6-1-2-7 Self-effort 3(33,34), 6 (5 to 7) Inherent nature, i.e., nature one is born with, and self-effort are two important factors in human life. Nature is an aggregate of impressions of virtue, vice, etc. acquired in past lives and which become manifest in the current life. 3(33) says that all creatures behave according to their nature. If this is so, there would be doubt about the purpose of scriptural teaching in the absence of personal effort. To dispel it, it is said in 3(34) that a person engaged in scriptures should not come under the influence of love and hatred despite his nature impelling otherwise. When he controls love and hatred with the help of their opposites, then he is in sync with scriptural teachings, and he is not solely led by his nature.
1. If upon the death of a jivan-mukta person, the subtle body dissolves and the person does not have go through the cycle of birth and death, this would imply that my sole motivation for attaining enlightenment should be the liberation of the subtle body that resides inside this gross body (since that is what suffers from one birth to another). Does this not in some way refute the idea of realising myself as the supreme consciousness bliss?
2. How is it that law of karma stops to act only on an enlightened being when in essence we are all liberated from the beginning?
3. On living while following the path of karma yoga, how do I decide what actually is the right thing to do in one’s life assuming I don’t have any desires? What Arjuna did in those days was the traditional work assigned to kshatriyas but in present day, since there is no acceptance of the traditional caste system, how do I come to decide what I should do? As a karma yogi has no desires, does all for the Lord, but the problem is coming to know what is to be done and that too, without any desire or attachment. What occupation should be taken or should one retire as a monk?
Quoting from S.N. Sastri’s Terms and Concepts in Vedanta:
“The word ‘karma’ is used in two different senses in vedAnta:
(1) the results of actions performed, in the form of merit and demerit (puNya and pApa), which produce their effects later on, usually in another birth, and
(2) the action itself, whether secular or religious.”
After reading Swami Narayana Muni Prasad’s superb booklet “Karma and Reincarnation” I would like to point to a third sense in which the word karma can and needs to be understood, especially for advanced students of Advaita.
Karma as puNya and pApa
At some point every seeker comes across the concept of karma in this sense. If he follows Western Advaita he may dismiss the concept as something altogether irrelevant or, if he is not yet an advaitin, he may subscribe to the Western version of karma as an assignment for this lifetime (see http://advaita-academy.org/blogs/Sitara.ashx?Y=2011&M=June) which, if successfully absolved, will produce the kind of life that everyone is wishing for: safe, pleasant and ethical. Continue reading →
Q: I have a problem with the boredom of everyday life. Nothing seems to satisfy me. I just find it so difficult to be just here in the moment and be content with that. You say: go through life and work etc, but as a witness to it all.
Am I living in moment as I should? Should I give all my attention to each action, so that the ego is absent or should I just be the witness of everything every action on a moment to moment basis?
Maybe if I understand how to live in the moment better and had some clarification, that would help me stay present and focused on just living. My mind lives in the future.
(Note: I have reworded the question slightly but some of the replies quote from the original question. Apologies for any confusion!)
One enduring misconception about enlightenment is that there are different ‘paths’ for different temperaments. This is not supported by Śaṅkara’s vision. Below the argument for the single ‘path’ is presented.
1. All problems of life are due to an erroneous assumption about who one is. The solution to the problems of life, therefore, lies in correcting this erroneous assumption. Advaitins in the Śaṅkara tradition would agree with this.
2. Common observation supported by scripture shows that, when one’s aim is split, the goal is unlikely to be reached. So for seekers who are split between an avowed desire for self-knowledge and ‘compelling’ ties to the world in the form of emotional entanglements to people and places, unfulfilled duties, ambitions and the like, attaining the goal of self-knowledge is unlikely – their minds being impure (i.e. distorted by subjective likes and dislikes) or unsteady (unable to remain single-pointed for any length of time). The compelling pull of likes and dislikes that arise from duties and entanglements and ambitions is known as mala. And the flickering of the mind from one worldly demand to the other is called vikshepa. Continue reading →
The mind of the seeker needs to be calm and contained in order for it to be able to grasp what reality is. Karma Yoga prepares the mind to attain such a state and there are a number of blogs and articles dealing with it on this site. But many Western seekers find it hard to relate to the karma yoga recommendation given by traditional advaitins as the first port of call, mainly because it needs a devotional mind set.
The purpose of karma yoga is all about developing the nine virtues of chatushtaya sampatti described in Tattvabodha as preparing the mind for self-knowledge, and explained in more detail by Adi Shankara in Vivekachudamani. As I am professionally working with a method that is effective in enhancing equanimity I would like to give you a taste of it’s principals here.
In order to ultimately free him/herself from the idea of being a body-mind entity separate from other body-mind-entities the seeker needs to get caught up less in identifications with what he/she is not. Yet he/she finds himself getting confined again and again in entrenched mental, emotional and behavioural patterns.
How is one to liberate oneself from them, especially if one does not happen to have full trust in the efficacy of a karma yoga life style? First of all the mind needs to be able to question itself. Continue reading →
Q: It seems like a contradiction to me to say that we are the observer and not the doer and, at the same time, suggest that we can do something such as paying attention. I encounter this “apparent contradiction” often when I read about Advaita. If there is no doer, why are there suggestions as to how to remove ignorance, for example? Who would remove the ignorance if there is no doer?
– Is it that in the dualistic world it appears as if there is a doer and therefore we act “as if”, even though we might know that there is no doer?
– If we realize that there is no doer but we act “as if”, is it like playing our part in a “game”?