Saturday, 26 August 2017

Karma Yogi and Jnana Yogi


Gita essays – 8

In Chapter 4, Lord Krishna glorified Jnanam, as a great purifier that washes off all sins, past and present, and praised Jnana karma sanyasi as actionless in action and not bound. But in the concluding verse of this chapter Lord told Arjuna “Get up and take to karma yoga.”  So Arjuna was confused and wants know for certain which is superior; karma sanyasa or karma yoga.  These two represent two life-styles, one is pravritti marga where you engage in action as a householder, renouncing attachment to action, while other is nivritti marga, where you renounce action itself as a sanyasi. Arjuna is confused as to whether sanyasa asrama is compulsory for gaining Jnanam to achieve liberation and if so why should he not straightaway renounce action itself and take to sanyasa.  Lord Krishna clarifies that what is important for liberation is only Jnanam which can be attained in both ways of life and one who tries to differentiate between them is only ignorant in verse 5-4.
सांख्ययोगौ पृथग्बालाः प्रवदन्ति पण्डिताः। (Saankhyayogau prithagbaalaah pravadanti na panditaah)
एकमप्यास्थितः सम्यगुभयोर्विन्दते फलम्।। (Ekam apyaasthitah samyag ubhayor vindate phalam)
Ignorant (people) assert that sanyasa and karmayoga are different, not the wise. By resorting to any one of them properly, one attains the results of both.
Physical renunciation of objects is no renunciation at all. What is wanted is the renunciation of egoism and desires. So one does not become a sanyasi by merely giving up actions due to laziness or some other personal or family problem,  One is a true sanyasi who is free from raga, dwesha and other pairs of opposites. Asram is no bar to obtain Jnanam but it is difficult for one to become a true sanyasi with a pure mind free from attachments, without going through a life of karma yoga. So a life of karma yoga is preferable for an ordinary person, advises Lord Krishna. Then Lord goes on to describe karma-yoga as a sadhana for Jnanam ultimately.

A Karma Yogi lives in the world without bondage like a lotus leaf on water.  With selfless action and without anxiety for the fruits, he has inward peace at mental and intellectual levels. He finds divinity everywhere at all times. As he sees the divinity of the Self as all pervading, Lord remarks “he realizes his own Self as the Self in all beings”.  Even in the common, natural and unavoidable activities of the world like eating, sleeping, breathing, speaking, closing and opening of eyes etc., a man of wisdom will not have any sense of doership or egoism.  As he identifies himself with the Self always he remains only a witness of the activities of the senses.  As he has no attachment, whatever actions he performs at the level of body, mind, intellect and senses, they are only for the purification of the self and not for selfish benefits. Dedicating all actions to the Lord and abandoning attachment, he totally surrenders to the Divine will.  Thus united to Lord he attains eternal peace and is not born again.  On the other hand the one who is motivated by desire and attachment to the fruits of actions and who is full of egoism and sense of doership can be considered as unharmonised with the Divine will, and is bound by his actions and continues in the cycle of birth and death.  Attaining Athma Jnanam, karma yogi lives happily as a Jnana yogi, established in Self-knowledge, mentally renouncing all actions and not identifying himself with the body which is called a city of nine gates.  He is totally free from the consciousness of “I”, “me” or “mine” and also from the idea of acting or causing action and he lives only for exhausting the prarabhdha karma, which caused his present body.  He attains videha mukthi when the prarabdha karma is exhausted.

