Quoting from S.N. Sastri’s Terms and Concepts in Vedanta:
“The word ‘karma’ is used in two different senses in vedAnta:
(1) the results of actions performed, in the form of merit and demerit (puNya and pApa), which produce their effects later on, usually in another birth, and
(2) the action itself, whether secular or religious.”
After reading Swami Narayana Muni Prasad’s superb booklet “Karma and Reincarnation” I would like to point to a third sense in which the word karma can and needs to be understood, especially for advanced students of Advaita.
Karma as puNya and pApa
At some point every seeker comes across the concept of karma in this sense. If he follows Western Advaita he may dismiss the concept as something altogether irrelevant or, if he is not yet an advaitin, he may subscribe to the Western version of karma as an assignment for this lifetime (see http://advaita-academy.org/blogs/Sitara.ashx?Y=2011&M=June) which, if successfully absolved, will produce the kind of life that everyone is wishing for: safe, pleasant and ethical. Continue reading →
Q: I have a problem with the boredom of everyday life. Nothing seems to satisfy me. I just find it so difficult to be just here in the moment and be content with that. You say: go through life and work etc, but as a witness to it all.
Am I living in moment as I should? Should I give all my attention to each action, so that the ego is absent or should I just be the witness of everything every action on a moment to moment basis?
Maybe if I understand how to live in the moment better and had some clarification, that would help me stay present and focused on just living. My mind lives in the future.
(Note: I have reworded the question slightly but some of the replies quote from the original question. Apologies for any confusion!)
One enduring misconception about enlightenment is that there are different ‘paths’ for different temperaments. This is not supported by Śaṅkara’s vision. Below the argument for the single ‘path’ is presented.
1. All problems of life are due to an erroneous assumption about who one is. The solution to the problems of life, therefore, lies in correcting this erroneous assumption. Advaitins in the Śaṅkara tradition would agree with this.
2. Common observation supported by scripture shows that, when one’s aim is split, the goal is unlikely to be reached. So for seekers who are split between an avowed desire for self-knowledge and ‘compelling’ ties to the world in the form of emotional entanglements to people and places, unfulfilled duties, ambitions and the like, attaining the goal of self-knowledge is unlikely – their minds being impure (i.e. distorted by subjective likes and dislikes) or unsteady (unable to remain single-pointed for any length of time). The compelling pull of likes and dislikes that arise from duties and entanglements and ambitions is known as mala. And the flickering of the mind from one worldly demand to the other is called vikshepa. Continue reading →
The mind of the seeker needs to be calm and contained in order for it to be able to grasp what reality is. Karma Yoga prepares the mind to attain such a state and there are a number of blogs and articles dealing with it on this site. But many Western seekers find it hard to relate to the karma yoga recommendation given by traditional advaitins as the first port of call, mainly because it needs a devotional mind set.
The purpose of karma yoga is all about developing the nine virtues of chatushtaya sampatti described in Tattvabodha as preparing the mind for self-knowledge, and explained in more detail by Adi Shankara in Vivekachudamani. As I am professionally working with a method that is effective in enhancing equanimity I would like to give you a taste of it’s principals here.
In order to ultimately free him/herself from the idea of being a body-mind entity separate from other body-mind-entities the seeker needs to get caught up less in identifications with what he/she is not. Yet he/she finds himself getting confined again and again in entrenched mental, emotional and behavioural patterns.
How is one to liberate oneself from them, especially if one does not happen to have full trust in the efficacy of a karma yoga life style? First of all the mind needs to be able to question itself. Continue reading →
Q: It seems like a contradiction to me to say that we are the observer and not the doer and, at the same time, suggest that we can do something such as paying attention. I encounter this “apparent contradiction” often when I read about Advaita. If there is no doer, why are there suggestions as to how to remove ignorance, for example? Who would remove the ignorance if there is no doer?
– Is it that in the dualistic world it appears as if there is a doer and therefore we act “as if”, even though we might know that there is no doer?
– If we realize that there is no doer but we act “as if”, is it like playing our part in a “game”?
We are very fortunate to have access to Bhagavad Gita – described as Mother, Goddess, Shower of the Nectar of Advaita and the Release from the Endless Cycle of Rebirth – to answers the many questions that relate to our day to day living. The advice relates to every person who, like Arjuna, find that, when the minds alone is involved, it is clear what’s needed, but when feelings become engaged they are no longer convinced they know what’s the right thing to do. And, at the end of each chapter, Gita is described as Brahma vidya [Knowledge of Reality] and yoga shAstra [scripture that prepares the mind for Brahma vidya]. So the questions start from this point: Enlightenment is the unshakable knowledge ‘Aham BrahmAsi’ [I am Brahman]…
Q: What stops us from knowing this truth of oneself 24/7? Gita: Mind has three basic defects:
1. it is impure (i.e. it is ruled by appetites and aversions)
2. it is unsteady (i.e. it is unable to hold one thought for any prolonged period of time, let alone forever – i.e. it is NOT capable of being ‘unshakable’)
3. what it holds to be true is erroneous.
Krishna describes this sort of mind of the irresolute as ‘bahu shAkAh anantAh’ – many branched and endless. Continue reading →