Chapter 8: Karma, Jnana, Bhakti Yogas
1. What are the types of activities of the Jivatma, in this world?
The activities pursued by Jivatma are of three kinds: 1) Nitya 2) Naimittika 3) Kamya
1) Nitya: That which has to be done, without fail, regularly, like Sandhyavandana. By not doing these, one incurs sins.
2) Naimittika: Those, which have to be done on particular occasions, like Tarpana during eclipses.
3) Kamya: Those, which are done if a person wants to achieve specific desires, like wealth, pleasure. These are not compulsory. By not doing these, no sin attaches. These can also be done, purely for the pleasure of the Lord, without desiring for fruits.
2. Is there any other division of the human activities?
There is another division of these activities.
1) Some activities have to be compulsorily performed. By performing these, you do not get any benefit or punya; but, by not doing these, you in- cur sin or papa. For example, Sandhyavandana and Tarpana (by those who are required to perform) have to be necessarily done. By doing these, you do not get any punya; but, by not doing these, you incur sin. These are called Ajna Kainkarya.
2) The second type of activities are those, which are desirable. By doing these, you get punya. But by not doing these, you do not incur sin or papa.
For example, going to the temple, weaving garland for adorning the Lord, cleaning the temple premises – such acts are desirable and they result in punya. But by not doing these, you do not incur papa. These are called Anujna Kainkarya.
3. What is the principle behind these activities?
Whatever activities you pursue you must carry them out as a service to the Lord, and for the pleasure of the Lord. You should not pursue any activity solely for your personal benefit. But it should be done only to please the Lord.
4. What is the meaning of Karma yoga as expounded in the Gita?
One should perform the normal duties laid down like Sandhyavandana and others according to his position and status in life.
He has also to do the duties, which have to be compulsorily performed on certain occasions,like Tarpana during eclipse.
He may also do the desirable works,like going to the temples, worshipping the Lord, preparation of flower garlands to the Lord.
He should do all these, without any desire for the fruits. He should also have the basic knowledge in regard to the real nature of the Jivatma and Paramatma.Then he can take up, in addition to all these, any particular duty or karma; and concentrate on its performance for the rest of his life.
In other words, the person does all the duties expected of him, as laid down in the sastras. Then he takes up a particular item of work and continues to perform the same, as much as possible, according to his capacity.
5. What are the different types of work, that are laid down?
1) The first is worshipping the Lord with tulasi and flowers. So, here, in addition to his normal duties, the person goes on worshipping the Lord.
2) The second type is doing yagna, as laid down in the Vedas.
3) The third type is to control one’s senses.
As mentioned earlier, we have five senses of knowledge and five senses of action. The person has to control his senses. In other words, the senses should function and perform only those duties that are permitted by the sastras.
The eye should see only the Lord, in the temples, and only good people. The eye should not see anything bad.
The ear should hear the Vedas and other good things. The ear should not hear anything bad. Likewise with the other senses. So, the person controls all these senses by not doing anything bad.
4) The next type of activity is giving gifts to deserving people. The person should earn money by rightful means. The money or things in kind, which he earns by rightful means, should be given as gift to deserving people.
5) The next type of activity is called Tapas, i.e., by fasting repeatedly, as laid down in the sastras.
6) Another type of activity is bathing in holy waters like Ganga and Kaveri.
7) Another type of activity is repeatedly reciting the Vedas; also, discussing and understanding the sacred meaning of the Vedas.
8 ) Lastly, the Gita mentions doing pranayama also as a sacred work under karma Yoga.
All these people also do their daily rituals, as prescribed in the Vedas. Then, after doing Aradhana to the Lord, they take food.
6. Abstaining (not doing) some of the things, which have been prescribed in the Sastras, can we take up a particular activity and do it?
No. As I mentioned earlier, there are certain activities or rituals, which have to be necessarily performed. (Ajna Kainkarya). If these are not performed, you incur papa (sin).
In fact, the Daksha smriti says that a person, who does not do sandhyavandana regularly, is always unclean. He is unfit to do any work or activity.
So what are prescribed as compulsory, by the sastras, have necessarily to be done. Then a person can take up some activity in particular, as mentioned earlier and do it regularly. This is the essence of Karma Yoga.
But, no activity, which has been stipulated as compulsory by the sastras, should be omitted.
