Atma Bodha Verse 03
avirOdhitaya karma nAvidyAm vinivartayEt |
vidyAvidyAm nihantyEva tejas timira san.ghavat ||
Not being opposed to ignorance, action(karma) cannot destroy ignorance. Vidyam(Supreme Knowledge) alone can destroy ignorance, just as light(tejas) alone can dispel dense darkness.
In this verse, bhagavatpAda begins to explain avidya. In the previous verse, he had stated that jnAna alone leads to mOksha. Continuing along the same line, herin he explains the purpose of mOksha. What is mOksha in advaita? Answer : The removal of avidya that keeps us in the dark about our true selves. Hence, jnAna = mOksha = removal of avidya.
Having said that, what is it that can remove avidya? Can works such as "good" deeds, rituals, chanting, singing etc. remove avidya. "Certainly not" says ShrI Shankara. Why not? Because all works are in the realm of avidya. Because they are in the realm of avidya, they cannot remove avidya. So, what is it that can remove avidya?
"Vidya" he declares. Vidya herein refers to the Supreme Knowledge of One-ness i.e. Brahma-vidya, which alone can remove avidya. Why? Because it alone is not in the realm of avidya and is **directly opposed** to avidya. Only light can dispel darkness because only luminosity is opposed to darkness. Here, avidya is likened to dense darkness.
NOTE : ShrI Shankara is not condemning action per se. But, he is saying that action **in the realm of avidya** cannot dispel avidya as it is not opposed to avidya. A Self-realized person also "acts" but does so without the sense of duality. Also, the Shankaran tradition maintains that until one takes up sannyasam, one has to perform the required actions. One cannot use statements against karma to give up nitya karma-s. That is the sole privilege of sannyasins and jIvanmukta-s only.