Tag Archives: Karma-yoga

Different Kinds of Bhakti and Karma

Question: Could you specify the difference between āropa-siddhā-bhakti and karma-miśrā-bhakti as defined by Srīla Jīva Gosvami in Bhakti Sandarbha?

Answer: Āropa-siddhā-bhakti consists of activities that are not devotional in themselves but become part of devotion because of their contact with bhakti. Primarily it includes offering your actions to Kṛṣṇa, karmārpaṇam. These actions themselves are not devotional but by offering them to Kṛṣṇa, they become part of bhakti.  

Karma-miśra-bhakti is when you perform bhakti activities along with karma, or prescribed duties, while desiring the result of the karma. In other words, you mix the two. You perform agnihotra because you are a dvija, and you also engage in bhakti. In āropa-siddhā there is no bhakti activity except the offering of results.

Question: Also what is the difference between dharma, vaidika-karma and laukika-karma?

Answer: Dharma is one’s prescribed duties, e.g., the dharma of a student is to study and serve the guru. Vaidika-karma are of three types: nitya-karma such as agnihotra, kāmya-karma—done for a specific desire such as putreṣti yajña to get a son, and naimittika-karma, those done on special occasions such as birth of a child or death of a relative. Vaidika karmas are dharma. Thers is no difference between them.

Laukika-karma comprises of secular activities like taking bath etc.  

Question: Thank you for your answer Babaji, but could you clarify the following: In karma-miśra-bhakti, the word karma indicates dharma (i.e. āśrama dharma and varṇa dharma) but Srīla Jīva Gosvami also defines karma in the same section as “devatoddeśena dravya tyāgaḥ” (which seems to be dravya-yajña, a nitya-karma). So how to reconcile these two definitions of karma?

Answer: This is no contradiction. Karma also means dharma, and dharma according to Mīmāṁsā means doing yajña, which is “devatoddeśena dravya tyāgaḥ.

Question: And does it also mean that gṛhasthas always have to engage in karma-miśra-bhakti? 

Answer: No.

Question: Because they have to perform varṇa-dharma to maintain their families and as devotees they would like to offer those activities to the Lord?

Answer: If they take shelter of Kṛṣṇa, then their performance of varṇāśrama duties are done only out of social convention and not to get some gain. So they are not mixing karma with bhakti. They do not perform varṇāśrama duties out of obligation to dharma.

Question: In Sārārtha Darśinī, Śrīla Viśvanātha Chakravartī talks about vaidika, laukika and daihika karma. Could you define them by giving pramānas?

Answer: Vaidika means action injuncted by the Vedas, such as ahar ahar sandhyam upāsīta—one should do sandhyā-vandanam every day.

Laukika means activities such as farming or cow protection by a vaiśya, or giving protection to people by a kṣatriya. Manu-smṛti describes such duties.

Daihika means action to take care of one’s body, such as bathing, eating and sleeping.

Different Types of Yoga

Question: What is the difference between the yoga which Krishna describes in the Gita or which Lord Kapila describes in the Bhagavatam and the process given by Patanjali and this sampradaya from Lord Siva?

Answer: It is the same thing, but Lord Kapila is speaking from the devotional point of view. Patanjali has nothing to do with devotion. There are many techniques which have been devised and in Bhagavad Gita, Krishna has explained one such technique. There are different techniques for different times, ages and people. The problem here is that one has to sit down quietly and meditate, and if somebody is very restless, he will not be able to do even this. Then you have to give him some other technique.

Question: Can there be any success on the path of yoga, without bhakti?

Answer: It depends how you look at it. When we talk about success in karma yoga, there are two considerations. Either you are sakama [full of desires] or niskama [without material desires], and the result differs accordingly. It is not dependent on your bodily actions. If you perform a sacrifice, the success is not just coming from that activity itself.

In astanga-yoga, however, the result comes directly from the activity performed. Just like when you run or do exercise, you develop your muscles which does not depend on your belief in God. Asana and pranayama will give their benefit like curing some disease, because it is a physical process. But you cannot achieve the ultimate result of yoga – which means to become liberated – by this process. It is a scientific process in the sense that it explains up to the extent that you achieve some mystic power. That sort of result will happen because it is a mechanical process, but you cannot get the ultimate result. One cannot become free from the three modes of material nature without bhakti. Therefore Patanjali has also included that part in his process.

