Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

upadesha sAhasrI part 12

karma Can Never Remove Ignorance


Tattvaloka cover image


Read Part 11 of the series...

A wise man will do noble karmas for the society but without any sense of doership or body-mind identification.

Some important features of Sakshi (Witness Consciousness), such as sarvasakshitvam, chinmatratvam, nirvikaratvam, sarvagatatvam, advaidatvam and satyatvam were highlighted in the previous issue as revealed in Verses 3 to 5 of the 11th chapter of Upadesa Sahasri. We now look into the rest of the features, such as asangatvam, nirgunatvam, suddhatvam, amritatvam, asudd-hatvam and brahmatvam, dealt with in Verses 6 to 13. 

The Vedantic conclusion that Self-knowledge is the only means for liberation on the lines of what the author has set out in Verses 14 to 16 will also be looked into.

Like space, I, the Sakshi, am present in all the beings, free from all defects of the body-mind complex (Sakshi being asanga or unattached and being sat which cannot be tainted by the mithya body-mind complex).  ‘I,’ the Sakshi, am of the nature of Pure Consciousness (lending consciousness to the mind, making it sentient).  I am free from all attributes and, therefore, only am non-dual and pure (free from ignorance). I, the Self, alone am Brahman, which is all-pervading and which is the cause of the entire creation.

No Sakshi Plurality

The mahavakyam, aham brahmasmi, is introduced in this context by the author to clear the misconception that there can be a sakshi behind every mind which may lead to Sakshi plurality (sakshi bahutvam).  The expression, kevala, used in this connection clarifies that Brahman is non-dual. 

‘I,’ the Sakshi, am free and different from the universe, which manifests as name, form and function.  ‘I,’ the Self, am the ever free supreme Brahman of the nature of Pure Consciousness and always non-dual.  As name, form and functions are the attributes of the external world which I experience, I, the Sakshi, am different from them.  Also, the experienced world has already been shown to be mithya (unreal) because it is a product (karyam).  The expression, nitya mukta, (ever free) used by the author is very significant in that liberation is not something to be gained at a point of time but it is our very nature.  Any moksha which is subject to arrival is vulnerable to depature as well. 

The author looks down on spiritual seekers who combine knowledge with action as a means for liberation.  Every action invokes kartrutvam, while the Vedantic knowledge assimilated by us says we are Atma and, therefore, akarta.

No Co-existence

Thus, kartrutvam and Vedantic knowledge cannot co-exist.  Such seekers are considered by the author as having fallen both from knowledge and action (ubhaya bhrashta), thus losing the benefit of either.  They are thus as good as those who do not have any sraddha in the Vedas as a pramana and, therefore, do not get the benefit of Vedic teaching. 

It can, perhaps, be argued that the Vedas validate karma and kartrutvam (and, therefore bhokrutvam following karma phalam).  The author responds to the argument by saying that the very same scriptures, in the jnana kanda, reveal the Self as Brahman, free from actions and results, and that liberation is gained only by right knowledge.  Therefore, if the Veda is accepted as an authority on action and results, some of which are unseen, it is reasonable to accept the Vedantic teaching of Atma not being tainted by kartrutva/bhoktrutva defects. Partial acceptance of the Vedas will not be in order.

If it is argued as to how the Vedantic teaching of akarta/abhokta atma prevails over the kartrutvam and bhokrutvam also, validated by the Karma Kanda of  the Veda, the answer is that the Veda need not teach the latter as it is obvious to everybody. 

An important feature of any pramanam is that it must reveal something that is not already known.  Therefore, the Veda’s reference to action and results is only to initially recognise and go along with the known position keeping in view the level of the maturity of the seeker, before revealing the eventual message of akarta/abhokta Atma. 

Such statements are known to be anuvada vakyams as distinct from pramana vakyams.  Thus, while karma is important and useful for jnana yogyata, liberation is possible only through jnanam.

The dream example is once again used to show that the mind is also an object perceived by the sakshi.  Just as a cloth dipped in turmeric becomes yellow, the mind, always engaged in worldly experiences during the waking state, gets coloured by such experiences.  The dream events are only the mental projections based on the impressions registered in the mind in the waking state.  Thus, it is clear that the mind is also an object in dream and, therefore, I, the Sakshi, am different from the mind and its modification. 

This holds good for the waking state also and, therefore, it follows that I am not the mind and cannot, therefore, be tainted by any sense of doership.  The author also gives the example of a  sword which, when taken out of its sheath, is clearly recognised as such to illustrate this appreciation of the mind being the object perceived by the sakshi. 

The author refers to the Upanishad teaching where Atma is revealed initially as different from prana and eventually revealed as Brahman different from the perceived universe made up of objects with form and without (Murta/amurta brahmanam of brihadaranya-kopanishad) by the famous expression “neti, neti……” (not this, not this…..), which expression negates the entire dualistic world superimposed on Brahman. This negation of the world is validated by the example of dream world being negated on waking up as superimposition. 

Knowledge for Liberation

Verses 14 to 16 deal with the second topic of knowledge being the only means of liberation.  Actions can be performed by a person only if he identifies himself with the gross and subtle bodies.  When one performs actions with this notion, he gathers vasanas which lead to more actions, thus entailing an endless cycle of actions and results. If, on the other hand, one claims his higher and natural status of the sakshi (Atma), there is no question of performing any action anywhere.  Thus, knowledge and action cannot co-exist.  A wise man may still be doing noble karmas for the benefit of the society (loka sangraha) but in the full knowledge of his sakshi status and without any sense of doership or body-mind identification.

The declared position of Vedanta is that action cannot give liberation.  As moksha is an already accomplished fact, all that is needed is removal of ignorance of this fact.  Just like any ignorance, this ignorance is also removed only by knowledge which is opposed to ignorance.  Karma can never remove ignorance as it is not opposed thereto.  On the other hand, karma itself is born of ignorance and there can be no hope of moksha through karma.  Can it then be said that karma can provide any assistance to knowledge in the matter of gaining liberation?  As knowledge alone is capable of removing ignorance there is no scope whatsoever of karma rendering any assistance.

The author concludes the discussion by giving a brief exposition of the nature of both Atma and anatma.  Atma is immortality itself, free from fear and, being satyam, is not unreal.  Atma is revealed by scriptures to be very dear to me.  Everything other than Atma is totally opposite of all these features and should, therefore, be given up along with all actions associated therewith.  “Giving up,” in this context only means not identifying one’s self with anatma and actions performed at the  vyavahara level.

Read Part 13 of the series...

Compiled by R. B. Athreya from the lectures of Swami Paramarthananda in Chennai.



Page last updated: 01-Sep-2013