7. How does one do these activities?
While doing all these activities, you must be clear that you are not doing the activities; but the Lord only does these activities through you. Further, these are done for the pleasure of the Lord only.
8. What is Jnana Yoga?
Jnana yoga means, realising the soul as different from the body; that Jivatma and Matter are the body of Brahman, who is their inner soul. Then he has to constantly meditate on his atma, as the body of Brahman.
Here also. the prescribed activities, as laid down in the sastras, must continue to be performed.
9. How do you define Bhakti Yoga?
This should not be understood in the ordinary sense of the term as devotion. The term bhakti has a special significance in this context.
In the Upanishads, there are several methods described, for attaining Brahman, i.e., salvation. These are called vidyas. There are 32 such vidyas, described in the Upanishads. Each vidya explains one method of doing bhakti.
So, performance of any of these vidyas is called bhakti.
10. Can you name some of the more prominent or important vidyas?
We have Sad Vidya, Dahara Vidya, Madhu Vidya, Bhuma Vidya, Panchagni Vidya, Sandilya Vidya, Purusha Vidya, Prana Vidya, Vaisvanara Vidya, Prajapati Vidya, Purushatma Vidya, Balaki Vidya, Maitreyi Vidya, Paryanka Vidya and others.
11. What is the significance of these different kinds of vidyas?
In each Vidya, Brahman is meditated in a different way. Some of this characteristics or qualities of Brahman are highlighted and worshipped in each Vidya. Brahman is conceived in one way, in one vidya,and in another way, with some other qualities, in another vidya, and so on. Like the proverb “All ways lead to Rome”, here also, these are only different ways of meditating on Brahman.The objective of all these vidyas is to attain Brahman i.e., salvation.
12. As there are different ways of meditating in these vidyas, will the result also be different?
No, the goal is the Paramapada, where the Jivatma enjoys Brahman. The Upanishads clearly declare that there is no difference at all, in the fruit or in the goal.
13. So, how long are these vidyas to be practised?
There is no specific duration or period, during which these vidyas have to be practised. Each person can choose a particular vidya and go on practising it. The Bhakti Yoga is completed in one birth or it may not be over in one birth. The Bhakti, in the form of vidya, may have to be continued in two or three or several births.
14. Do people practise these vidyas in the present day?.
It is extremely doubtful whether anyone practises these vidya today.
15. So, what is the essence of Bhakti Yoga?
Bhakti Yoga means, we have to constantly .meditate on Brahman and His qualities, according to any one of those 32 vidyas, prescribed in the Upanishads.
While performing Bhakti Yoga, we have also to perform the rites and duties prescribed in the sastras, such as sandhyavandana,tarpana and other things.
Bhakti Yoga is constant meditation, out of tremendous love for the Lord; knowing fully, all His auspicious qualities; and also knowing that He is the inner soul of all chetana and achetana.
16. Does this mean that there may be delay in attaining moksha, if we adopt Bhakti Yoga?
You are right.There is a chance of delay in the attainment of moksha, by adopting Bhakti Yoga. Salvation may be at the end of this life, or it may require several births. So, normally, in the present days, Bhakti Yoga is not practised.
17. What are the conditions for taking up Bhakti Yoga?
There are conditions or restrictions or 7 types. These are:-
1.Body purity has to be maintained, by avoiding impure and unclean food.
2.We have to be free from desires. We should not, desire any material things, like wealth and pleasures. Of course, if God gives, we aeeept them, as His gift.
3.Frequent meditation of the Lord, in the form you cherish.
4.Performing the rites and duties, as prescribed in the sastras.
5.Kindness and compassion towards all beings; not injuring any human being or animal, even by thoughts or words (apart from deeds).
6. To be in a cheerful and calm state of mind.
7. To be free from pride or egoism (ahankara)
18. Are there different stages in this bhakti?
Yes, there are three stages of step by step development or intensity of bhakti. In the ascending order of intensity of bhakti, these are:-
1) Para bhakti
2) Para jnana
3) Parama bhakti.
19. The ultimate aim of the Jivatma is to attain salvation or moksha.?.Now, what are the means for achieving this goal?
The means are two.
