Sri Gurubhyo Namaha
This post is based on Swami ParamArthAnandaji’s lectures on Sri SureshwarachAryA’s Naishkarmya Siddhi, an advanced work on Advaita VedAntA. This particular post is for those who have done a reasonable amount of ShravaNa under a qualified VedAntic teacher, and who are aware of the utility of the classical methods of doing VedAntA vichArA, by refutation of purvapaksha(opposing views) and establishing siddhAntA (true conclusion). This post is about SureshwArAchAryA’s refutation of the various variants of the purvapakshin (the holder of the opposing view) called “Karma KANdin” – one who believes in the superiority or equality of karma with Atma jnaana in giving liberation or moksha.
Most words used are verbatim from Swamiji’s talks. Some statements are included for the sake of context. Some arrangement and any errors are mine.
The first chapter consisting of 100 verses can be broadly classified into six topics. We will briefly see each one.
A. Introduction [verses 1 – 8]
In this introduction, AchAryA presents two topics. One is Ishwara-guru namaskaarah. he offers obeisance to Lord Vishnu and ShankarAchAryA, his Guru. He says – “I am not writing this because my Gurus teaching is insufficient or defective. Moreover I am writing this not for name fame etc., I am writing only to refine my own understanding.” And then he gives VedAnta sAra, the essence of VedAntA, consisting of four points.
(a) ajnAnam samsAra kAraNam – Self-ignorance is the cause of samsAra (emotional troubles, sorrow)
(b) jnAnam moksha kAraNam – Self-knowledge is the cause of liberation from samsAra.
(c) mahavAkyam jnAna kAraNam – Analysis and understanding the mahAvAkyAs (those statements of the VedAs which reveal jiva-ishwara-aikyam, the essential oneness between jiva and ishwara) is the cause of Self-knowledge.
(d) karmA na moksha kAraNam – Karma (any type of action) is not the cause of liberation.
Of these four essential points, the first three points are to be discussed in later chapters. In the first chapter, the fourth point is discussed – karma na moksha kAranam, especially vaidika karma is considered here. And AchAryA also pointed out, how ajnAnam is the cause of samsAra, through a flowchart. It is a very famous paragraph, where he presents eight stages. We will quickly go through them –
1. Because of ignorance of non-duality there is perception of duality (advaita ajnAnAt dvaita darshanam).
2. Because of dvaita darshanam, there is shobhana-ashobhana-adhyAsah. When I perceive duality, there is a wrong division of the world into favourable part and unfavourable part.
3. And this shobhana-ashobhana adhyAsa leads to rAga-dvesha, likes (of favourable) and dislikes (of unfavourable).
4. RAga-dvesha lead to dharma and adharma karmAni, good and bad actions.
5. Dharma-adharma lead to punya and pApa.
6. Punya and pApa leads to superior and inferior physical bodies, deha-prAptih.
7. Deha-prApti leads to varieties of problems, including janma, jara etc., i.e samsAra.
Thus ajnAnam is samsAra kAraNam, and the other three conclusions also follow.
B. Purvapaksha trayam – three types of purvapaksha [verses 9-22]
In these verses, the AchAryA introduces three types of purvapakhas, i.e. objections to vedantic teaching , primarily based on the purva mimAmsaka darshana. (Rearranging the order from the text), the purvapakshAs are abhyupetya karma vAdah, abhyupetya samucchaya vAdah, anabhyupetya karma vAdah. These objecting views will be explained in what follows.
C. Prathama purvapaksha nirAsah [verses 23-53, 80-84]
Here the abhyupetya karma vAdah is refuted. This purvapakshi says – “Atma jnAnam is discussed in the vedas, I agree. Even though self-knowledge is discussed in the veda, we don’t have to utilize self-knowledge for moksha. We can get moksha by karma itself. Since karma is more than capable of giving moksha, why bother with jnAnam?”
AchAryA negates these arguments. We shall see this refutation in six points.
