[Advaita-l] The place of karma in a sadhaka's life (was Re: Pitrupaksha questions)

Siva Senani Nori sivasenani at yahoo.com
Tue Sep 27 23:59:11 CDT 2011

All very true. Very well said. Extremely elegant and eloquent.
I have been myself an I-think-I-can-grasp-the-essence-of-Upanishads kind of individual you portrayed with the exception of may be looking down upon one's family and so can relate very well to what you said. I changed a bit after those days and wish to thank this list, the moderators and all contributors for helping me stay that way.
I see many in a similar mould and their tendencies being reinforced by most avenues open to them which proclaim to teach advaita, or talk of dharma/purana/itihasa/stotras while claiming to ultimately subscribe to Advaita: a) TV discourses (there are exceptions, but the major bias is towards smart-knowledge-spiritualism), b) Institutions which actively organise discourses and c) even some of the more accessible teachers. I know of a very learned scholar who taught prasthaanatraya bhaashyam spread over five years (with that kind of detail) - and repeated that in different cities / towns - with a decidedly dim view of karma like sandhyavandanam.
It is easy to identify the underlying forces which result in such a bias: the composition of the general public, a large majority of whom have, traditionally, no adhikaara for veda-adhyayana.
In such a situation, words like yours - and almost equally importantly, in the engaging manner put by you - need to be heard more.
Best regards