Then Lord goes on to explain the nature of Athma and about Jnana yogi who has successfully gone through all the four stages listed below and is firmly established in Jiva-Brahma-Ikya Jananam.
1)    Discovery of the value for the knowledge of one’s higher Self, Athma Jnanam
2)     Discovery of the higher Self, Athma, as his Real Self
3)    Gradual identification of oneself with Athma, the higher Self, while simultaneously disidentifying oneself from ahamkara, the lower self
4)    Effortless, constant mental Identification with Athma, one’s higer Self
Athma, one’s higher Self, is akartha and aboktha and it is only under the influence of maya /prakrithi, one’s ego-self, ahamkara, acts and enjoys the fruits of action.  So Athma has no hand in one’s papams and punyams. Maya’s avarana sakthi, veiling power, covers one’s Jnanam and as a result one mistakes in ignorance his ego-self as the Real Self and imagines in his ignorance that his Real Self, Athma, is the doer and enjoyer and papams and punyams result from the actions of Athma.  When this ignorance is destroyed by Self-knowledge, the reign of ego ends and Athma that is Brahman becomes revealed as Self just as the objects of the universe are revealed when the dark clouds covering the sun are dispelled and move away.  Identifying his Real Self with Brahman, he continues to live as Jivan muktha and attains videha mukthi at death gaining freedom from the cycle of birth and death. He is a Brahma nishta, ever established in Brahman mentally.  He is no more a samsari but a samadarsi, seeing divinity everywhere and in all forms of life, human or otherwise. He does not depend on his senses for his pleasure and satisfaction, with the knowledge that they are generators of pain and suffering in the long run. Facing the pleasant he is not elated, and facing the unpleasant he is not depressed and he accepts with equanimity the play of opposites in life, keeping his desires under his firm control.  Before concluding Lord Krishna declares that for success in spiritual sadhanas to become Jnana yogi one should restrain the impulse of kama and krodha and should not indulge in sense pleasures, understanding their impermanence besides acquiring doubt-free knowledge of Athma

Friday, 18 August 2017

Jnana Yajna

Gita essays – 7

In verse 4-24 Lord Krishna tells Arjuna that a Jnani beholds only Brahman in everything and everywhere illustrating it with the example of yajna.  Thereafter He continues his teaching comparing Brahma Jnanam and the sadhanas for purification of mind to get Brahma Jnana yogyatha as yajnas.  Yajna ordinarily means the fire ritual in worship, kindling the flames with offerings.  Lord Krishna gives a new interpretation to the word yajna to cover the human day to day activities done with devotion and dedicated to Lord and the prayerful acts done for spiritual growth.  We shall see them one by one starting with Brahma yajna.

1)    Brahma yajna – In the fire of higher Self, Paramathma, the oblation of lower self, ego, is offered.  This is an intellectual act bringing about a cognitive change. This is also the highest act of Bhakthi as well, Athma Nivedhanam and is practised by a Jnani.

2)    Daiva yajna – regular worship; any type of worship done at home to any deity,

3)    Viṣhaya bhoga yajna -  all the interactions with world in worshipful attitude; whatever you give you give as offering to the Lord, whatever you take you take as prasada or as offering to the Lord within you.

4)    Dama yajna -  sense mastery; discipline of the sense organs, not being a slave to them.

5)     Sama yajna - mastery of the mind; so that it is under one’s control and not the other way.

6)    Dravya yajna – acts of charity.

7)    Tapo yajna -  practice of moderation in everything.

8)    Yoga yajna – practice of ashtanga yoga

9)    Svadhyaya yajnaparayanam of scriptures

10) Pranayama yajna – practice of pranayama.

11) Ahara niyama yajna – discipline in eating

12) Jnana yajna – acquiring  spiritual knowledge leading to Atma Jnanam.  Swami Chinmayananda’s public lectures on Gita and Upanishads were called jnana yajna only.

After talking about all these yajnas, Lord Krishna says that of the yajnas from 2 to 12, Jnana yajna is superior to others, as other ten sadhanas can only prepare the mind for Jnanam and gives Jnana yogyatha to the sadhaka.  Through Jnana yajna one can acquire Brahma Jnanam that can lead to liberation but under certain conditions as enumerated by the Lord in verse 4-34.
तद्विद्धि प्रणिपातेन परिप्रश्नेन सेवया। (Tadviddhi pranipaatena pariprashnena sevayaa)
उपदेक्ष्यन्ति ते ज्ञानं ज्ञानिनस्तत्त्वदर्शिनः।। (Upadekshyanti te jnaanam jnaaninas tattwadarshinah)
Know that through prostration, proper enquiry and service to the wise ones, who have realized the Truth, and they will impart (that) Knowledge to you.

