Suresvara, in his very first chapter of this independent work, establishes that Knowledge is the only direct means to liberation, but he also acknowledges the role of action to purify the mind. He essentially says desireless action leads to turning within and renunciation of all actions, which facilitates the assimilation of knowledge, which destroys ignorance and yields moksha.
1.47: When his mind has been purified through the performance of actions dedicated to the Lord, pure indifference to all enjoyments from the heaven of Brahma downwards is generated in his heart.
When the mind is clogged by passion and delusion it is easily attracted by the bait of prospective pleasure and it finds itself thrown into the slaughterhouse of the world of sense-objects, escape from which is no easy matter. But by the dedicated performance of action, the dirt of passion and delusion may be rubbed away from the mind till it becomes like a clear well-polished crystal . . . All the stains then melt away and the mind becomes like a clear mirror, naturally turning towards the pure inner Self (and reflecting its light).
1.48: When the mind has risen clear of all desires, then of its own accord, it desires to dissolve in the inner Self.
From that point onwards there is no further scope for prescribed action.
1.49: The actions having given birth in the mind to ‘intentness on turning within’ by purifying it, die with their duties performed, like clouds at the end of the rainy season.
1.51: As the smrti puts it “Action (karma) is the means for the ascetic who wishes to attain the heights of yoga; restraint (sama) is the means when once he has attained them”
Paraphrasing the remainder of Suresvara’s comments here: from performance of daily rituals -> merit -> destruction of sin -> purity of mind -> indifference to transmigratory life -> desire for liberation -> practice of yoga -> focusing the mind within -> knowledge of the meaning of ‘That thou art’ -> eradication of nescience -> establishment in the Self alone
1.52: Only as a result of a series of effects does action contribute to the overthrow of nescience. It does not destroy nescience directly, like knowledge, because it is not in contradiction with it.
1.53: The result of action is something produced, attained, prepared or transformed. But liberation is something other than all this. Hence action is not a means to it.
Thus it has been shown that action alone cannot destroy nescience . . . And it has been explained how a remote participation of action in the production of knowledge could be admitted.
1.54: Knowledge cannot suppress nescience when combined with action as a subordinate partner. For since action and knowledge are respectively of the nature of means and end, they cannot exist simultaneously.
Alston’s note: Action is the means to knowledge through purification of the mind. As long as action is present functioning as a means, the goal (Knowledge) is not yet reached. When knowledge is ‘achieved’, the means to it (action for purification of the mind) is no longer needed, and in fact it cannot exist. At a certain point, actions and duties die as per 1.49
Prof Balasubramanian’s note: There are three important reasons why jnana cannot be subsidiary to karma. First, karma which produces purification of the mind is the means to the origination of knowledge; and karma and jnana being thus related as means and end cannot co-exist at the same time. Secondly, since karma is the means to jnana, they cannot together be the means to moksha. Thirdly karma performed in the earlier life can, through purification of the mind, be the means to the origination of knowledge in the present life.
And in the final verses of his final chapter, Suresvara writes:
4.62: If the enlightened man could behave as he liked what would be the difference between a sage and a dog? Both of them would eat impure things.
4.63: Ignorance results from unrighteous deeds; uncontrolled behaviour from ignorance. How can there be unrighteous deeds in the case of one who by acting righteously has already gone beyond the plane of righteousness.
4.65: No one engages in activity in matters towards which he is indifferent. For what should the one desirous of liberation strive, seeing that he is indifferent to everything in the three worlds?
[This directly replicates Sankara in Upadesa Sahashri, presumably underscoring its importance for Suresvara]
4.68: He who is intent on ‘humility, etc’ and is equipped with virtues such as non-enmity, acquires Knowledge, but not he whose mind is turned outwards
4.69: In the case of one who has achieved enlightenment, virtues like non-enmity persist naturally and without effort. They are no longer practised as a means to an end.
4.70: Those who wish to profit from the present book ought to possess themselves of humility and the other qualities which are the means to spirituality, and should avoid evil practices with all their power.
4.71: This introduction to the teachings of the Upanishads should not be given to one who has not developed indifference to worldly experience, who has not laid aside his temporal desires, and who has not practised the discipline of yama.
4.72: When what has been said in this book has been rightly comprehended, nothing further remains to be known. But only renunciates from all action will rightly understand it.
4.73: Desireless, peaceful ascetics who have renounced all activities and whose minds are focused within, will understand the teachings in the spirit in which they are meant.
Vartika on the Yajnavalkya-Maitreyi dialogue in Brhad Up 2.4
21: An ascetic, who has not given up desire, may not attain liberation even if he is a knower of Brahman. Therefore a combination of Knowledge with renunciation is mentioned here.
23: Indeed renunciation is, for all, the best means to liberation, for it is only by one who has renounced that the highest state of the individual consciousness can be attained.
29: For those who have a desire for the world of men, begetting a son, etc is the means; but in the case of those who are desirous of Knowledge, and whose mind has risen above the objects of desire, renunciation is the means.
32: Yoga is characterised by activity, and Knowledge by renunciation. Therefore having preferred Knowledge, the intelligent one should renounce the world.
38: Therefore seeking to prescribe renunciation for the emergence of Knowledge of the true nature of Atman, the sruti begins with “O Maitreyi”
In his Vartika on BU chapter 4.5, he continues:
25: Since not only is this knowledge non-expectant of action and means, but there is the expectation of abandonment of all action also; therefore the sage [Yajnavalkya], though he had accomplished the objects (of desire) on account of having well understood the nature of That, hurriedly himself gave up all action which has speech, manas and body as means.
Vartika on Sariraka Brahmana, Brhad Up 4.4
885: A person should take to meditation by repeated pursuit of the knowledge of the Atman, as described, with every effort till the ignorance about the nature of the Atman is completely removed, so that there does not remain even a little of it
1071: Since tranquillity (sama) etc are the means of acquiring the lore of the Brahman, then how could Munihood be attributed to one who has not renounced? His attaining the status of a sage would be without any authority.
1075: Therefore it follows that there is Munihood in the case of only a knower of the inner self, as it is, on account of his strength acquired by avoiding all activities which are caused by ignorance about the nature of the inner self.
1086: Therefore the means to the rise of the knowledge of the inner self is only renunciation of the activities of manas, speech and body; since they are which is opposed to the knowledge about the inner self.
1113: Whence can there be that inclination to performing activity which has proceeded from ignorance? Therefore know that there is abandoning of all activities as a result of the knowledge of the Atman
1156-7: If it is asked ‘what is the use of being an ascetic?’, then the answer is ‘this atmaloka has not at all any connection whatever with actions’. Since it does not stand to reason that this Atman has any connection with origination, etc, therefore not even a little of action is to be imagined here.
1198: Thus having destroyed the entire blemish on his part by the earlier mentioned means, this person should have a desire to know the Atman arisen in him and should abandon all his belongings.