Bhedha-abhedha-vAda is the doctrine of difference in identity, i.e., Brahman and jIva are both different and identical. Brahman is homogeneous, one total. It becomes plural by undergoing real differentiation to form the world and individual jIvas. More importantly, both the total and plural are Satya (Real).
In verse 78, the AchArya refutes: “The doctrine that the Absolute is known through a conjunction of knowledge and action is difficult to maintain in the case of those whose Absolute is not devoid of differentiation” [Translation, AJ Alston]. He asks a bhedha-abhedha-vAdi: whether Brahman and jIva are identical or are different and then proceeds to establish the invalidity of the possible answers.
1 Suppose the answer is that they are identical. In that case, nescience could be the only reason for the jiva not realizing the truth of its identity with the Brahman. As knowledge alone removes the nescience, action is useless in this regard.
2 Suppose the answer is that they are different. If jIva is essentially different from Brahman, logically one cannot become another. No sAdhanA (practice), e.g., karma, or knowledge, or their conjunction can convert jIva into Brahman. It means that moksha is impossible. “Even supposing there were some causes that could make them identical, one could not attain the nature of the other without undergoing destruction” [AJ Alston]. It needs some explaining. That the jIva attains Brahmanhood and also retains the jIvabhAva is not possible because it is finite and Brahman is infinite. Even if, hypothetically, it does so, there will be no liberation since the jIva retains the jIvabhAva.The alternative that the jIva attains Brahmanhood and drops the jIva status does not serve the purpose because there will be no jIva. In Advaita, a jIva does not become Brahman. It is already Brahman and (re)claims Brahmanhood by dropping the notion:‘I am jIva’.
10 Is moksha attained by means of every karma or by all the karmas put together?
A Vedantin asks pUrva paksha, “whether every Vedic karma will lead to liberation or all the karmas put together will give liberation?” If every karma can give liberation, all other karmas become redundant. Then, why should the Veda prescribe so many karmas? If moksha results through all the karmas put together then all karmas prescribed in the scriptures will have to be done to attain moksha. But no individual can do all the Vedic karmas for the reason that different Vedic karmas are prescribed for different varnAsramas. This would mean that moksha will not be possible for any person. A suggestion that the performance of all karmas prescribed for a particular varnAshrama will give moksha is unpractical. The categories of karmas performed by people of different varnAshramas will be different yet all will result in moksha. It would imply that moksha sAdhanAs can be different and if sAdhanAs are different, sAdhyAs also will be different. Results are different for different karmas is an accepted principle. On the other hand, there is only one moksha. A suggestion that if one or all karmas cannot give liberation, then specific karmas could do so has no scriptural support because results for various karmas are indicated in the Veda and moksha does not figure there. A desperate proposal that some karmas for which no fruits are prescribed could work is devoid of any merit.
Samuchchay (continued from Part 2)
8.31 Knowledge is to be followed by action
Advocate (K3) of this view holds that Self- knowledge arises in two stages, namely, knowledge through sravan followed by the knowledge through meditation. The sravan stage knowledge falls short of realization that is converted by meditation into realization and liberation. K3 also argues that even if knowledge arises at the stage of sravan, the common experience is that it gets weakened gradually with the rise of adverse emotions and ignorance takes over. Therefore, it is argued that knowledge acquired by sravan is not sufficient to destroy ignorance for good. It needs further support by way of karmas, such as meditation.
The Acharya does not agree. He says that proper sravan is sufficient to give liberation. No new knowledge is acquired by meditation. Mediation, etc, is needed for sAdhanA chatushtAya sampathi so that a seeker becomes an adhikAri for Vedanta teaching. Sravana is the primary sAdhanA for Self-knowledge and liberation. All other sAdhanAs are subsidiaries. The AchArya is firm that once ignorance is gone, in no way it will come back otherwise it will be in violation of the maxim, namely, ignorance is beginningless. Then the question is why does one entertain adverse notions of duality, suffering after gaining knowledge? The explanation is that ignorance is not responsible for the emergence of erroneous notions. The vAsanAs are responsible. JnAna destroys avidyA, not the avidyA vAsanas. The next question is whether any karmas are required to cure adverse vAsanAs. No, says the Acharya. NidhidhyAsana, i.e., Vedantic meditation (not yogic meditation) is sufficient to firm up jnAna vAsnAs so that whenever adverse vAsanAs arise, jnAna vAsanAs should get automatically triggered for a good seeker and neutralize the opposite emotions. He need not deliberately invoke jnAna vAsanA. It is to be noted that nidhidhyAana does not give any new knowledge. Knowledge is full and complete at the sravan stage.
5.1 A sentence is useful if it suggests positive action. A statement of fact alone does not give the result.
K2 claims that a sentence has to necessarily have a verb and a verb suggest action. If a sentence is without a verb, it is reduced to merely a jumble of words. As a verb is the most important part of any sentence, it is to be concluded that karma is the central teaching of any Veda-vakya. K2 argues that the sentences presenting Self-knowledge in the Veda do not constitute teaching. They are statements of facts without commanding any action and have no utility. For example, the statement, ‘water is available in the container’, is a statement of fact that serves no purpose. One has to follow up with the action of fetching and drinking the water. A mahAvakyaA does not have such a verb. Therefore, it does not convey the teaching of Veda.
