Posted in Brahma Sutra, Siddhantham, Sri Bhashyam

Introduction to Sri Bhashyam – Part II – Laghu Purvapaksha

The Laghu Purvapaksha or ‘The Little Objection’ section presents the viewpoint of Sankara and other preceptors on the need for studying the Purva Mimamsa sastra (the Karma Bhaga).

Sankara contends that an enquiry into the nature of Karma need not precede the enquiry into Brahman. A person who studies the vedantic texts can proceed to enquire the meanings enshrined in them without an enquiry into karma. According to Sankara, vedanta aims at completely alleviating wrong knowledge (avidya) which is the cause of all sorrow, and it does this by establishing the knowledge of the oneness of the Atman. In this exercise, the knowledge of karma is not at all useful. Still worse, the knowledge of karma is opposed to deliberation into Brahman due to its very nature of being rooted in differences and emphasizing duality. So, the pre-requisite should not be noted as something which is absolutely required for proceeding with the enquiry into Brahman.

The followers of Bhaskaracharya opine that the knowledge of Karma cannot be dispensed with as the srutis themselves point out that jnana and karma are both required. If we fail to enquire into the nature of Karma, we can never know what type of karma has to be combined with knowledge and what should not be combined. Therefore, knowledge of karma is a sine qua non for gaining knowledge about Brahman.

The Advaitin refutes this view of the followers of Bhaskaracharya. According to him, the knowledge of Brahman, which represents pure consciousness as opposed to all plurality, is the one that alleviates nescience (avidya). It is this termination of avidya which is Moksha. On the other hand, Karma gives rise to differences connected with one’s caste (varna), stage of life (asrama), choice of means (sadhana) and the fruits obtained by performing it (phala). The sruti declares that (i) The fruits of karma are transitory and impermanent and that knowledge alone can lead one to Moksha, and (ii) A knower of Brahman attains the highest, i.e. one who knows Brahman becomes Brahman. It is in this context the Advaitin questions the need for an inquiry into the nature of Karma Mimamsa.

The Advaitin goes on to add that the performance of karma only kindles one’s desire to gain knowledge about Brahman. Once this desire has taken root in the individual, the karma is no longer required. After this, the individual has to gain the knowledge of Upanisadic statements (vakyartha jnana), a correct understanding of which will lead him to Moksha. The process is detailed as follows:

1. The mind of the individual has to be purified through the performance of karma without expectations of any fruits (niskama karma). Consequent to this, the mind acquires purity and the desire to know Brahman arises in the individual.

2. Now the individual devotes himself to the study of the srutis and gains knowledge of the various sentences such as ‘prajyanam brahma’, ‘tat avam asi’, ‘ayam atma brahma’ etc. By dint of the knowledge of these vaykas, nescience will be alleviated.

The Advaitin further recommends a threefold process for gaining this Vaykartha Jnana.

SRAVANA, refers to learning from one’s acharya the scriptural statements along with their inner meanings (which expound oneness of the Atman;

MANANA, refers to the process of developing conviction in the meanings of the vaykas by engaging in appropriate arguments;

NIDHIDHYASANA, refers to constantly meditating upon these vaykarthas in one’s mind.

Having laid down the conditions for salvation above, the Advaitin discards anything that does not help in gaining vaykartha jnana and subsequently meditating upon it. Thus, they categorically disregard the need for inquiring into the nature of Karma as a prerequisite for obtaining Brahma Jijnasa.

According to Sankara, four spiritual disciplines necessary for sravana, manana and nidhidyasana are:

1. nitya-anitya vastu viveka: Knowledge/Discrimination of those that are eternal and non – eternal;

2. ihamutra phala bhoga viraga:  Dispassion for the enjoyment of the fruits of Karma here and hereafter;

3. samadamadi sadhana sampath:  Being endowed with spiritual discipline and practices such as control of the mind, control of the senses etc.;

4. mumukshutva: Aspiration for liberation.

The four spiritual disciplines are necessary for Brahma Jijnasa. When these four-fold disciplines take root in an individual, his mind becomes pure for developing knowledge of the scriptures and hence becomes ready for gaining vaykartha jnana through Sravana, Manana and Nidhidhyasana.

In sum, the Advaitin holds that bondage results from viewing plurality on account of Avidya which veils the true nature of the oneness of Brahman. This bondage, on the other hand, is unreal, and can only be destroyed by knowledge of the spiritual texts. The individual has to possess four basic spiritual disciplines for making an inquiry into Brahman and inquiry into Karma is not mandatory as it does not help the cause for liberation.

[1] Email Archives from Ramanuja Groups
[2] Sribhashyam of Ramanuja, PBA Swami Publication

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