A competent Acharya is one who has perfect knowledge of the Scriptures and also subjective experience of the Infinite Reality.  Mere theoretical knowledge, however perfect, does not make one a competent guru in this discipline.  The mental attitude and intellectual approach on the part of the student should also be different from that of a student in other disciplines. Self -knowledge is acquired through:

  • Prostration and Service:  Prostration, besides being a physical act also stands for an intellectual attitude of humility, reverence and obedience when he approaches the guru.  Service does not imply any physical service but the attunement of the student to the principles of life advised by his guru.
  • Inquiry: The student besides exhibiting readiness to understand, grasp and follow the Master's instructions should also be prepared to raise relevant doubts regarding what is taught with devotion and respect and have them cleared so that the knowledge acquired is doubt-free.

Additional qualifications for the student are also listed in 4-39, where Lord saysश्रद्धावाँल्लभते ज्ञानं तत्परः संयतेन्द्रियः। (Shraddhaavaan labhate jnaanam tatparah samyatendriyah) One who has shraddah, who is devoted, and whose senses are under his control attains knowledge”  Shraddah, devotion and sense-control are the additional desired qualifications besides attitude of humility, reverence and obedience and intellectual sharpness and keenness, listed earlier.  In this verse Lord gives the benefit as well.  He states that one, achieving this Jnanam, attains supreme peace and this supreme peace gives supreme happiness which is the ultimate goal of all human activities. This comes as a climax of other benefits listed ealier from verse 4-35.

Lord Krishna declares first that having gained the Self-knowledge, Arjuna will never again suffer such delusion, as he had at the start of the war.   Second benefit Lord  lists is, Self-knowledge will give him knowledge of Jiva-Brahma-Ikyam.  Like the wave that discovers it is nothing but water which is also the true identity of ocean, he will also learn that his true Self is Pure Consciousness, which is also the real identity of Brahman.  Thirdly all the karmas will be reduced to ashes in the fire of knowledge. Karma is of three kinds, which are,

  • Prarabhdha - past karma that has given rise to the present birth (operative).
  • Sanchita - the balance of past karma that will give rise to future births (not yet operative)
  • Agami - karma done in the present life (to be operative in the future).

Through this knowledge all the sanchita karmas are destroyed, all the agami karmas are avoided; and all the prarabha karmas are de-fanged, in Swami Paramarthananda’s words.  When karmas are destroyed, all papas and punyas are dissolved absolving him of future births.  So Lord glorifies this knowledge as a great purifier that washes off all sins, past and present.  He assures that one with mental purity attained through karma yoga and  sadhana chathushtayam will discover the knowledge himself in course of time.  
Lord also uses a negative approach to emphasise the importance of this knowledge and qualities for this knowledge by denouncing the one, who has no knowledge of the Self (ignorant), who has no faith in the scriptures and in the teachings of his guru (faithless) and who is of a doubting disposition, as one who will not find any joy anywhere - neither here nor in the hereafter.

Before concluding His teaching on Jnana karma sanyasa, Lord Krishna recapitulates the three main qualifications for the person whom actions do not bind:

1)    The person has the body-mind complex under perfect control

2)    The person has renounced attachment to the fruits of action, righteous and unrighteous, through the practice of karma yoga and

3)    The person is free of doubts by following the teachings of his guru

Lord Krishna concludes his teachings on jnana karma sanyasa in verse 42 with a call for action as follows:
तस्मादज्ञानसंभूतं हृत्स्थं ज्ञानासिनाऽऽत्मनः।(Tasmaad ajnaanasambhootam hritstham l forjnaanaasinaatmanah)
छित्त्वैनं संशयं योगमातिष्ठोत्तिष्ठ भारत।। (Cchittwainam samshayam yogam aatishthottishtha bhaarata)

O Arjuna, Therefore with the sword of knowledge (of the Self), destroy the doubt about the Self which is in your mind, and which is born out of ignorance. Get up and take to karma yoga.