While accepting that verb is necessary, the AchArya explains that there are two types of verbs, namely, action revealing and fact revealing, and depending on the contexts appropriate verb is to be supplied. In mahAvAkyas, ‘I am Brahman’ and ‘Thou art that’, the verbs ‘am’ and ‘art’ enable the mahAvakyas to convey information about the AtmA without applying any of the six modes of changes that action can bring about. Verse 98 of chapter 1 of NS says
“Since the sentences like, ‘that thou art’, teach the existence of reality that is revealed as self-evident, not even gods can introduce new meaning into them other than the one they already possess.” [Translation A J Alston]
Veda exhorts that moksha, i.e., liberation from the cycles of birth and death is the ultimate goal of a human being. A person escapes rebirth when his karmic (samskAr) account is nil at the time of death. Advaita Vedanta claims that with the rise of Self-knowledge (Brahman-knowledge, Self is Brahman) samskArs become nil when the body is dropped thereby putting a stop to re-birth. Roles of action and knowledge are at the core of any discussion on liberation. The main source of what follows now onwards is the class notes of lectures by SwAmi ParmArthAnanda on Naishkrama Siddhi (in short, NS) of SureswaryAchArya (in short, the Acharya) available on the website of Arsha Avinash Foundation. There are occasional references from the translation of NS by A J Alston [second edition 1971].
2 Three schools
In Updesa Sahasri (Chapter 1 of Part II) ShankarAchArya emphasizes that JnAn, independent of karma, leads to moksha. In the first chapter of NS, the AchArya undertakes a project to establish that knowledge alone is responsible for liberation. The Acharya with all humility acknowledges that the subject matters of NS have already been dealt with by his guru, ShankarAchArya and he cannot make any improvement. Verse 6 of chapter 1 of NS explains. “This Book is written, “neither to gain fame nor to earn wealth nor deferential treatment but in order to test (metal of) my own knowledge at the touch-stone of God-realized sages.” [ Reference translation by A J Alston]. As a reader goes along, he will see that the Acharya deals with the topic from various angles. No wonder, he devotes more than 90 verses of a total of 100 verses in chapter 1 of NS.
Part 3 of 3
Renunciation and its benefits
The knowledge that the Self is akartA is Karma SanyAs. Renunciation of work refers to giving up the sense of doer-ship. There is a simple and effective method to get over the notion of doer-ship. Krishna advises Arjuna to dedicate all works to the Him while abiding in the Self. It enables one to get rid of the sense of doer-ship and to remain detached, i.e., no expectations and no desires. Selfish action creates mental disturbances called vritties which again propels rAjasik action. Action dedicated to the Lord is ego-free. Ego-free action arrests creation of vritties. Continue reading
Part 2 of 3
Benefits of Detached Action
Krishna instructs Arjuna to perform action, i.e., engage in war and fulfill the obligatory duty. By performing work without attachment, one realizes the Supreme. He gives His example. There is nothing in the world for Him to achieve, yet He engages Himself in action. For, otherwise all other people would follow Him and the creation will be destroyed.
A person who is content with whatever comes by itself (without desiring for it), who is free from delusion and jealousy, who is equipoise in both success and failure, is not bound by action even by performing actions. The mind is focused on the work. It is a working mind as distinct from thinking and wavering mind. As a result the work becomes skilled. Attachment to the fruit of action creates impressions on the mind called samskArs which is the cause of cycle of birth and death. Attachment smacks of selfishness and egoism. Conversely, detachment creates no samskArs and one becomes free from the cycle of birth and death. Detached, karma yogis perform works for purifying the mind, e.g., sacrifice, charity and penance. Continue reading
Karma Yoga and Karma SanyAs
An ordinary educated Hindu or a religious minded Hindu, even though he has not read Bhagwad Gita, is asked about Gita. In all likelihood he would say that it teaches mankind to work without attachment. He may or may not be very familiar with the term Karma Yoga, yet if he is pressed further, he may add that work without attachment means work without attachment to the fruit of work. Indeed, he is not off the target. The point is that karma yoga is the essence of Gita for most of the Hindus. Even so, if a person reads it, then he comes across another term, i.e., Karma SanyAs. Though the term karma yoga is etched in the Hindu psyche, karma sanyAs is a relatively unfamiliar term for most of them. This article is an attempt to delve into karma yoga and karma sanyAs and also appreciate inter se similarities and dissimilarities.
One essential ingredient of Karma Yoga is that our right is not over the results of action. A common sense explanation of no-right- over- result is that we do not have complete control over the result. There are five causes responsible for any action to happen. They are right place of work, doer of work, various tools of work, different efforts and lastly the destiny. The five factors are invariably behind any work, physical, verbal, psychological, just or unjust. Even if a single component is missing then the work is not accomplished. In such a situation, one who thinks only oneself as the doer and has right over the result is ignorant and foolish. We think we are doers but we are just one of the five factors necessary for any work to fructify. If other four are not available then work is unaccomplished. It is worthless if one shoulders the burden of doer-ship, let alone responsibility of result of action, whether success or failure. Continue reading