Question: Why is Krishna explaining so much about astanga yoga if it is not related to bhakti?

Answer: He is saying that this is also a process which can be used to come to that level of realization. People in general are not attracted to bhakti. But if I talk about meditation or pranayama there will be interest immediately. Even devotees are attracted. So because it is attractive, people will be inspired to do something and claim to be following Krishna. Krishna Himself says this. Then one day one may become a devotee also. So it is just a preaching technique. And for devotees this is also to give them knowledge. Devotees should also have some knowledge of astanga-yoga so they are not completely ignorant of this field.

Question: What will a karma-yogi achieve?

Answer: He will either follow the process of knowing Brahman or Paramatma. He has to have some concept of the Absolute and there are only three concepts: Brahma, Paramatma and Bhagavan. The followers of Brahman are called jnanis or jnana-yogis, those whose goal is Paramatma are called yogis, and those who follow Bhagavan are called bhaktas or devotees. Niskama-karma is not a process which leads to the ultimate by itself. You have to be either a jnana-yogi or bhakti-yogi. Ultimately these are the only two processes, jnana and bhakti.

Karma-yoga is just a process for purification. A karma-yogi who carries on working can be either like a devotee or a jnani. If he is like a jnani he becomes renounced and takes sannyasa. If he is like a bhakta he continues to work although he may still be known as a karma-yogi because of the process he has followed. If he becomes devoted to Krishna, he will consider bhakti as his prime process, understanding that karma-yoga is just secondary. That means he is only doing it for setting the standard for others.  Then for him karma-yoga is not a process he follows as a means anymore.

Question: At which point does he have to decide what his goal is?

Answer: Generally this is there to begin with, because when you start, you start with a concept. Among the karma-yogis you will basically find two types: those with the concept of the Absolute as a person and those who have the concept that the Absolute is impersonal. So they have their concept in the beginning. The only thing is that later on, it becomes more solidified as they realize it.

Question: If there are only two paths, where does this yoga fit in?

Answer: It is also a part of jnana because it is similar, they also don’t participate. There are two paths, pavritti marga and nirvritti marga, the path of action and the path of renunciation. In the path of renunciation, one is called a jnana-yogi and the other is called astanga-yogi. It means one gives more stress on deliberation and the other gives more stress on meditation. Krishna specifies that astanga-yoga is superior to jnana-yoga. He prefers astanga-yoga to jnana-yoga. The reason is that astanga-yoga is more inclined towards the personal form of the Lord because the astanga-yogi meditates on Paramatma, while the jnana-yogi meditates on the impersonal feature of the Lord. So, from that point of view a yogi is better than a jnani. Krishna says that a yogi is better than a tapasvi, better than a karmi, better than a jnani – he is better than all of them (tapasvibhyo ‘dhiko yogi jnanibhyo ‘pi mato ‘dhikah, BG 6.46).

Therefore, it depends on one’s concept of the Absolute to consider one person more superior to the other. It is based on realization.

 

Astanga and Bhakti Yoga

Question: I am wondering how this astanga-yoga is connected with bhakti-yoga, or if it is connected at all?

Answer: No, it is not connected.

Question: Then why is Krsna bothering to explain it?

Answer: He is saying that this is also a process that can be used to come to that level of realization. In general, people are not attracted to bhakti, but if they hear about meditation or pranayama, they are immediately interested. Even devotees are attracted. Because it is attractive, people are inspired to take up the practice, and claim to be following Krsna. Indeed, Krsna himself states this and incorporates it within his teachings. Furthermore, one day such souls also may become devotees.  Devotees benefit from having some knowledge of astanga-yoga and should not be completely ignorant of this field.

Question: What will a karma-yogi achieve?

Answer: Krishna has described that he will either follow the process of knowing Brahman or of Paramatma. He has to have some notion of the Absolute, of which there are only three concepts: Brahman, Paramatma and Bhagavan. The followers of Brahman are called jnana-yogis, those whose goal is Paramatma are called yogis, and those who follow Bhagavan are called bhaktas or devotees. Niskama-karma is not a process that leads to the Ultimate in and of itself. One has to be a jnana-yogi or a bhakti-yogi, since ultimately these are the only two processes. Karma-yoga is a process for purification, and Krishna says that a karma-yogi is either like a devotee or like a jnani. If he is like a jnani he becomes renounced and takes sannyasa. If he is like a bhakta he continues to work, although he still may be known as a karma-yogi because of the process he has followed. If he becomes devoted he will consider bhakti as his prime process, understanding that karma-yoga is secondary. This means that he is doing it only in order to set the standard for others, and no longer as a means.