20. If only bhakti and prapatti are the two means of attaining salvation. Then what about Karma Yoga, and Jnana yoga?
Karma Yoga and Jnana Yoga only lead to bhakti. So they cannot directly lead to salvation. The appropriate performance of karma, and having proper knowledge or jnana lead a person to bhakti. Then by practising Bhakti Yoga, the man attains salvation
21. Then, what is the relationship between Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga?
Karma Yoga, when properly done, can lead to Jnana Yoga: and then, to Bhakti Yoga. Or Karma Yoga can also directly lead to Bhakti Yoga.
Similarly, Jnana Yoga leads to Bhakti Yoga. So Karma Yoga and Jnana Yoga, only lead to Bhakti Yoga.
Therefore, Karma Yoga and Jnana Yoga, by themselves are not means for attaining salvation, Only bhakti and prapatti are the means of attaining salvation. This can be explained , by a chart.
1) Karma yoga -> Jnana Yoga –> Bhakti Yoga or Karma Yoga –> Bhakti Yoga
Karma Yoga–> Bhakti Yoga
2) Jnana Yoga -> Bhakti Yoga
22. There are three types of people who worship only Lord Narayana. Who are they?
1) People, who pray to Narayana, for the good things in this life and also for moksha are called Ekantins. They do not worship any other deity.
2) The second type of people are those, who pray to Narayana.not for any good things in this life: but pray to Him, only for moksha and nothing else. They are called Paramaikantins.
3) The third type of people are those, who worship Narayana, without prayers for anything. They leave everything to Narayana. Even granting of moksha is left to Him. So, these are the most devoted people.
23. What is Prapatti?
Prapatti is also called self-surrender, saranagati, bharanyasa and nyasa. If you adopt prapatti, the sastras declare that you can attain Paramapada at the end of this life itself.
24. What is the difference between Bhakti, as described in the various vidyas and Prapatti?
The major differences only
1. Bhakti is restricted to certain people. Prapatti can be adopted by any person and can be done for any living being.
2. Bhakti in the form prescribed in the Upanishads is practically not done now. Prapatti is being practised widely.
3. In the case of those who adopt bhakti, it is not definite whether they will attain salvation at the end of this life or they will have to continue their effort over several births. In the case of prapatti, sastras declare that a person attains salvation at the end of this life itself.
25. Do the rituals like yaga, which have been prescribed in the karma kanda of the Vedas, lead us to this salvation?
No. The performance of these rituals like yagas, gives us only limited results such as attainment of svarga (or heaven).
26. Is svarga the same as Paramapada?
No, svarga and Paramapada are entirely different.
Svarga is a celestial world, a world higher up in the universe. This is full of enjoyment, where there are Devas and Gandharvas.
The enjoyment in svarga is only for a limited period. The period may vary, depending upon the punya or the good things done by an individual. He may stay on, for longer periods, in svarga. In any case. there is return to this world from svarga. It is also just another world, of a superior type, compared with our world here.
But, moksha or Paramapada is something, which is eternal, which is permanent. There we have Sriman Narayana with Mahalakshmi and Nityasuris, about whom I have described earlier. Nitya Suris are Garuda, Adisesha, Vishvaksena and others. Also, all liberated souls are there in the Paramapada or Sri Vaikunta.
So, Paramapada is eternal and everlasting; and is the ultimate goal for every individual. Hence svarga and Paramapada are completely different.
27. Are the results of performing rituals like yagas, only temporary in character and not permanent?
The rituals, described in the karma kanda of the Vedas, by their nature, are supposed to be done for the pleasure of the Lord. If they are done, for achieving specific results like svarga, the results are not permanent
28. So, what has to be done for attaining liberation and enjoying the Paramapada?
Only, bhakti or prapatti, , can lead to immortality and salvation
29. If so, what is the need to learn the karma kanda and purva mimamsa, since they mainly talk of rituals?
It is true that the karma kanda of the Vedas and purva mimamsa of Jaimini, discuss mainly performance of rituals. But still a study of these is recommended, to understand that they in fact lead only to temporary results.
After studying the karma kanda and the purva mimamsa,and understanding that the performance of rituals leads only to temporary results; a man should proceed to study brahma sutra and understand Brahman.
30. The Lord has given the Vedas and sastras, for helping and has also given him intelligence. So, in spite of all these things, man is not progressing. Man is not benefiting by the sastras. Why is it so?
