[Advaita-l] giving up of karma

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Sun Oct 14 17:40:13 CDT 2007

> Incidentally, this reminds me of the old debate on whether the
> bRhadAraNyaka "enjoins" SravaNa, manana, nididhyAsana (SMN). It was
> said that this is only a "recommendation" and not a vidhi.

In the bRhadAraNyaka upanishad bhAshya, Sankara bhagavatpAda's considered opinion on this is that the upanishat-s contain niyama vidhi-s (restrictive injunction), but not an apUrva vidhi (original injunction) in this regard. In brahmasUtra bhAshya 2.3.39 (samAdhy abhAvAc ca), he quotes Srotavyo mantavyo nididhyAsitavyaH and says "samAdhir upadishTaH" but under the very next sUtra 2.4.40 (yathA takshobhayathA), he uses the term samAdhi-vidhAnAt. Under the former sUtra, upadishTa merely means "taught" whereas under the latter sUtra, vidhAna means "enjoined".

Note, under sUtra 2.3.39, he also quotes so 'nveshTavyas sa vijijnAsitavyaH from the chAndogya upanishat. In the chAndogya upanishad bhAshya, he says, anveshTavya vijijnAsitavya ity esha niyama vidhir eva, na apUrva vidhiH. Thus, bhagavatpAda is very consistent in the various bhAshya-s.

> Taking off from the above, is there a niShedha on saMnyAsI-s
> performing vaidika karma-s, or is it only a "recommendation"?

There is no explicit nishedha as such in the Sruti, but there is an enjoining of the renunciation of karma upon the brahma-jijnAsu. Sankara bhagavatpAda even uses the word vidhAna with respect to saMnyAsa or pArivrajya. Now, the injunction to renounce all action is a very tricky one and also unique. All other vidhi-s enjoin specific actions (apUrva vidhi), how to do the said actions (niyama vidhi), how not to do them (parisaMkhyA vidhi), who can do them (adhikAra vidhi) etc. However, the injunction to renounce action generally enjoins the giving up of action. Therefore, in all the derivative literature, for all practical purposes, it is understood that once renunciation is formally embraced, one has no more adhikAra over vaidika karma-s. All the dharmaSAstra-s and later saMnyAsa paddhati texts take it as such and provide details.

> One might say that dhyAna, SMN, etc are very purpose of taking
> saMnyAsa and these are not be regarded as actions. In other words, it
> is only ritual action that must be avoided. If that were to be the
> case, then surely any mantra-based upAsanA should be avoided.
> Possibly, saMnyAsI should not go to temples either. But that does not
> square up with facts.

There are different ways of thinking about this, but the only logically consistent position is that of Sankara bhagavatpAda and his followers. The purpose of taking saMnyAsa is to attain jnAna or to remove avidyA. dhyAna, SravaNa, manana, nididhyAsana etc are ancillary and sub-serve this ultimate purpose. Yes, dhyAna etc are mental actions and that is why they are interpreted as constituting the content of a niyama vidhi. However, dhyAna etc are meant to purify, clarify and provide insight, thereby preparing one for jnAna. That is why dhyAna yoga is described as an integral part (antaranga) of the right vision (samyag darSana) of ultimate reality, while karma yoga is an external limb (bahiranga) of dhyAna yoga. Any mantra-based upAsana is carried out within this framework of understanding by the saMnyAsin in the advaita tradition. Going to temples also fits in within this paradigm.

It all falls in place if one views formal saMnyAsa (in the vividishA case) as one step (a centrally important one, though) in a process. This process may be fast for some, so fast as to seem like an instant, but in most cases, it is a slow one. The personal guidance of a guru is absolutely essential here, to firstly judge whether one is ready for the razor-edge sharp path of saMnyAsa and to be a guide along the process. We are back to the gItA verse, SanaiS Sanair uparamed buddhyA dhRti-gRhItayA. This is why, in naishkarmyasiddhi, sureSvarAcArya teaches the practice of yoga (yogAbhyAsa) after the formal renunciation of karma. When thinking about the seemingly paradoxical state of living in the world after renouncing all action, we should also keep in mind the gItA verse about seeing action in inaction and non-action in action (karmaNy akarma, akarmaNi karma). 

With best regards,
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