C1. Karma na ajnAna nivartakam – Any number of karmas, laukikam or vaidikam can never remove self-ignorance. Why? Because we saw in the introduction that karma itself is a product of self-ignorance. Thus karma can never destroy its parent, which is self-ignorance. It can only protect or reinforce self-ignorance. And if karma does not remove self-ignorance, moksha is not possible, because moksha happens to be the nature of AtmA. Therefore, as long as self-ignorance is there, the moksha which is the nature of AtmA cannot be claimed. Not only karma does not remove ignorance, it perpetuates ignorance by perpetuating all the misconceptions – that “I am karta”, “I have got varNa-Ashrama”, etc. Every time I do karma, I am claiming my varNa, my Ashrama etc. Thus self-ignorance is only nourished by karma.
C2. Karma anitya phalakam – Karma can produce only finite result. Why ? Because karma itself is finite, thus karma phalam is also finite. AchAryA divided the karma phalams into Apti, Utpatti, SamskArah, VikArah [acquiring newly, producing, cleansing, modifying]. All the four types of karma phalam are finite in nature, whereas moksha is infinite or nityam. Since karma can produce only anitya phalam, it can never produce nitya mokshah.
C3. Karma moksha-bhinna phalakam – Karma produces results other than moksha. AchAryA says, when you look at the Veda, it mentions varieties of karma, and veda prescribes the results of the karma also. Like putra (progeny), vittam (wealth), brahmaloka, etc. In this list, moksha is not enumerated. Veda never promises moksha as the result of any karma. Not only that, in certain karma, phalam is not mentioned. Where the phalam is not mentioned, the purvapakshi himself says – “Svarga is the phalam”. Thus svarga is the result of phalam-unmentioned karmas. Thus even according to veda, moksha is not the result of any karma.
C4. Karma shruti ninditam – Karma is criticised by the scriptures as the cause of janma maraNa cycle [“plavAhyete .. “, and other Upanishad mantras]. Those who hold on to karma and expect moksha are mooDAh, unintelligent people, they will only have punarapi jananam maranam. And it also says – na karmana.. . Therefore, Karma will never give moksha, it will only perpetuate samsAra. Thus karma is strongly criticised by veda as samsAra kAraNam, thus it is not moksha kAraNam.
C5. Purvapaksha upAya nirAsah – Negation of the suggestion for Moksha given by the purvapakshi. The purvapakshi gave a peculiar suggestion for Moksha. He said – “avoid kAmya karmas, punyam will not come. Avoid nishiddha karmas – pApam will not come. Thus by avoiding these two, future pApa-punyams are avoided. All the past punya pApam – you exhaust by going through the experiences, the pleasures and suffering. Thus at the time of death, your karma balance will be zero, you will get moksha without attending vedanta class.” AchAryA refuted this suggestion by refuting all three points. He said “As long as self-ignorance is there, desires (rAga-dveshas) will be there, and you cannot avoid kAmya karmas. And you cannot avoid nishiddha karmas also, since as long as rAga-dveshas are there, there will be atleast mental pApa karma, due to jealousy and anger. Thus rAga dveshas will produce kAmya-nishiddha karmas and they cannot be avoided. Also, since past karmas are infinite in number accumulated in infinite previous janmas, therefore it is impractical to expect that all of them will be exhausted in a one janma or even a finite number of janmas. Thus the purvapakshi’s suggestion for getting Moksha through karma is rejected by AchAryA.
C6. Karma jnaana-yogyatA-prApti sAdhanam – Karma is necessary for gaining qualifications to do VedAnta vichArah. Even though karma cannot give liberation, we should carefully note that karma is not useless. Karma is extremely useful, therefore everyone has to follow karma for sometime. It cannot give liberation, but it is not useless, it has to be followed for sometime, for jnAna-yogyatA siddhyartham, for the sake of preparing the mind. Thus karma should not be rejected totally in the beginning itself. Thus in the first five points AchAryA talked about the negative aspects of karma – i.e. that it cannot give liberation. In the sixth point, AchAryA talks about the positive aspect of karma, as the only means to get jnAna-yogyatA.
