Chapter 1 – verses 14, 15 & 16
We have seen previously the 4 arguments placed by the pUrvapakshi (doubter) in favor of saying that karma and knowledge simultaneously provide liberation. The four arguments were: 1) karma is prescribed by the veda 2) It supports knowledge 3) Not performing karma accounts for acquiring demerit. 4) He gave the example of a ritual by the name agniShToma.
shrI shaMkara began refuting these arguments from verse 12. He first took the second argument of the doubter, which is, karma supports knowledge. shrI shaMkara is explaining that the nature, origin and effect of karma and knowledge are different. This being so, karma can never support knowledge. He discussed the nature of karma and knowledge in verse 12 and first part of verse 13. In the second line of verse 14 he discusses the origin of both.
Origin of karma: karma originates from a kartA(doer). He can decide to do a job, not do it all or do it differently. These are the three options at hand for him for which he exercises his will. For e.g. there are many rules that the law of a land has. It entirely depends on the individual whether to follow, follow differently or not follow at all. Hence the free will of the jIva plays an important role in doing karma.
Origin of knowledge: knowledge is dependent on object. It has nothing to do with the will of the individual.
Hence, the origin of knowledge and karma are different. We can take the example of elections. I, sitting in another country can will for one person to be become the Prime Minister of India. The result does not depend on my will. It depends on the fact that is there in the country i.e. the number of votes. The knowledge of winning or losing depends on the number of votes. Another example we can take is a man willing to not become bald at an early age. He might will for a lot of hair, but the result depends on his genes. It is not dependent on his will. It depends on a fact. Hence, knowledge does not depend on individual’s will or knower (katRRitantram), but on the objects of knowledge (vastutantram)
Differently put, knowledge is born out of vastu (object) while karma is born of kartA (doer). Hence, even considering the origin, karma and knowledge are different. So, karma cannot be a supporter of knowledge both having a different origin.
kArakANyupamRRidnAti vidyA buddhimivoShare
Tat satya matimAdaya karma kartum vyavasyati ---14
kArakAni – accessories (duality); upamRRidnAti- destroys; vidyA- knowledge; buddhimivoShare- notion of water on dry land; Tat- accessories (duality) satya matimAdaya- with the notion that duality is real; karma kartum vyavasyati- a person engages in karma.
Knowledge destroys duality, just as knowledge of dry land destroys the notion of water on it. With the notion that duality is real, a person engages in karma.
Now shrI shaMkara analyzes how karma and knowledge are different from the angle of phalam (effect, fruit)
Seeing a dryland from a little distance one gets the impression of seeing water.- (uShare jala buddhim – having notion of water on dry land). On going near one finds no water, instead only dry land. Just as the water notion is destroyed by the dry-land knowledge so also the knowledge of the self at once negates the duality that we perceive – (vidya kArakANi upamRRidnAti). This then is the effect or fruit of knowledge. shrI shaMkara uses the word upamRRidnAti which literally means powders. It has to be understood as destruction or better still negation. The duality is totally negated as mithyA, while the Atma is known to be one’s true nature. This Atma being indivisible, all pervading and eternal cannot have any accessories etc needed for karma.
To begin any karma one assumes duality to be real. karma strengthens duality. Any karma presupposes accessories, kartRRitvam (doership), locus, beneficiary etc. Engaging in karma only empowers this notion of duality even more. The fruit of karma, therefore is enforcement of duality.
It is quite apparent that the fruit of karma and knowledge are opposite. So, karma and knowledge are different from each other even from the standpoint of the effect they produce. Hence karma cannot be a supporter of knowledge.
Thus far shrI shaMkara has proved that karma cannot be a supporter of knowledge because the nature, cause and effect of karma and knowledge are opposite.
virudhatvAdataH shakyam karma kartum na vidyayA
sahaiva viduShA tasmAtkarma heyam mumukshuNA – 15
virudhatvAt – opposed to each other; ataH- hence; shakyam- possible; karma kartum- to do karma; na- not; vidyayA sahaiva – along with knowledge; viduShA- by a wise man; tasmAtkarma heyam- so karma should be given up; mumukshuNA- by those desirous of liberation.
