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’.
3 Suppose the answer is that Brahman and jIva are both identical and different, i.e., all the jivAs are included in Brahman and both are real. As varnAshramas ** of all the jIvas are included in the Brahman, on getting Brahman knowledge, jIva will identify with all the varnAshrams and he will have to do all the karmas meant for different varnAshramas. It is humanly impossible. Alternatively, if such a jnAni does not own any particular varnAshrama because he identifies with all varnAshramas, he has to abandon all the karmas. In either situation, a combination of jnAna and karma is not feasible. It may argued be that knowledge can be from paramArthika (Absolute) drishti (viewpoint) and karma from vyavahArika ( empirical) drishti. One may even cite verse 8 of Chapter V of BG: even while seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, eating, moving, reclining, and breathing, the disciplined knower of Truth understands that he does not do anything at all. This verse is not helpful because it is addressed to a Vedantic jnAni for whom paramArthika is real and vyavahArika is mithyA, and not to a bheda-abheda-vAdi.
** There are four varnas, namely, brAhmin (knower of karma kAnda and a priest), kshatriya (warrior), vaishya(trader), and shudra(labourer). Four Ashramas are brahmacharya (celibacy – learning phase), grihastha (family phase), vAnprashtha( reducing the family ties), and sanyAs (renunciation). The karmas(rituals) prescribed in karma kAnda are varna and Ashrama specific. They mainly concern a grihastha. A sanyAsi is exempted from any rituals as he is required to devote himself to knowledge.
15 Purpose of karma kAnda
The AchArya has established unsustainability of samuchchayavAda and that knowledge alone reveals the fact of liberation. A question arises: what then is the purpose of voluminous karma kAnda? Though not explicitly dealt with in NS, SwAmi ParmArthananda discusses it. Karma kAnda is not meant to prescribe karma as the final sAdhanA for the simple reason that karma is born of ignorance and it is not expected of the Veda to instruct a performer (of karma) to remain in ignorance for perpetuity. The ultimate aim of the Veda is to teach the truth that the real nature of a human being is akartA (non-doer) and abhoktA (non-enjoyer) and that he is liberated ab-initio. Self-knowledge is the lone saviour since human suffering is because a vast majority is ignorant of the truth. As the knowledge is subtle, even the minority that has heard about it is not matured enough to become seekers. Verse 2.29 of BG laments the state of affairs.
आश्चर्यवत्पश्यति कश्चिदेनमाश्चर्यवद्वदति तथैव चान्यः।
आश्चर्यवच्चैनमन्यः श्रृणोति श्रुत्वाप्येनं वेद न चैव कश्चित् II
Meaning: Some people see the AtmA with wonder, others talk about Its wonders. A few people listen to Its wonders and some even after listening do not know It.
The Veda is compassionate and wants humanity to receive the knowledge so as to get rid of sufferings and be free. For this, a person has to eliminate deha-abhimAna (mind-body ego) and kartA-bhoktA (doer-enjoyer) notion. Unfortunately, such mindsets are baggage from innumerable previous lives and are very strong. Therefore, as an interim measure, the Veda allows the person to engage in karma. Such a concession by the Veda should not be construed as teaching because Mundakopanishad (1.2.12) ibid exhorts: having examined the worlds, which are achieved through karma, a brAhmin should come to dispassion, i.e., he should move away from karma. So long as a person looks upon himself as anAtmA, he is a kartA because of deha-abhimAna. Deha-abhimAna is a manifestation of ignorance that binds a person; it is necessary to cut its knot and reclaim freedom. It is prompting to cite the following inspiring verses from BG and AshtAvakra Gita (AG) as reminders to a seeker.
प्रकृतेः क्रियमाणानि गुणैः कर्माणि सर्वशः।
अहङ्कारविमूढात्मा कर्ताऽहमिति मन्यते।।
Meaning: All actions are done by (three) Gunas of nature. A person deluded by ahankAra thinks of himself as the doer.
यदि देहं पृथक् कृत्य चिति विश्राम्य तिष्ठसि।
अधुनैव सुखी शान्तो बन्धमुक्तो भविष्यसिII
Meaning: If you (sage AshtAvakra addressing King Janaka) think yourself distinct from and detach yourself from the body (and mind) and abide in consciousness, you will at once become peaceful, content and bondage-free.
अहं कर्तेत्यहंमान महाकृष्णाहिदंशितः।
नाहं कर्तेति विश्वासामृतं पीत्वा सुखं भव॥1.8॥
Meaning: You are bitten by the black serpent of ego and think that “I am the doer”. Drink the nectar of “I am not the doer” and be happy.
देहाभिमानपाशेन चिरं बद्धोऽसि पुत्रक।
बोधोऽहं ज्ञानखड्गेन तन्निष्कृत्य सुखी भव॥1.14॥
Meaning: You have long been in the noose of “I am body” identification. Cut asunder it by the sword of knowledge and be happy.
Observing the injunctions of the karma kAnda prepares a person as a seeker of knowledge. On realization of his true nature as AtmA that is akartA, karma is not necessary nor could there be any motivation for karma. Karma as a moksha sAdhanA is not approved; karma as a suddhi (purifying) sAdhanA is recommended and encouraged.
It will be fitting to conclude this series with what ShankarAchArya has to say in verses 12 and 13 of chapter14, Updesha SahAsri: 14.12: “One should rightly think thus: I am all-pervading Brahman beyond hunger, etc., how can I have action?” 14.13: “A knower of the Self will wish to perform actions if one who has reached the other bank of a river wishes to reach that bank while there.” [extracted from Updesha Sahasri by SwAmi JagadAnada, Sri Ramakrishna Math]. (Concluded)