[Advaita-l] jnana karma samuccaya

S.N. Sastri sn.sastri at gmail.com
Sat Nov 20 07:13:15 CST 2010


The jnAna karma samuccaya vAda that is refuted by Shri Shankara is the
theory which holds that karma should continue to be performed even after the
realization of the identity of the individual self and Brahman, in order to
attain liberation. Such a combination of jnAna and karma is what was
advocated by BhartRiprapan~ca and his followers. They held that, though
karma by itself cannot lead to mokSha, karma combined with jnAna can.

        The view that karma and jnAna together alone lead to mokSha is
rejected by Shri Shankara on the strength of Br. su. 3.4.1 which says that
jnAna alone is the cause of mokSha. In the bhAShya on br. su. 3.4.25 Shri
Shankara says that, since knowledge is the cause of liberation, the
ritualistic works that are enjoined for the different orders of life are not
required by knowledge for producing its own result. From this it follows
that the author of the sUtras does not accept jnAna karma samuccaya.

    The upholders of the jnAna karma samuccaya vAda say that the karma laid
down by the scriptures should continue to be performed even after the
realization of the identity of the individual self and Brahman and that
otherwise sin will accrue. They rely on the following BrahmasUtras for this

1.     Br. Su. 3.4.26- This says that all religious activities are

2. Br. Su. 3.4.33- This says that the rites are jointly the generators of

  The supporters of the theory of jnAna karma samuccaya contend that Br. Su.
3.4.26 establishes that karma also has a part in the attainment of
liberation. This is countered by BhagavatpAda by pointing out that karma is
necessary only for generating jnAna, and once jnAna has been generated, it
does not need any other help to lead to liberation. As regards Br.su.3.4.33,
the answer of BhagavatpAda is that the only idea implied in speaking of the
helpfulness of karma is that it is conducive to the emergence of knowledge.

        No pratyavAya (adverse result) arises to the sannyAsi by not doing
karma, because no karma is prescribed for him. What he has to do is to give
up all karma—sarvakarmasannyAsa. Some persons like king Janaka continued to
perform karma even after the dawn of knowledge, but this was not as a means
to liberation, but to set an example to the unenlightened, so that they may
also continue to perform the karma laid down for them.

    The functions of jnAna and karma are different and so no samuccaya, or
combination of the two, is possible. Karma is for those who have not
realized the real nature of the self, and consider the self to be a doer and
enjoyer. But the path of jnana is for those who have realized that the self
is not a doer or enjoyer. Thus the same person cannot be eligible for both
the paths at the same time. Karma has to be performed until the person
becomes a yogArUdha and then shama (remaining established in the path of
knowledge) is to be resorted to. This is not samuccaya, since karma and
jnAna are not practiced at the same time.

    After the dawn of knowledge any karma performed is akarma according to
the gItA. So jnAna karma samuccaya, in the sense of both being practiced
simultaneously, is not possible at all from the advaita point of view. The
advocates of jnAna karma samuccaya do not seem to have taken this aspect
into account.



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