D. Dveetiya purvapaksha nirAsah [verses 54 – 79]
This is the negation of abhyupetya samucchaya vAdah, a philosophy which suggests that a combination of Atma jnAnam and karma should be used for gaining moksha. Here we will see the refutation by AchAryA in five points.
D1. JnAnam bhinna kAlikam – jnAnam and karma do not exist at the same time. They belong to two different times, so they cannot be combined, just as youth and old-age belong to different times and they cannot be combined. Why they belong to different times? When karma sAdhana is functioning, jnAnam is not functioning – because when karma sAdhanam is functioning, the mind is getting purified, and therefore it is not yet purified. In a mind which is not yet purified, there is no question of jnAnam functioning at all. Suppose jnAnam is functioning, then there is no question of mind getting purified further as it is already purified, which is evident because jnAnam is functioning. Since both jnAnam and karma don’t function at the same time, there is no possibility of samucchaya or combination. Even if it seems to be there at the same time, one will be dummy – for example, when jnAnam is functioning, karma is dummy. When karma is functioning, VedAnta vichAra will be a dummy.
D2. JnAnam kAraka nivartakam – jnAnam negates the duality or plurality consisting of the accessories of karma. Karma requires various accessories, like subject, object, instruments, location etc., which are called kArakams. Thus karma requires plurality. The moment jnAnam arises, all the plurality are negated or falsified. Thus the kArakams are gone as plurality is gone, thus karma is also gone. Thus jnAnam removes karma, where is the question of jnAna-karma samucchaya. Just like combination between light and darkness is not possible, samucchaya between karma and jnAnam is also not possible.
D3. JnAnam karma-adhikAra-nivartakam – JnAnam negates the qualifications of doing karma. And what are the qualifications ? VarNa-Ashrama abhimAna – identification with one’s varNa and Ashrama. Identification with varNa-Ashrama is required for performing vaidika karma. Once that abhimAna is gone, there is no question of karma. Thus samucchaya is not possible.
D4. JnAnam mumukshutva nivartakam – jnAna destroys the thirst for Moksha. The moment jnAnam comes, the person attains liberation. Because the jnAnam is “I am nitya mukta svaroopah, I am ever-free”. Once I claim Moksha, I can never be a desirer for moksha, I am no longer a mumukshu. Since I am not a desirer for moksha, I don’t have to combine my jnAnam with any karma for getting moksha, since jnAnam itself has removed my desire for moksha.
D5. Eka-shAshtra vAda doshah – The negation of eka-shAshtra-vAdah. The eka-shAshtra-vAdah is a technical argument. This argument is – “Veda has got karma in the first portion, jnAnam in the second portion. Since entire veda is one shAshtram consisting of two portions jnAnam and karma, therefore you have to combine both of them.”
AchAryA refutes this argument also. he says – “We don’t mind combining them, but we cannot simultaneously combine them, because they cannot coexist. Thus it is first karma to purify the mind, then one has to go to jnAnam. Thus only kramena samucchaya [samucchaya in sequence], not otherwise.”
E. Triteeya purvapakasha nirAsah – refutation of 3rd objection [verses 85-97]
The 3rd purvapaksha (anabhyupetya karma vAdi) said – “There is no such thing as atma-jnAnam talked about in the veda as a primary topic. Wherever jnAnam is talked about it is only an angam, a part of karma alone. JnAnam by itself is never the topic of any part of the veda, because jnAnam by itself does not convey any benefit. Here we will provide AchAryA’s refutation by four points.