Arjuna has doubts in his heart about waging the war, where he is pitted against his beloved grandfather and revered Acharya.  Lord Krishna exhorts him to get rid of all his doubts born out of his Athma ajjnanam through the knowledge of one’s true Self and with a doubt-free firm mind do his duty as a kshatriya like a true karma yogi. We can interpret it as an advice to all spiritual seekers to act in the spirit of yajna like a true karma yogi, when assailed by doubts and confused as to goal

Monday, 14 August 2017

Action and Inaction

Gita essays – 6 

After concluding His teaching on the secret of Avatar wherein He exhorted Arjuna to action, performing his duty in a disinterested spirit, without getting attached to action or its fruits, Lord Krishna started explaining the doctrine of action, as He felt that even learned persons have confusion about it.   So Lord says that one should know clearly what is action (karma), what is actionlessness (akarma) and what is .prohibited action (vikarma).  These are to be understood in terms of scriptural do’s and don’ts and not merely in terms of bodily activity and inactivity.  Lord classifies this knowledge as subtle and hard to understand as it concerns Self-knowledge.  In life one cannot escape activity but one can disassociate oneself mentally with the knowledge that his true Self is Athma which is only a witness to all activities and not a doer.  With this Self-knowledge, shedding ego and disclaiming doership, he is said to be actionless, even though in the thick of activities.  Without this knowledge and under the influence of ego when he thinks and plans various activities. he is said to be engaged in action, even though physically inactive. This subtle doctrine of action in inaction and inaction in action, Lord starts explaining from verse 4-18 which is as follows:
कर्मण्यकर्म यः पश्येदकर्मणि कर्म यः। (Karmanyakarma yah pashyed akarmani cha karma yah)
बुद्धिमान् मनुष्येषु युक्तः कृत्स्नकर्मकृत्।। (Sa buddhimaan manushyeshu sa yuktah kritsnakarmakrit)
The person who sees actionlessness in action and action in actionlessness is wise among men. He is a Yogi who has accomplished everything that is to be accomplished.

Swami Dayananda says that this is an important verse for which Sri Sankara had written an extensive commentary.  Swami Paramarthananda refers to it as one of the knotty verses of Mahabharatha, dictated by Vyasacharya to Lord Ganapathy.  When Lord Ganapathy agreed to be a scribe, he wanted Vyasacharya to dictate as fast as he wrote and Vyasacharya agreed on the condition that Lord Ganapathy should understand the verse before committing it to writing. And to gain time in course of dictation, Vyasacharya dictated such verses with contradictions where Lord Ganapathy had to pause to understand before proceeding further. Both the Swamijis have made detailed analysis while explaining this verse.  Let me confine myself only to a short gist.

As per Swami Dayananda, Karma here means action in general and not to scripturally enjoined rituals, as elsewhere in Gita.  One’s true Self is actionless even when he is engaged in action as activity, a function of the Gunas, belong to the senses, the body and mind.  The wise person knows this and so in the action of the body-mind complex, he feels actionless as a witness of the action, while the ignorant regard him as active.  When the body is resting and ignorant considers himself as actionless, the wise aware of the internal activity going on in the body-mind complex sees action in inaction.  Such a wise person is called Yogi and such a Yogi with Atma Jnanam is ever content in Self, with Self and whenever he acts it is for the welfare of the world only and not for any personal gain in any form..  As Adhi Sankara explains; in Athma there is no action; in the body, however, there is no rest, even when there seems to be rest.