Question: So at some point he has to decide what is his goal?

Answer: Generally this is there to begin with, because one starts out with a concept. Among the karma-yogis you will find two basic types: those whose concept of the Absolute is a person and those who have the concept that the Absolute is impersonal. So the concept exists in the beginning, but later on becomes more solidified as they start to realize it.

Question: If there are only two paths, where does this yoga fit in?

Answer: It is also a part of jnana because it is similar in that jnana-yogis also don’t participate in action. There are Yogi in Meditationtwo paths, pavritti marga and nirvritti marga, the path of action and the path of renunciation. One who follows the path of renunciation is called a jnana-yogi, and the one who follows the path of action, an astanga-yogi. The former places more emphasis on deliberation and the latter on meditation. Krsna prefers astanga-yoga to jnana-yoga, and specifies that astanga-yoga is superior, the reason being that astanga-yoga moves towards the personal form of the Lord.  In astanga-yoga, one meditates on Paramatma, whereas the jnana-yogis meditate on the impersonal feature of the Lord. So from that point of view, a yogi is better than a jnani. Krishna says that a yogi is better than a tapasvi, better than a karmi, and better than a jnani–he is better than all of them (tapasvibhyo ‘dhiko yogi jnanibhyo ‘pi mato ‘dhikah, BG 6.46).

Therefore it depends on one’s concept of the Absolute and one’s realization to consider one person more superior to the other.

Integration of Self into Reality

By Bruce Martin

The Vedic seers investigated and delineated the methods by which attention is shifted from the ephemeral and temporal to the real and eternal. Although different methods were devised for people of different temperament, the common thread running through them is higher order integration of self into an ever more encompassing Reality. The methodology that facilitates this higher order integration they termed as yoga, or the process of linking consciousness to its source.

This linking process may be summed up as that which enables attention to turn from a constricted, space-time-bound ego identity, to direct cognition of the conscious Whole, of which the individual atma is an infinitesimal spark. In Bhakti Sandarbha, Jiva Gosvami refers to this linking process as sammukhya, turning attention, as one would turn the face, from the phenomenal to the numinous, from insubstantial projection to underlying substance. This offers a simple yet effective measure to evaluate specific methods across a broad range of disciplines. Valid methodology is simply that which enables the radical shift from distortion to truth. In order to facilitate this shift of context for people of various dispositions, yoga has been divided into numerous branches, of which four are prominent: karma-yoga, jnana-yoga, raja-yoga and bhakti-yoga.

Karma-Yoga

Karma-yoga is the path of consecrated action leading to detachment from desire. The proponents of this path recognized that all desire-based actions produce inevitable results that bind consciousness to an inextricable web, whirling relentlessly about the vortex of life and death. Since action is inevitable, the quality of action itself needs to be transformed from one that binds to one that liberates. Karma-yoga involves a highly sophisticated set of rituals to purify the performer of desire and the sense of doership, in which both action and its result are offered to the Supreme.

From a developmental point of view, the path of karma is designed to offer stability and order to the self system by clearly defining its role in relation to society within the larger framework of the mythic order. In ideal, this trains morality and responsibility to an entire network of social interactions, tying both individual and culture to God. Through the process of offering action and its fruit, egocentrism is gradually reduced, and the performer begins to recognize a vaster reality of which he or she is part. This leads to a falling away of desire that transports one to the gateway of the transpersonal. Karma-yoga, then, is geared primarily to the ego realm of development, supporting the maturing of ego into an integrated self-system that stands, finally, on the threshold of transcendence.

Jnana-Yoga

Jnana-yoga concerns itself with the path of transcendence proper. It begins where karma ends. Whereas the path of karma lends stability and organization to the self-system, jnana-yoga shatters it altogether. The strength of this path lies in its ability to expose and dismantle all false representations of reality. Thus even its descriptions of the Absolute whisper songs of denial, neti neti, “not this, not that”. By this stripping away, the Absolute can be only that which is devoid of everything conceived of as material imposition or limitation, such as name, form, action, feeling, thought, and quality.

