[Advaita-l] giving up of karma

Ramesh Krishnamurthy rkmurthy at gmail.com
Mon Oct 8 23:37:15 CDT 2007


It is said that the advaitin saMnyAsI gives up karma. The term karma
includes all action, though vedic ritual action (vaidika karma) is the
archetypal karma. Now, strictly speaking, action cannot be given up as
long as one is alive. It is only the sense of doership (kartRtva
bhAva) that can be given up. However, it is only the jnAnI who truly
knows the illusoriness of kartRtva and it is only he who can be truly
said to be "actionless in action".

Nevertheless the daSanAmI saMnyAsa tradition emphasizes the giving up
of vaidika karma and this giving up is ritually undertaken by first
removing the yaj~nopavIta and the shikhA.

Now factually one finds that saMnyAsI-s do perform karma of certain
kinds. By this, I dont mean actions essential to life itself, such as
eating. In an extreme sense, one could regard SravaNa, manana,
nididhyAsana also as actions. dhyAna may be considered an action. Even
if one disregards these, surely something like SrIcakra upAsanA would
be considered action. In general, mantra-japa or pUjA of any sort
(such as candramaulIshvara pUjA) could be regarded as action.

Given all this, why is it that only vaidika karma-s are to be given
up? After all, vaidika karma is also characterized by the usage of
mantra-s. Indeed, I am told that saMnyAsin-s are not supposed to do
japa of the gAyatrI. Does this mean that all vaidika mantra-s are
prohibited for saMnyAsI-s? That does not seem to be the case.
Certainly the praNava is found in the veda, and there seems to be no
issue with saMnyAsI-s chanting the Siva-pancAxarI.

So what is so special about vaidika karma that saMnyAsI-s must give it up?


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