Q: I have the following doubt. I look forward to your comments.
Having completed the study of Tattva Bodha, this mumukshu has a doubt with regard to karma – sanchita, prarabdha and agami.
The doubt exists in a narrow compass and concerns karma and the Jivan Mukta. Tattva Bodha states that on realization, sanchita and agami karmas of a gyani come to an end. But the same logic is not extended to prarabdha which it states continues even after realization and that on its exhaustion the Jivan Mukta drops the body.
Advaita Vedanta is recognized as a logical and rational system of thought and it is therefore difficult to accept this assumption regarding prarabdha for the following reasons:
- It does not appear that any of the major Upanishads specifically states that prarabdha karma of a Jivan Mukta continues after realization.
- All the three karmas comprise of components such as sukham/dukham, papam/punyam etc. If sanchita and agami come to an end on realization, why not prarabdha?
- If the cycle of birth and death, karana sharira, and sanchita and agami karma end on realization, why do we speculate that prarabdha survives?kAraNa sharIra does not come to an end. The body, complete with all its functionality continues until death.
- Karma is associated with the individual, the ego. Since individual identity ceases on realization of one’s swarupa, how can any form of karma survive?Individual identity does not come to an end. The jIva knows that he/she is the Atman, so does not identify with the body-mind but will still continue as that name and form until death.
- Tattva Bodha itself clearly states that freedom from bondage means freedom from all karma. How can it be said in the same breath that prarabdha survives?
Do you have the reference?
- The mahavakyam Tat twam asi states that our real identity is Atma/Brahman. Realisation is the personal knowledge that one’s true nature is Brahman. To say that the Jivan Mukta, who experiences herself as Brahman, has prarabdha, is tantamount to saying that Brahman also has prarabdha.
No. It is the body-mind that has the prArabdha, not Atman.
- Vedanta teaches us that realization is a passage from the limited to the unlimited. How can there be the limitation of prarabdha for the unlimited Jivan Mukta?
Vedanta teaches (ultimately) that there has never been any creation. There is no ‘passage’. The jIva has always been brahman; the problem was that this truth was obscured by avidyA. It is revealed by Self-knowledge.
- If prarabdha exists for the agyani and gyani alike, there would be no difference between them.
The difference is that the aj~nAnI does not know that he/she is brahman.
Ramana Maharshi is one of our most respected sages. He had the highest regard for Adi Shankaracharya and the scriptures. He rarely, if ever, took a position in opposition to either what Shankaracharya or the scriptures have stated. But on the question of prarabdha he was very clear that even this aspect of karma came to an end on realization.
In Spiritual Instruction of Bhagavan Sri Raman Maharshi, S Natananda, pg.21, as quoted by David Godman in Be As You Are, pg. 211, the Maharishi was asked:
“Is it possible to overcome, even while the body exists, the prarabdha karma which is said to last till the end of the body?
A: Yes. If the agent upon whom the karma depends, namely the ego, which has come into existence between the body and the Self, merges in its source and loses its form, how can the karma which depends upon it survive? When there is no ‘I’ there is no karma.”
In Day by Day with Bhagavan, D Mudaliar, pg 295-6, again as quoted by David Godman in Be As You Are, pg. 214, the Maharishi stated with regard to prarabdha karma as follows:
“That is why it is sometimes said in reply to such questions, ‘The body of the jnani will continue till the force of prarabdha works itself out, and after the prarabdha is exhausted it will drop off.’ An illustration made use of in this connection is that of an arrow already discharged which will continue to advance and strike its target. But the truth is the jnani has transcended all karmas, including the prarabdha karma, and he is not bound by the body or its karmas.”
In Guru Vachaka Kovai, Muruganar, pg 697, again as quoted by David Godman in Be As You Are, pg. 214, the Maharshi stated:
“Not even an iota of prarabdha exists for those who uninterruptedly attend of the space of consciousness, which always shines as ‘I am”, which is not confined in the vast physical space, and which pervades everywhere without limitations. Such alone is the meaning of the ancient saying ‘There is no fate for those who reach or experience the heavens.’”
In view of the above, can it be said that prarabdha survives realization?”
I don’t actually understand some of the above comments but what I would say is this. You cannot set too much store by what is said by someone who is commenting on something translated by someone else, who may or may not have fully comprehended what was originally said. There is too much danger of the commentator’s or translator’s (or both) understanding encroaching on or even corrupting the original message.
If you want to be sure of the message, you must go to the original source or find out what has been said by a fully qualified sampradAya teacher.
If the quotations you give truly reflect what was said by Ramana, then it appears that he was contradicting what was said by Shankara in his commentary on shruti and nyAya prasthAna.
But, overall, a very well researched and formulated question!
The scriptural reference is Chandogya Up. 6.14.2. Shankara also comments on Bhagavad Gita 4.37. But the detailed addressing of this is Brahmasutra Chapter 4 Topic 11 (4.1.15) – ‘But only those former (works) whose effects have not yet begun (are destroyed by knowledge; because the scripture states) that (i.e., the death of the body) to be the term.’
Here is Shivananda’s translation of Shankara:
In the last two Adhikaranas (topics) it has been stated that all the past works of a knower of Brahman are destroyed. Past works are of two kinds, viz., Sanchita (accumulated works) those which have not yet begun to yield results and Prarabdha, i.e., those works whose effects have already begun to operate and have produced the body through which the aspirant has attained Brahma Jnana or knowledge of Brahman.
The Purvapakshin maintains that both these are destroyed, because the Mundaka Upanishad says that all his works are destroyed. “He thereby overcomes both”. This refers to all works without any distinction, all works whatever must be regarded to undergo destruction.
Further the sage who has attained Self-realisation is a non-doer. He has no idea or feeling of agency. His idea of non-doership is the same with reference to Sanchita or Prarabdha. Hence both these works are destroyed when one attains knowledge of Brahman or the Supreme Self.
This Sutra refutes this view and declares that only Sanchita Karmas or accumulated works whose fruits have not yet begun to operate are destroyed by knowledge but not the Prarabdha. Prarabdha Karmas are destroyed only by being worked out. Those works whose effects have begun and whose results have been half enjoyed, i.e., those very works to which there is due the present state of existence in which the knowledge of Brahman arises and not destroyed by that knowledge. This view is founded on the scriptural passage “For him there is delay only as long as he is not delivered from this body, and then he is one with Brahman” (Chh. Up. VI.14.2), which fixes the death of the body as the term of the statement of the attainment of final release.
If it were not so, then there would be no teachers of knowledge.
Therefore, the Prarabdha Karmas are not destroyed by knowledge.
If it is said that fire must destroy all seeds, the reply is that what has begun to operate, like a potter’s wheel, must have its operation. Mithya Jnana (the erroneous knowledge of multiplicity) though negated by Jnana, will persist for a while (Badhitanuvritti).
Each man’s inner realisation cannot be denied or disputed by another. This truth is declared by the description of the Sthitaprajna in the Bhagavad Gita.The Knowledge of Brahman in a knower or a sage cannot check the Prarabdha Karma, just as an archer has no control over the arrows already discharged, which comes to rest only when its momentum is exhausted. The liberated sage must keep up this body as long as the momentum of Prarabdha Karmas lasts. When the Prarabdha Karmas are worked out or exhausted the body falls off and he attains Videha-Mukti or disembodied salvation.
The final discussion, therefore, is that knowledge effects the destruction of those works only whether good or evil, whose effects have not yet begun to operate.