Effectively, however, this is a denial only of material forms and qualities. The realm of transcendence that accounts, not only for oneness, but for variegatedness as well, is a higher order emergence lying beyond the purview of jnana. There is perhaps hidden significance in the reference to this path as Kevala-Advaita, or unadulterated nondual awareness. Kevala also means only, and, in fact, this path discloses the Absolute as awareness “only”, also known as Brahman.

Raja-yoga

Patanjali

Raja-yoga, otherwise known as the ashtanga-yoga of Patanjali, is principally concerned with the training of awareness, from preliminary practices, such as ethical and emotional training, to cultivation of breath and posture, through to advanced meditative states. In these enhanced states of awareness, technically known as samadhi, the subject-object dualism of “normal” waking state consciousness breaks down, revealing a unified field of consciousness.

In essence, this path discloses the same truth as that arrived at by jnana. The unique feature of this path is that its subtle-energetic and psycho-dynamic practices allow for optimization of health, activation of higher order mental faculties and profound integration of the body-mind system. This optimizes the potential of that system as a vehicle for the expression of Spirit within the manifest realm. For just this reason, however, raja-yoga is sometimes disparaged by the proponents of jnana. Because it brings considerable physical and mental well-being, practitioners may seek those benefits only, ignoring altogether the core transformation that the path is meant to engender. Considering the modern conversion of yoga from path of transcendence to a technology for health and sculptured physique, this seems a not altogether invalid critique. Yet when properly understood, both transcendence and a suitable vehicle for its expression within the world are of immense value, perhaps more so today than at any other time. Like jnana, yoga is directed primarily toward Reality as consciousness or Brahman, though it does accommodate a generalized sense of devotion through the principle of Ishvara-pranidan, or offering of the self to God.

Bhakti-Yoga

Bhakti-yoga is the path of surrender and love, and like jnana, it too begins where karma leaves off, at the demise of the separate self sense. Unlike jnana, however, bhakti is marked not by absence of ego-based desire but of thirst for the transcendent. In the beginning this thirst takes on the aspect of shraddha, or trust in, and hence, active surrender to, the Absolute. This is based on the understanding that an inseparable connection exists between the infinitesimal consciousness of living beings and the infinite consciousness of God or Ultimate Reality. This awareness matures into sambandha, or relation with the complete Whole that is of the nature of awareness in love. In ordinary experience, when two beings feel consciously attuned, it allows for the growth of intimacy and love. Conscious attunement, devoid of love, would seem, somehow, still wanting.

Man lila / Vrindavan Art

Love, in the supra-mundane sense, is understood as an aspect of nondual awareness itself, endowed not only with all-consciousness, but the potency of all-bliss. Surrender of the self to God is the constant and total, loving submission of all faculties, and of awareness itself, to that of which we are intrinsically part. This offering of the essence of the being, accompanied by the emptying of all artificially acquired designations, allows consciousness to be permeated with the divine energy of love. Love in this sense, as a unique potency of transcendence, is inclusive of awareness, yet extends beyond it to encompass the hidden and mysterious domain of ecstasy. This love in transcendence, uniting the individual being ardently with its source, thus penetrates through the monochrome dimension of conscious at-one-ment to a multilayered weave of ecstatic and intimate relation. This radically alters the whole conception of love, from a force that necessitates and preserves the dualism of lover and beloved, to one that exists in the nondual state that recognizes no “other” to begin with.

Returning to our original point, that yoga involves higher order integration of self into ever more encompassing Reality, these various branches of yoga can then be seen to fit together to support various phases of Spirit unfolding, from the stabilization of ego in the personal realm, to the transcendence of ego and awakening of conscious unity in the transpersonal realm, to the pervasion of love in the realm of ecstatic all-knowing Being. From this perspective, love represents the highest potential of awareness itself. It is this transcendent love only that discloses the hidden, interior aspect of nondual awareness, in which one undivided, all-encompassing awareness itself becomes the vehicle for love’s infinite depth, tone, hue, freshness and variety. Awakening to this mysterious dimension of the transcendent allows for the highest completion of the being in regard to Reality, the Complete.