[Advaita-l] Advaita vEdAnta - Unit (4)

Krishnamurthy Ramakrishna puttakrishna at verizon.net
Sat Jan 6 16:27:54 CST 2007

Every human is born with certain debts to be fulfilled during the course of

his/her life. These debts are dEva RuNa (divine debt), Rishi RuNa (debt to

pitr RuNa (parental debt), achArya RuNa (debt to teachers) and bhUta RuNa
(societal debt).

It is possible that these debts are a sub set of prArabdha karma; therefore
some or

all of them may be obligatory for a person to fulfill. These debts are
fulfilled by the following karma.

Nitya karma

Naimittika karma

Nishiddha karma

PrAyaschitta karma

KAmya karma


(In the vedantic context, karma is used both as an act or the fruit of an
act. In unit 2 we studied the

fruit of an act, like prArabda karma etc. What we study here is the act
itself, which are listed above). 


The Nitya karma is the obligatory duties required of a person; for example,
the sandhyAvandana is 

expected of brAhmin, kshatriya and vaishya men following initiation.
Learning  and teaching 

vEdic chantings (svAdhyAya) may also come under this category - "svAdhyAya

na pramaditayam - don't stray from learning and chanting vEdas"

The value of the NItya karma

lies in that it is said to reduce the impact of PrArabdha karma. If the
Nitya Karma is not performed,

the undesirable fruits will exert with full force. That full effect of
prArabdha is called pratyavAya.


Naimittika karma is the required rituals to be performed on special events,
like birth of a child, death

of a parent, the annual observance of parents' shrAddha etc.


The Nishiddha karma is the prohibited karma which includes homicide, being
untruthful, promiscuity 

and alcohol consumption etc. While the former two are legally and socially
prohibited also, the latter two are

socially and legally condoned, if not acceptable. However, they are
detrimental to spiritual progress and are

listed under Nishiddha karma.


PrAyaschitta karma is the rituals performed to reduce the severity of or
eliminate the effects of bad or

prohibited deeds. PrAya is austerity and chitta is firm resolution; a firm
resolution to take up austerity

and following thru with it is PrAyaschitta. As an example from our daily
life, if one gets a ticket for

traffic violation, he oe she can decide to go under court supervision (
attend a defensive driving class 

and pay up a small fee), the traffic violation will not be entered into
records. This is an example of

PrAyaschitta karma.


KAmya karma is the performance of rituals in anticipation ofr specific
fruits of action, like to have

a progeny - Dasharatha's "putrakAmeshTi yAga" or yajnya performed for rains
- varshEshTi etc.

Doing SatyanArAyaNa pUja desiring specific results is also of this category.

performed to attain heaven after death is also KAmya karma.


UpAsana is a mind level activity - meditation or japa - focusing on a deity
like Sun, Linga (a proxy

for Shiva), ShalagrAma (a proxy fro VishNu), SriChakra (a proxy fro shakti).
UpAsana is performed

to cleanse the mind, to allow for advancement in the quest for Realization.
This UpAsana is called

SaguNa ( Brahman visualized with a name and form) UpAsana. Advaita posits
that Brahman is 

NirguNa (that is with out name and form). So, how does SaguNa UpAsana
supposed to help in the

realization of  NirguNa Brahman? This is to be understood as a temporary
concession to help seekers

in the disciplinary activities to cleanse the mind.  Cleansing the mind is
equivalent to wash out

the sense objects and interaction with them from the mind and replacing
those thoughts with Brahman.

SaguNa Brahman upAsana may therefore be considered as an initial stage of
discipline to aid

the seeker in help focus his upAsana. Over time, the saguNa upAsana will
lead to nirguNa upAsana.


The most important benefit of Nitya, Naimittika and PrAyaschitta karmas is
the cleansing of the mind.

