[Advaita-l] Adi Sankara's comment about Prayascitta Karma and Sureshvaracharya's comment about Nitya Karma

Anand Hudli ahudli at gmail.com
Sun Aug 15 10:52:14 CDT 2010

Shankara BhagavatpAda in his bhAShyA on the Brahma sutras 4.1.13-15 makes it
clear that both the past sins and merits as well as future sins and merits
will be destroyed by jnAna. The karma, both good and bad, that is
accumulated from the past but that has not yet begun to yield results is
also called sanchita karma. The karma, both good and bad, of the present
life, that will yield results in the future is called AgAmI karma. That
leaves us with the karma from the past that has already begun to yield
results in this very life. This karma is called prArabdha karma. As per
brahma sUtras 4.1.13-15, it is clear that both sanchita karma and AgAmI
karma will get destroyed by jnAna, but not the prArabdha karma which must
run its course.

It is also true that PrAyashcittas will cancel the pApa karma that one has
performed in the past. The past pApa karma could be jnAta, known, or it
could be ajnAta, not known or recollected. It is not the case that
PrAyashcitta must be done only for sins that we recollect or that are from
this life. For example, the AshleShA bali is a karma that is performed to
ward off what is called sarpa dosha, which would arise if one has killed
nAga snake (cobra). The PavamAna Homa of the Rig Vedins or
the kUshmANDa Homa of the Yajurvedins are prAyashcitta homas that are meant
to get rid of a variety of sins whether they are jnAta or ajnAta.  The word
prAyaschcitta is often anlayzed as: prAyo nAma tapaH proktaM cittaM
nishchaya uchyate | taponishchayasaMyogAt prAyashcittamiti smR^itam.h .
PrAya is tapas or penance, while citta is a resolution. The resolve to do
penance is called prAyashcitta.


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