Being opposed to each other karma cannot be performed along with knowledge by a wise man. Hence, karma should be given up by those desirous of liberation.
shrI shaMkara concludes the topic of refuting the argument of karma supporting knowledge. They being opposed to each other karma cannot support knowledge. Hence a wise man, (meaning a person who has this knowledge) cannot do karma.
The argument of the doubter is that even after gaining knowledge, what one has, is knowledge alone and then one needs to do karma even after having knowledge to gain liberation.
Wise man knows he is akartA, non doer nature. So, for him, there is no question of doing karma. The word viduShA here indicates a wise man. shrI shaMkara is giving an extra point here to those who are desirous of liberation (mumukshuNa), who still do not have the knowledge. He says that they also cannot combine both, because of the opposite qualities.
One may get a doubt, that if he still does not have knowledge, then he probably needs the necessary qualifications which can be gained by karma. No. for a person desirous of liberation, shravaNa, manana and nididhyAsana is the route to gain knowledge. If the person is a householder, then he has duties to family and society and cannot give them up. So, he can spend time in vedAntik enquiry whenever possible.
dehAdyairavisheSheNa dehino grahanam nijam
prANinAm tadavidyotham tAvatkarmavidhirbhavet
dehAdyaiH – along with body; avisheSheNa- indiscriminately; dehinaH- atma; grahanam- take; nijam- naturally; prANinAm- living beings; tadavidyotham- born of ignorance; tAvatkarmavidhirbhavet- till then bound by injunctions of karma.
All living beings naturally take Atma along with the anAtma as Atma indiscriminately due to ignorance. (As long as it is so) Till then they are bound by injunctions of karma.
In this verse shrI shaMkara is refuting the first argument of the doubter which was that karma being giving out as an injunction in the veda it has to be followed.
Every injunction has a relevant candidate. So also karma is prescribed for one to attain necessary qualifications required to attain knowledge. Only till then is it an injunction. A wise man does not have doership, which, is a must for karma. So how can he do karma at all? This is baseless. He is beyond all rules injunctions, meaning he is not bound by them.
Right from birth, no one has to tell us that this body is me. We have that ignorance with us. We very naturally accept only this body as the self. There is no enquiry or study involved here. When it comes to this wrong knowledge, we are experts since birth.
As long as one has this ignorance, one has to follow the vedic injunctions of karma. He cannot and should not avoid them. Once knowledge is attained, then the injunctions become meaningless to a wise man. The injunctions will, as such continue to be there. They just will not be applicable to a wise man. They are there for the ignorant.
avisheShAtmabodhArtham tenAvidyA nivartitA.---17
netinetIti- by the shruti statement; dehAdInapohya – negating the gross body etc; AtmAvasheshitaH- Atma is the remainder; avisheShAtmabodhArtham- to reveal the Atma which is attributeless; tenAvidyA nivartitA- by that the ignorance is negated
Atma is the remainder, when to reveal the Atma which is attributeless, the shruti gives the statement ‘neti neti’, negating the gross body etc. By the ‘neti neti’ statement the ignorance is negated.
In the previous verse we saw that the confusion that a jIva has regarding Atma and anAtma stems from ignorance. The identification to the body causes one to identify with age, gender, status etc. These give rise to specific duties and hence the vedik rules of karma are followed. As opposed to this a wise man has dis-identified with the body and hence has no identification with age, gender etc. So, for him, the vedik injunctions do not apply.
In this verse the author says that statement ‘neti neti’ – not this, not this –the ignorance has been negated. This statement negates the gross body, subtle body etc as the non truth. So after negation, what is left is Atma. This statement is given out by the shruti to reveal the Atma. Ignorance is negated by it and the wise man hence has no identification with the body and other effects. Hence, the injunctions are not for him but for those who are identified and consider the body as truth.
Part 1, Part 4, Part 6