E1. JnAnam pradipAdanam asti – veda does talk about jnAnam as a primary theme and a means for liberation. In several places jnAnam is talked about indepedently, not as part of karma, as the only means for moksha. For example – tarati shokam Atmavit [by sheer knowledge, one crosses over sorrow], brahmavit Apnoti param, pareekshya lokAn karma chidAn, etc.
E2. The Ishavasya mantra tAtparyam – The correct understanding of the IshAvAsya Upanishad mantra, which is as follows –
“Kurvanneveha karmani jijeevishechchatam samah
Evam tvayi nanyathetosti na karma lipyate nare.”
The mantras says – Kurvanneveha karmANi jijivishet – a person should do karma life long. From that the purvapakshi claims, “karma is always there in the life of a person. Pure knowledge does not exist at any time in a persons life as a means of knowledge.” In response, the AchAryA said, “That is not true. Na karma lipyate nare is the way the verse ends. The keyword here is ‘nare’ (human being). As long as strong deha abhimAna is there, i.e., there is a strong identification with the human body, a person has to perform karma. Whereas a jnAni drops deha-abhimAna. After the dropping of deha-abhimAna, karma is not there at all. Thus the very mantra tells, karma is only as long deha abhimAna, indicated by the word ‘nare’ in the mantra, is there. Thus karma is only until jnAnam comes, or only until sanyAsa is taken.” Thus the IshAvAsya mantra does not support the purvapakshi.
E3. Jaimini sutra tAtparyam – The correct understanding of the [concerned] Jaimini Sutra. Purvapaksha quotes a Jaimini sutram, which says – “AmnAyasya kriyArthadvAd Anarthakyam atadarthAnAm” [a rough translation – ‘since Veda talks only about karma, sentences which are not talking about karma are useless’]. Taking this as his support, the Purvapakshi says – “Veda talks about only karma, where is the question of jnAna?” To this AchAryA says – “Jaimini talks about only karma kAnda, the work is called purva mimAmsa sutras, please don’t forget that. The word ‘AmnAya’, meaning ‘vedA’, in the above sutram is to be understood as Karma-kANda only. You cannot apply the same to jnAna kANda veda vaakyams. Also VyAsachArya, Jaimini’s own Guru, has written uttara mimAmsaka sutras or VedAnta sutras. There VyAsachArya tells, Veda-anta talks about jnAnam. So don’t apply the karma kAnda sutra to jnAna-kAnda, that is wrong”. Thus AchAryA negates the purvapakshi’s understanding of the Jaimini’s sutra.
E4. VAkya-svabhAva-tAtparyam – The grammatical nature of mahAvAkyas: This is a technical point. The purvapakshi said -“Any sentence is a group of words in which a verb is compulsorily necessary. A verb-less sentence is impossible. The entire Veda, which is full of sentences, each of which necessarily has to have an explicit or implied verb. A verb always refers to karma (a verb in sanskrit is called kriyApadam). Thus all veda-vaakyas must refer to karma alone” This is a grammatical argument. To this AchAryA says, all verbs need not reveal action. There are fact-revealing verbs, the verbs of “being”. Like Tat tvam asi “You are that brahman”. Thus Veda deals with facts also, which we can know and get liberated. Just like knowing the truth behind rajju-sarpa (rope-snake), we can be free from fear and running away without any action, with only the knowledge.
F. UpasamhArah – Conclusion [verses 98-100]
Here AchAryA repeats the four points he mentioned in the introduction – ignorance is the cause of samsAra, knowledge alone is the means of liberation, mahAvAkyam alone gives that knowledge and karma can never give liberation. And therefore, what is the AchAryA’s intention ?. He says “I want an audience which has performed karma, and therefore purified the mind. To that audience, I want to give knowledge, by analysing the mahAvAkyams, and by this knowledge I want to give liberation to that prepared audience which has purified the mind by performing karma.” Thus – athAto brahma jignAsA. Thus entire first chapter is athAto brahma jignAsa. Now the ground is ready for mahAvAkya vichAra, which is the subject matter of the following three chapters.