The upAsana will help focus the cleansed mind on the object of meditation.
It is also our experience 

that when we are agitated, we cannot focus on any activity. Sri
SurEshvarAchArya has very beautifully

described the progression from karma level to realization level in
Naiskarmya siddhi as follows;

" Nitya karmAnushTAnAt dharmOtpattih, dharmOtpattEh pApa hAnih, tatah chitta
shuddhih, tatah

samsArayAthAtmya avabOdhah, tatah vairAgyam, tatah mumukshatvam, tatah

tatah sarva karma-tat-sAdhana samnyAsah, tatah yOgAbhyAsah, tatah

tatah tatva samasyAdi vAkyArtha parijnyAnam, tatah avidyO-cchEdah, tatascha
svAtmani Eva

avasthAnam " - The discipline of nitya karma will create dharma, dharma
destroys sins (fruits of

bad deeds), This helps understand the helplessness of samsAra, this creates
vairAgya or dispassion to

samsAra, vairAgya leads to intense desire for liberation, leading to ways
for achieving it. Then follows

renunciation of karma followed by the discipline of yOga, then the
internalization of the Shrutis, leading

to comprehension of statements like "tat tvam asi" - you are that. The
seeker thus sheds ignorance and

stays firmly seated in Atman.


The necessity of a Guru (Teacher).


The shrutis declare that Self realization is possible only through the
support of a Guru. It is our experience

that even secular knowledge requires the help of a teacher or someone of a
higher knowledge to guide us

in achieving the educational objective. It is common experience that a the
first step of a Doctoral student is

to choose an advisory committee headed by an advisor. So what to speak of
Brahma vidya? The seeker

during or following his preparatory stage, should approach a Guru. 

The role of Guru in spiritual quest is described very well in the following

" dhYnamUlam gurOh-mUrthih pUjAmUlam gurOh pAdam

mantramUlam gurOh vAkyam mOksha mUlam gurOh kripA " - meditate on the form
of Guru, 

worship the feet of Guru; The Guru's statements are the (vEdic) mantras 

and his grace is the source of realization.


In approaching a Guru, the seeker follows a protocol, documented
comprehensively in the shrutis; 

the verse (4-34) in gIta sums it up;


" Tat viddhi praNipAtEna pariprashnEna sEvaya.." - know that in seeking a

offer him salutations, offer him service and learn by questioning him; the
questioning is not 

to challenge the Guru, but to understand through clarification. In gIta
itself, Arjuna asks 

questions here and there when he had difficulty in understanding or doubts
came up. 

The sEva or service develops humility in the seeker. Learning and progress
are possible 

only with a humble attitude. The seeker is also required to take samit - the
firewood for 

acrificial fire - in approaching the Guru. It is said that when ever we go
to see a Guru or

or king or God, we should take something as an offer. When we go to temples,

we offer some donation in the collection box; SudhAma took poha - beaten

when he went to see Sri Krishna. 

The scriptures say that, if the seeker comes to an understanding that the
Guru is unable to help him in the

realization of Atman, he should at once reject that Guru and seek the help
of a competent Guru.


Success in the Realization of Brahman.


As we may have understood by now, the path to realization of Brahman is a
long and arduous path. 

Even with practice of the pre-requisites earnestly, and performing the
obligatory duties,

the difficulty of realizing Brahman is captured in the following statement
of Krishna in Gita;

"Manushyanaam Sahasreshu Kaschit Yatathi Siddhaye
Yatataamapi Siddhaanaam Kaschin Maam  Vetthi Tatvataha" (Ch.7-3) - Among
thousand of men/women, 

one will try to reach me; Among those, one in thousands will attain me (To
put it in context, 

there are about six billion people in the world. If we assume that one in a
100,000 people try to seek Him, 

which makes about 60,000 persons earnestly seek Him. If one in 100,000 of
earnest seekers reach Him, 

then it takes a few generations before one will realize Brahman). Generally
recognized realized persons

in recent times are bhagavAn RamaNa maharshi (20th centuary) and Sri
Ramakrishna (19th centuary)


Om shAntih, shAntih, shAntih ( Om peace, peace, peace).


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