Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Vedanta - Part 15

VEDĀNTA the solution to our fundamental problem
D. Venugopal

D. Venugopal is a student of Swami Paramarthananda and a direct disciple of Pujya Swami Dayananda. He has successfully completed the long-term residential course in Vedanta and Sanskrit conducted from May 2002 to July 2005 at the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, Anaikatti.




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III - Pancha-maha-yaj~na refines the mind

Çästra, which sets down the appropriate values, also prescribes a number of karmas or actions for the refinement of the mind (antaù-karaëa saàskära) [94]. The foremost among them is païca-mahä-yajïa. It consists of five daily acts of worship (yajïa) for discharging our debt [95] to all those on whom we depend upon for our living. [96] The yajïas consists of worship of Vedas (brahma-yajïa), ancestors (pitå-yajïa), deities (deva-yajïa), human beings (manuñya-yajïa) and other living beings (bhüta-yajïa). Through these, we correct our wrong attitude that the world is meant for our consumption and that others exist for our convenience. We develop humility by acknowledging, through our offering, the support that we get from these sources and our dependence on them.


In brahma-yajïa, we worship Veda and the åñis who have perceived it and have made it available to us. We regularly chant Veda, learn its meaning and teach it. We set up or aid the vedic schools (veda-päöaçäläs) and support vedic scholars. In pitå-yajïa, we have unconditional reverence to our parents, worship our ancestors and perform the prescribed ceremonies. In deva-yajïa, we worship Éçvara in the form of any deity of our choice through various means and build, as well as maintain, temples. Performance of püjä [97] and celebration of various religious festivities are its traditional forms. In manuñya-yajïa, we have a reverential attitude to humanity and perform social service. Greeting everyone with folded hands (namaskär), soliciting guests before eating, digging of wells and tanks and establishment of free choultries are its traditional forms. In bhüta-yajïa, we respect all forms of life. We avoid violence and do not kill either for eating, sport or commerce. Worshipping the trees and animals, vegetarianism, feeding the crow, the ant and the cow before eating, setting up of shelters for cows, planting of trees are its traditional forms.


The reverential recognition of Éçvara and his creation and the expression of gratitude to them expressed through païca-mahä-yajïa refine our mind and prepare it for self-knowledge.


IV – Karma-yoga neutralizes our likes and dislikes

We saw that our likes and dislikes are not reduced through our actions and that they are actually sustained by them. Bhagavadgétä indicates as to how we can perform action so that it has the effect of neutralizing our likes and dislikes. The means suggested by it is to bring Éçvara who manifests, pervades and maintains everything into the picture. The understanding of Éçvara makes us recognize that we are integrated with the manifestation and that we cannot overlook its implications.


Let us look into them in respect of our action and its result. As regards action, we are attached to it, as we use our freewill, decide what to do, and do it using our skill, time and energy. We consider that we are the authors of the action and own up the entire action. As for the result, we are attached to it, since we took the trouble of doing the action only for obtaining the result. What we have not taken into account is Éçvara, who has provided us with everything. We are not the authors of either of our body-mind-sense-complex or of whatever we use. Everything is given to us. So, we can have no personal attachment to our action. In recognition of these facts, we take our performance of action to be an expression of gratitude to Éçvara for all that he has provided. This attitude converts our action into an offering to him. This is called Éçvara-arpaëa-buddhi.


Since our action is submitted to Éçvara, we would exercise restraint so that it does not go against dharma [98] Therefore, such action would no longer be entirely based on our likes and dislikes. When we, as a deliberate person continue in doing what is to be done, our action becomes free from the hold of our likes and dislikes.


As regards the result, we saw that when we consider our action to be a success, new like is caused and that when we take it as a failure, new dislike is caused. But, when we do not judge the result either as a success or as a failure, no new like or dislike is caused. Çästra reveals that there is no room for us to judge the result, as it is never a success or a failure. It is always appropriate. This requires to be explained. In the circumstances in which we are placed, we have the free will to decide as to what action we should take. Even so, we cannot determine as to what the result of our actions should be, as it is in accordance with Éçvara’s law that governs the entire universe. [99] We can only estimate the result based on our understanding of the few laws that we know. It is only our assessment that fails or succeeds and not our action.


The determining law is not separate from Éçvara. So, Éçvara becomes the giver of the fruits of action. [100] The law is impartial and is infallible. So, the result is always proper. When the result is understood as coming from Éçvara, it becomes his prasäda. [101] When we receive the prasäda in the temple, we accept it with reverence and gratitude without judging it. Now that we know that the result is prasäda, it is similarly accepted without any judgement. So, what is equal to our expectations is prasäda;what is exceeding our expectations is prasäda;and what is below our expectations or contrary to them is also prasäda. We are thus no longer attached to the result. Whatever it may be, we accept it as prasäda and it does not affect the equanimity of our mind [102]. This is called Éçvara-prasäda-buddhi. Performance of action with Éçvara-arpaëa-buddhi and acceptance of the result with Éçvara-prasäda-buddhi constitute karma-yoga.


Karma-yoga is neither a technique nor a particular action meant for particular situations. It is our life. We are not a devotee whose devotion comes every now and then. As a karma-yogé, we are always devoted to Éçvara, performing actions with Éçvara-arpaëa-buddhi and accepting the results with Éçvara-prasäda-buddhi.


V – Non-binding desires are harmless

The likes and dislikes that we have been discussing are those that are binding in that they compel us to fulfill them and in their non-fulfillment, we feel that we are a loser and are unhappy. We also have preferences. They are non-binding desires since they do not pressurize us to fulfill them. We do not come under their spell and their non-fulfillment does not upset the mind. They are not problems as they do not affect our equanimity and nothing needs be done about them so long as they do not contravene dharma. We can continue to have such preferences.


94. The person acting essentially according to his likes and dislikes is called präkåta puruña, while the person acting according to dharma is called saàskåta puruña.
95. The obligation that we have to discharge is called åëa.
96. Swami Paramarthananda, Introduction to Vedanta, p. 20-23.
   Båhadäraëyaka Upaniñad  (1.4.16.) says:   “The self is an object of enjoyment to all beings. That he makes oblations in the fire and performs sacrifices is how he becomes such an object to the gods. That he studies the Vedas is how he becomes an object of enjoyment to the åñis. That he makes offerings to the manes and desires children is how he becomes such an object to the manes.  That he gives shelter to men as well as food is how he becomes such an object to them. And that the beasts and birds and even the ants, feed in his home is how he becomes on object of enjoyment to these. “ (Translation)

97.For details on performing püjä, see the chapter, “Puja” in Swamini Pramananda Saraswati and Sri Dhira Caitanya, “Pürëa Vidyä, Guidelines for   Teaching, Part 7” titled “Isvara and Religious Discipline”.
98. ... yogaù karmasu kauçalam| Yoga is discretion in action (through proper interpretation of dharma). Bhagavadgétä, 2.50.
99. Karmaëyevä’dhikäraste mä phaleñu kadäcana.. (Bhagavadgétä, 2.47)
     You have the choice in performing an action but never in determining the result thereof.

100. The giver of the fruits of action is called karma-phala-dätä.
101. Before eating, food is first offered to Éçvara. It gains his grace and it is called prasäda.
102. The equanimity of the mind is called samatvam. Samatvaà yoga ucyate .. (Bhagavadgétä, 2.47)


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Page last updated: 18-Mar-2015