Best wishes for Gita Jayanti tomorrow (actually Ekadasi already started)!
Viewing karma and jnana as opposites and seeing a non-existent conflict between them, as done by many, has been the bane of modern practice of sublime Vedanta philosophy.
I quoted last week from Yoga Vasishtha that the bird of self flies into the Infinite sky of Self by flapping the two wings of karma (action) and jnana (wisdom). There needs to be harmony between the two.
I will address some critiques of a learned Vedantin friend who denounces karma and the above quote from Yoga Vaasishtha. At the end, I will talk about action, desire of fruits, identification, non-action and what harmony between wisdom and action means. I will talk about how a liberated person acts.
As my friend’s primary text is Gita, I’ll focus on Gita today.
««The combination of Karma and Jnana is commented by bhAshyakAra Sri Sanakara, saying that Karma Yoga (NishkAma) is a precursor to Jnana and never an addendum.»»
In Gita 3.22-23, Krishna says: “There is nothing I cannot get. But there is nothing I want. I do not NEED to do any karmas. Yet, I perform karmas eternally, to set an example and to obey the cosmic order.”
Similarly, there is nothing a jeevanmukta needs. He does not NEED to do any karmas. Yet, he performs karmas while embodied, to obey the cosmic order.
Yes, the chapter on Karma yoga is indeed a precursor to the chapter on Jnana yoga. The former explains the soucre and nature of actions and allows a seeker to perform good actions.
The chapter on jnana yoga explains how it is difficult to identify correct actions. It asks to see non-action in action and see action in non-action. It highlights the need to be detached to the fruits of actions. It also talks about various types of yajnas, i.e. actions involving sacrifice.
We see something as “I” and something as “others”. The precursor to seeing all as ONE is actions involving sacrifice of things related to what is seen as “I” and benefiting what is seen as “others”.
Then the chapter on Sannyasa yoga discusses at length the difference between giving up actions and performing actions with detachment to their fruits and extols the latter as superior.
After teaching Dhyana yoga, Jnana Vijnana yoga, Akshara Brahma yoga, Raja yoga, Vibhuti yoga, Bhakti yoga etc, Krishna culminates with a teaching on “Moksha Sannyasa yoga”.
A seeker may perform actions and avoid actions, read things, contemplate etc, while desiring moksha. Desire of moksha is better than any other desire. Yet, in the end, it too is a desire and blocks one.
Moksha sannyasa yoga describes how a seeker becomes liberated by not seeking anything, including moksha. This chapter describes how a liberated being functions in the world. What it teaches is quite consistent with Vasishtha’s teachings to Rama in “Yoga Vaasishtha”.
In Gita 18.4-6, Krishna clearly says yajna, daana, tapah karmas shall never be given up. In other words, one shall never give up actions involving self-sacrifice, giving to others and building tolerance to any circumstances. In Gita 18-11, Krishna clearly declares that an embodied being cannot give up actions and hence what should be given up is a desire for the fruits of actions.
In Yoga Vaasishtha terms, selfish actions, actions with desire for fruits etc, are actions with no harmony between action and wisdom. Selfless actions involving self-sacrifice and giving to others, without any attachment to fruits or a sense of “I am doing this” or “I am helping others”, are actions in harmony with wisdom. When one is constantly able to perform such actions, the two wings of the bird of self (action & wisdom) are flapping in harmony and the bird flies!!
««Sri Krishna repeatedly said Karma is necessary only in the case to bring back person from worldly life or laziness. He even went to the extent of reminding that ‘ahamkravimoodhAtma kartAhamiti manyate’.»»
What is denounced here is thinking of oneself as the doer (kartA). Not action itself.
As I showed above, Krishna extols selfless and detached actions throughout Gita!
Vasishtha clarifies this in “Yoga Vaasishtha”. Due to a play arising in Brahman, Brahman entertains notions of diversity, interactions between those objects and an elaborate set of rules that those interactions obey.
A liberated being realizes this play. He performs actions, but neither recognizes himself as the doer nor worries about their fruits. He faces various life circumstances (fruits of previous karmas done with attachment) with non-distinction. He performs various selfless actions that present themselves before one, with no attachment to fruits or identification with doership.
THIS is what is meant by harmony between actions and wisdom, karma and jnana.
««If you see a text like Katha Upanishad, Karma is tremendously denounced, negated as Nachiketa himself refuses to accept the results of the best possible Vaidika Karma, for Atma Jnana.»»
Not being attracted to the fruits of “Vaidika karmas” or any karmas does not amount to denouncing karma itself.
Any living organism engages in many karmas all the time, as Yama mentions to Nachiketa. In fact, Yama himself, the preceptor of Atma jnana to Nachiketa, engages in karma constantly - he maintains Dharma in Cosmos!
The key is NOT doing no karmas, but it is to not identify with them, not have a sense of doership and not be attracted to their fruits.
If one thinks “this body-mind complex is I. This I needs to be freed. Let me do XYZ and avoid ABC, to enable MY liberation”, there is no liberation. Even avoiding an action, while identifying with that avoidance and expecting some fruits from avoiding that action, is a karma and binds one!!!!!!
Some pseudo-Vedantins are deluded that actions are binding. They do not realize that moksha is NOT “achieved” by frantically engaging, with a desire for moksha, in the forced and selfish action of running away from other possibly natural/spontaneous and selfless actions.
Krishna clearly teaches in Gita that actions do not bind, but desire of their fruits does. He also extolled selfless and sacrificial actions with no desire of fruits must always be performed.
Moksha is realized by spontaneously engaging in actions which are possible in one’s current circumstances and which benefit others, though with neither a desire for any fruits nor a sense of doership nor a sense of “this must be done for the good of others or world”.
Nothing is a “must do”. Yet, small and big selfless sacrificial actions that naturally present themselves before one are spontaneously performed, with no interest in their fruits. THAT state is moksha.
There is a difference between mumukshus (those desrious of liberation) and muktas (liberated ones).
A mumukshu may temporarily avoid some actions and see them as binding. But a mukta does not see any selfless action as binding and does not avoid any.
Best wishes for Gita Jayanti again. Krishnam Vande Jagadgurum!