>From: Vidyasankar Sundaresan <svidyasankar at hotmail.com>
>To: Advaita List <advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org>
>Sent: Tuesday, September 27, 2011 9:10 PM
>Subject: Re: [Advaita-l] Pitrupaksha questions
>> SriVijayshankar,
>> Lt all started with some one mentioning the Manusmrthi.Manu emphatically mentions,"Na stri
>>svatantryamarhati"rather than it is being lost over the course of time.
>I still do not see any connection between what Manu thought of women's rights and
>what is one's kartavyatA towards one's living and departed ancestors, in today's world.
>Let that be. You seem to have been singularly unfortunate in the choice of purohita-s
>who have officiated at your family rituals, but you seem to be finding fault with the
>whole tradition of mImAMsA as a result. From the beginning of time, there have been
>unscrupulous office bearers in every religion. Perhaps we have a lot more of them than
>otherwise, because of the unorganized and non-institutional nature of our dharma. Or
>perhaps, we can see the faults closer to our homes better than the faults elsewhere.
>It is easy enough for us to find fault with a brAhmaNa priest, especially if we have an
>education that equips us well for contemporary urban life. But that does not mean that
>you should do a false adhyAsa on all mImAMsaka-s for all times.
>I think you and a number of others are talking at cross-purposes on this topic. There is
>a place for karmA in one's life and there is a place for jnAna, but each person has to
>decide where their personal balance lies. If you think the traditionally minded people
>on this list advocate karmA as a means to moksha, then you are quite wrong. karmA
>is accepted and emphasized by the traditional folks here only with respect to the part
>of dharma that is pravRtti-oriented, and as a stepping stone to jnAna mArga. If there
>is a traditionally minded person on this list who thinks karmA is a means to moksha,
>rest assured that there are numerous other traditionally minded folks right here, who
>will tell them otherwise.
>Some of the questions asked on this list about such matters should really be addressed
>to a learned purohita, with the full understanding that there can be and is enormous
>regional variation in practice. Even within a linguistic group, one finds major and minor
>variations in ritual practice, all of which can be charming, delightful and meaningful, if
>seen from a broader perspective. Ritual details such as whether one should pour
>arghya this way or that way, whether one should wear yajnopavIta or prAcInAvIta for
>a particular action - all these are perhaps not immediately pertinent to this list as such,
>although they can be of great importance to the given ritual and the performer of that
>If you think that the focus of a few list members on the most intimate details of karmA
>is tiresome, to some extent, I would tend to agree with you. We give room for some
>of it on this list only because of the fact that worrying about these details is a small
>indication of the level of SraddhA in the veda and eventually in vedAnta. You will no
>doubt notice that some list members remain silent on these kinds of discussion topics
>while others say a lot. It is in the nature of a public discussion list to have various
>members with various motivations - loko bhinnaruciH.
>On the other hand, it is fashionable nowadays to think that advaita vedAnta advocates
>the giving up of only vaidika karmA and not of laukika karmA. The tendency for most
>people is to think as follows, "I will buy a costly house, a car or two, send my children
>to the 'best' schools, buy only designer clothing for all of them, save for retirement,
>etc. I am intelligent and I can read the Upanishads and their Bhashyas (if only in
>translation), understanding that I only need knowledge, not action, for my salvation. I
>don't see any meaning in rituals and I don't need to perform them. After all, all these
>rituals have only held back the social and economic 'development' of my father, mother,
>grandfathers and grandmothers. But I can do my job really well, earn money to take
>care of my family, thereby I will be a "karmayogi" and I can get liberation."
>What all the traditionally minded people on this list are saying is that the above thinking
>is flawed with respect to both karmA and jnAna. The bRhadAraNyaka upanishat says
>that those who renounced all action thought quite differently and said, "kiM prajayA
>karishyAmaH". Sankara bhagavatpAda talked of giving up ALL karmA, not selectively
>vaidika karma alone. A number of us have honestly assessed our adhikAra and have
>realized that while we can intellectually talk of advaita vedAnta, we are not actually
>ready for the stringent and stark requirements expected by Sankara bhagavatpAda and
>the upanishadic tradition for the jnAna mArga.
>It is only for that reason that we discuss the details of karmA. At the kurukshetra field,
>arjuna's false impulse to give up the war was not acceptable to kRshNa. He was told
>to first do the duty that he had already embarked upon and to do it well. A number of
>us on this list realize that we are a lot more like arjuna and a lot less like yudhishThira.
>Isn't it very revealing that yudhishThira, the most sannyAsi like of the pANDava-s had
>no hesitation once war was declared, and he didn't need hundreds of verses of upadeSa
>from kRshNa at that time?
>> I would like to say that in harping again and again that karmas are to be performed,this list is
>>relegating SriShankara Bhagawathpada as to be insignificant.No wonder many durmatas have
>>developed after his time!
>On the contrary, I see the average age of this list's members as a measure of how
>significant Sri Sankara bhagavatpAda continues to be and will continue to be for ever.
>Just the other day, we moderators advised a 16 year old prospective member to get
>permission from his parents and to start studying at a more formal level. And on this
>list, we do have you and others to emphasize a focus on jnAna!
>I would only request you to try and understand other list members a little better and
>not deride karmA prematurely. It is not the kindergartner's fault that he can only be
>taught ABC's and nursery rhymes. It would be the teacher's fault if s/he tried to teach
>the child about figures of speech and complex poetry before even teaching the ABC's. 
>> We can see clearly that there are no takers for Jnana.Only commercial activities are flourishing
>>in the name of Dharma.
>There are indeed many, many takers for jnAna. But prior to jnAna, there is jijnAsA. By
>default, a jijnAsu is not yet a jnAnI and it is a given that not all jijnAsu-s are ready to
>completely give up pravRtti mArga and take completely to nivRtti mArga. So long as one
>is in pravRtti mArga, one DOES need to pay attention to the dharma of that mArga. 
>However, if you think that every paisa given in dakshiNA to a purohita for a ritual is
>nothing more than a commercial transaction, you do need to think again. In any case,
>a personal need not to "waste" money on ritual fees and gifts is by no means a valid
>criterion for embarking upon jnAna. Indeed, naciketas embarked upon a journey to get
>jnAna only because he found that his father was NOT giving adequate ritual gifts! As
>such, these arguments about "commercial activity" and the false tarring of the entire
>tradition of mImAMsA (may I reiterate that vedAnta is also a mImAMsA) are bogus
>and specious.
>ps. I would request you to post in a calm frame of mind and to be a little more 
>circumspect in jumping to conclusions about other list members. Everybody is
>entitled to their own opinions, but it serves nobody's purpose to forcefully state
>one's opinion as if it were the only truth.                           
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