After this explanation regarding karma. Lord Krishna starts the main topic of this chapter “Jnana karma sanysa” i.e renunciation of action through knowledge. This is different from the other type of renunciation which is physical renunciation as in sanyasa asram.  Jnana karma sanyasa is internal renunciation where one learns to detach from actions through Vedanta vichara i.e. through Jnana yoga.  Once he gets established in the knowledge of Jiva-Brahma Ikyam and becomes a Jnani, he no longer identifies himself with the body and sees himself only as a trustee and body as Lord’s property.  This internal transformation is called internal renunciation, which Lord Krishna calls Jnana karma sanyasa.  This internal renunciation only can give true inner relaxation as one cannot expect relaxation at body level because the very process of life involves continual function of the body.  So one should only discover inner relaxation even amidst the activities by recognizing the the actionless Self  as true ‘I’.  Therefore, only through knowledge true and complete renunciation is possible.  This Self-knowledge Lord Krishna compares to a fire as it burns away Athma-ajjnanam.  The person with Athma Jnanam, Lord calls a perfect sage whose actions in the outside world are not only without desires but also free from the thoughts which cause such desires.  When such a sage works in the world outside he is only expressing the will of the Divine and not his own desires and therefore, it is said that his actions are purified by the fire of knowledge.

Lord cites such a person who has no attachment to the fruits of action, who is ever content and independent as an example of a person who is actionless even when he is in the thick of action, which has no selfish motive but is only for the welfare of the world.  It does not mean that such a wise person has no concern for the results, only he has no mental dependence or intellectual attachment to the expected results of his actions. Only preoccupations with the desired results give one worry and anxiety and free of that always one feels calm and satisfied, without stress and tension.

Now a doubt arises as to whether such a person will incur sin when he indulges in selfish activity to take care of his body, without which he cannot work for the good of the world,  Lord clarifies in verse 21 that activities for maintenance of one’s body is no sin, when a person

  • ·  has renounced all possessions
  • ·  has his body and mind under control
  • ·  is free from desires and
  • ·  engages only in minimum activity to maintain the body, while remaining unattached to it.

For such a realized person will be ego-less and views himself as an instrument of Divine and feels Divine will flows through him as action and that he is not a performer of any action.  What causes bondage is not the action but the selfish attitude to action born of one’s Ajjanam.  Being egoless and knowing world as manifestation of God, he is content with what comes to him spontaneously without effort and is free from jealousy.  Having perfect control over his mind and body, he accepts with equanimity the pairs of opposites in life like heat and cold, success and failure, good and bad, joy and sorrow, gain and loss etc.  As the egoistic motive of action is consumed by the fire of Jnanam, only to external world he appears to be acting, while he is really actionless and not bound.  Lord then emphasises the dissolution of all actions done in the yajna spirit by such a wise person who is a jnana karma sanyasi,  free from attachment, established in Jnanam and is liberated, and proceeds to point out how the actor, the act and the action are all different manifestations of the one Supreme only, in his eyes (4-24):
ब्रह्मार्पणं ब्रह्महविर्ब्रह्माग्नौ ब्रह्मणा हुतम्। (Brahmaarpanam brahmahavirbrahmaagnau brahmanaa hutam)
ब्रह्मैव तेन गन्तव्यं ब्रह्मकर्मसमाधिना।। (Brahmaiva tena gantavyam brahmakarmasamaadhinaa)
The ladle is Brahman. The offering is Brahman. It is offered into the fire of Brahman by Brahman. Verily Brahman shall be reached by him who sees Brahman in every action.

Though a Grihastha Jnani, a jnana karma sanyasi,  works in the world as a householder, in the back of his mind, he is always aware of  ‘Sarvam Brahma mayam jagat’ enshrined in Isavasya Upanishad as ईशा वास्यमिदँ सर्वं यत्किञ्च जगत्यां जगत् I’ (Ishaavaasyam idam sarvam,Yad kincha jagatyaam jagat.)-‘Whatever moves here in this world, everything is pervaded or covered by God’.  So after attaining Athma Jnanam, Jnani sees Brahman everywhere in everything including the actions. the doer, the result, the instrument and the action itself.  These have no existence apart from Brahman, as a shadow has no separate existence from the object.  What appears to the ignorant as separate entities is seen as One only by the wise person. So the knowledge of Brahman removes all duality, dissolving all actions performed by the knower of Brahman without binding its performer, irrespective of the asram of the performer.  So as Swami Paramarthananda observes  “with jnanam, every asram is wonderful; without jnanam,every asram is painful”