctly it is bhakti ruupaka jnaana involving a
recognition of sesha-sheshii bhaava. Jiiva is dependent entity and
Paramaatma is the independent entity and is all pervading reality that
indwells in all, as antaryamin.  The relation between paramaatma and
jiiva is not one of identity as in advaita, but one of organic
relationship.  That is,  jiiva is part of Paramaatma like an organ is
part of a body. That is oneness from the total perspective like one body
(advaita), but distinct and different from the rest of the jiiva-s, and
different from jagat with different and non-different relation with
Paramaatma– vishishhTa advaita.  From Ramanuja’s point, the above sloka
excludes everybody from jnaana yoga since it is paradharma for
everybody.  Ramanuja says one need not go through that path since one
can directly go from karma yoga to bhakti yoga using charama sloka
(sarva dharmaan parityajya..) as the basis, where one surrenders all
dharma-s other than, of course, service to the Lord or kainkarya dharma.

Coming back to our topic, adhaarmic desires are called nishhiddha karma
and to be avoided at all costs. In case if one does without his
knowledge, there is a praayaschitta karma, constituting essentially
actions to repair the damage as much as possible.  Even if it does not
eliminate, it makes one to be conscious of his actions, so that he does
not repeat it in future.  Once a devotee-salesman asked Swami
Chinmayanandaji,  “Swamiji, as a salesman I have to lie a lot to sell
the products that I know are not really worth, but that is my
profession; what should I do”.  Swamiji said, “Then, do it very well,
but do not forget to take the help of Krishana, He is good in that”.
Then Swamiji added “It becomes Krishna’s problem and not yours.  He will
make sure you will find a better job that is conducive to your dharma.
Until then follow Krishna’s orders;  just as Arjuna did to kill Karna
when Karna became armless or shot arrows at Bhiishma hiding behind
ShikanDi’. Once you handed over your reins to the Lord, you are no more
accountable.  Hence, Krishna says:

mayi sarvaaNi karmaaNi sanyasyaadhyaatma cetasaa|
niraashiirnirmamo bhuutvaa yudhyasva vigatajvaraH||

Offer all actions (without exceptions – including both obligatory and
desire prompted actions) to me with full devotion without concerning
about the results and without any attachments and excitements that
deprive one’s efficiency in action – fight on your war of life. This
teaching is repeated in the ninth chapter – where Krishna says – I
accept everything as prayer if it is done with full devotion. 

yat karoshhi yadashnaasi yajjuhoshhi dadaasi yat|
yattapsyasi kounteya tatkurushhva madarpanam||

Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer as oblations,
whatever you donate and whatever austerities you perform, offer all that
to me.  Of course, He will not accept anything even if your offer unless
it is done with full devotion – ‘yo me bhaktyaa prayacchati’. 

Devotion to the Lord becomes a glue in converting karma to karma yoga. I
cannot offer all my actions to the Lord, unless I am a full-time
devotee. This we will discuss in the next part. 

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