Karma, jnAna and moksha ( Part 4/5)

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.


11 Four categories of goals
Human goals (not to be mixed with the four purushArthas – dharma, artha, kAma, and moksha) can be categorized in four ways.
(1) PrApta prApti: – Attainment of something that a person possesses, yet he is ignorant about it. E.g., a thin necklace around the neck.
(2) Parihrata parihAra: Removal of something which is actually non-existent but is thought to exist due to ignorance, e.g., ghost seen in one’s own shadow on the wall.
(3) AprApta prApti: Attaining something that a person does not have, e.g., swarga.
(4) Aparihrata parihAra: Removal of an existing problem that a person has, e.g., bodily disease.
For (3) and (4), one needs to know the means to do karma followed by the actual karma. For (3), knowledge about the type of action for attaining the goal is needed, and for (4), knowledge of action for removal is required. The knowledge thus gained is to be followed by appropriate action. Karma kAnda is the appropriate source for the two goals. JnAna kAnda is not useful. For (1) and (2), no action is required. Knowledge will lead to goals. (1) and (2) correspond to situations where a person is ignorant about the fact that his real nature is Ananda and not sorrow yet he is ignorant about it. In order to get past the predicament (ignorance), a clear understanding of his true nature alone will work. No action is required. The understanding includes the understanding that nothing else except the said clear understanding is required for permanent Ananda (read moksha).

12 Though knowledge, like karma, is born of ignorance, it ensures liberation
A karmavAdi argues that if Karma is born of ignorance, so is knowledge. It is no better. Therefore, if karma cannot give liberation, jnAna also cannot give liberation. He says that to get knowledge, the means needed are embedded in duality, namely, scriptures, guru, and shishya. And duality and ignorance are synonymous from Vedanta’s perspective also. The Vedantin agrees. The rise of knowledge requires plurality. For karma uttapatti (production), the plurality of kartA, kAranam, and karma is required. For jnAna uttapatti, the plurality of pramAtA (jnAtA), pramAna (jnAna) and prameyam ((jnyeyam) is required. Indeed the two types of plurality are sourced from ajnAna. however, the similarity ends here. With the rise of knowledge, ignorance is destroyed because of the power of knowledge that is not dependent on duality. Knowledge on its own destroys ignorance. The destructive power of knowledge is special as it depends only on the validity of the knowledge derived from the object of knowledge. An example explains it. To produce flame, different accessories, such as oil, oil holder, wick, matchbox are needed. Though the flame is dependent on these materials to come into being, the power of the flame to destroy darkness does not depend on them since they are themselves not luminous. It is the inherent nature of the flame that destroys darkness. In the same manner, any knowledge requires various accessories to arise. However, the destructive power of knowledge is not dependent on the accessories. In contrast, both karma uttapatti and karma phala are dependent on duality. Karmas are born of ignorance and accumulated over many past lives. It is huge and very strong. Knowledge seems very weak in comparison. However, it is not the case. One truth demolishes a thousand lies. The burning power of knowledge is very strong. Self-knowledge destroys the ignorance that has given rise to it like the fire generated by the friction of trees in a dense forest burns the trees. All the karmas are burnt in the fire of Self-knowledge.
Verse 40 of chapter 1, NS is emphatic: “When all qualification for action has been burnt up in the sage by the fire of knowledge, then he is no longer a slave of the Veda. Verily he stands above the Veda.” [Translation: A J Alston]
Bhagwad Gita (BG) also speaks about the power of knowledge.
यस्य सर्वे समारम्भाः कामसङ्कल्पवर्जिताः।
ज्ञानाग्निदग्धकर्माणं तमाहुः पण्डितं बुधाः।।4.19।।

Meaning: Wise call him a sage whose actions and their thoughts are devoid of desire and all actions are burnt in the fire of knowledge.
श्रेयान्द्रव्यमयाद्यज्ञाज्ज्ञानयज्ञः परन्तप।
सर्वं कर्माखिलं पार्थ ज्ञाने परिसमाप्यते।।4.33।।
Meaning: Krishna addressing Arjuna (also known as Partha) as destroyer of enemies says that knowledge considered as a sacrifice is greater than sacrifices of materials and that all actions in their totality culminate in Knowledge.

13 Is the Veda one shAstra or It constitutes two distinct shAstras?

The AchArya refutes bheda-abheda-vAd which is a form of samuchchay (discussed in part 5). Before that, SwAmi ParmArthAnanda prefers to discuss if the Veda is one shAshtra or It is a combination of two distinct shAshtras, namely, karma kAnda and jnAna kAnda. He does so for the reason that ekshAshtravAd is effectively bheda- abheda-vAd. A samuchchayvAdi, who considers that a combination of karma and jnAna is necessary for moksha, holds that the Veda is one shAshtrA, i.e., he is an ekshAshtravAdi. On the other hand, a Vedantin regards the Veda as made of two distinct shAstras. What is the correct scheme of the Veda?
A shAshtra has a distinct group of four factors:
(1) adhikAri – person to whom the shAstra is addressed,
(2) vishaya – subject matter,
(3) sambandha: – relationship between the adhikAri and the vishaya, and
(4) phala – the benefit derived from the shAstra.
Karma kAnda has a set of four factors that are different from that of jnAna kAnda. For karma kAnda, (i) adhikaari is a rAgi (individual with desires), (ii) vishaya is anitya (ephemeral), (iii) sambandha is kartru-kartavya bhAva sambandha, and (iv) phala is also anitya. For jnAna kAnda, they are respectively, (1) vairAgi (one who has given up desires) (2) nitya (eternal) (3) pratibhAdhika-pratibhAdhya bhAva sambandha and (4) nitya phala. Therefore, the two portions of the Veda are two distinct shAshtras. Samuchchaya between karma and jnAna is not the scheme of the Veda.
(continued)

1 thought on “Karma, jnAna and moksha ( Part 4/5)

  1. Fascinating, Bimal. Haven’t studied NS so some of this is new to me. Maybe a bit more translation of Sanskrit terms would be helpful for some readers, especially in the last section.

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