1) People, unfortunately, do not make use of the sastras and knowledge the Lord has provided. Some people foolishly think that they are their own masters; and they are interested only in the worldly pleasures. So, they do not bother about the Lord.
2) The second type of people are indifferent towards God. They also think that it is difficult to worship Him.
3) The third type of people are misled and deceived by the so- called rationalists, who argue that there is no God,
4) Lastly, there are people, the worst type, who are positively hostile towards God and hate Him.
So, these are the four types of people, who do not make use of the sastras and who go on committing deadly sins.
31. What are the types of people, who worship the Lord?
Here again, there are four types of people.
1)The first type are those who have lost wealth. They want to regain the lost wealth. They worship the Lord for regaining the lost wealth (Artha).
2)The second type of people are those who are not satisfied with what they have. They want more and more wealth; they want more and more power, They pray to the Lord for getting more and more wealth and power (Artharthi)
3)The third type of people are those who do not have any worldly desires. But they want the experience of their own soul. Experiencing one’s own soul is called Kaivalya. So they pray seeking to experience Kaivalya (Jijnasu).
4)The fourth type. of people are really the intelligent ones. Their goal is only to attain moksha and to be with Brahman worshipping Him eternally. They are the people who love God and whom God also loves dearly (Jnani).
32. Which of these four types of people are the best?
Out of these four types, the last mentioned, namely, those, who want to attain moksha only and enjoy Brahman, are naturally the best and the wisest. Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita that these are the real intelligent people.
Krishna says that such type of people are extremely rare to find. These people believe that everything is the Lord; and the Lord is everything to them.
33. We find there are many people, who worship other deities, other than Narayana.?
People worship other deities for fulfilment of their desires, for securing wealth and property. But Krishna says in the Gita that although they worship other deities, in reality, they are worshipping Narayana only.
34. How is it possible?
This is because, as per our fundamental system of philosophy, all others are bodies, and Narayana is the soul of all chetanas and achetanas. Naturally, the other deities are also chetanas. So, Narayana is the soul of other deities also.
So, when people worship other deities, actually they worship Narayana only. But they do not know that Narayana is the soul of other deities also.
35. Are their desires granted by other deities?
For this also we have Krishna’s reply in the Gita. He says that although people worship other deities, their desires are fulfilled by Narayana only, as the inner soul of those deities.
36. What is the difference in the fulfilment of desires by worshipping other deities, and by worshipping Narayana?
Individual desires or fruits the people get, by worshipping other deities, are of limited duration. Because, those deities themselves are not eternal. They are also like human beings. They have their own life span.
No doubt, their life time is much longer, as compared to the life of a human being. But still, they also have a specific or fixed lifetime. So, the desires or fruits got, by worshipping these deities,are also only for a short period.
But moksha can be attained only by worshipping Narayana.
37. What happens to those people who worship other deities?
Krishna says that people who worship other deities, reach those deities. But, those deities themselves, are not eternal or permanent and so there is no question of salvation for such people; But those who worship Narayana reach Him in Sri Vaikunta, never to return.
38. How is it that people worship other deities and do not know Narayana’s greatness?
They do not understand the true greatness of Narayana; and, the secret behind His avataras. Just because He is taking avataras like Rama and Krishna, people think that Rama and Krishna are also ordinary human beings and so they do not worship Rama and Krishna.
They do not know that the avataras of the Lord, are only to bless the human beings; to protect the good and virtuous people and to destroy the wicked people; and to establish dharma, a well ordered way of life.
So, without knowing these secrets, people think that Rama and Krishna are just ordinary human beings.
39. What are the three qualities Sattva, Rajas and Tamas.?What are these qualities?.
1) Sattvika quality produces clear and definite knowledge. It produces interest in learning good things. It gives pleasure to the mind, so that the person can worship the Lord with devotion.
2) Rajasa quality is that which produces love bet ween man and woman. It also produces desires of the senses, like listening to music, seeing good and pleasant things. This quality also produces desire to be with children, grand children and friends.
3) Tamasa quality is the worst of the three qualities. It leads to perverse and wrong know- ledge. It results in carelessness and laziness. Tamasa quality creates desire for the wrong type of happiness. The tamasa quality leads a person astray, creates false knowledge and induces him to do wrong things.
40. Does a person have only on of these qualities?
No. Every person has all the three qualities, but in different proportions. Some people have an excess Of sattvika quality. Some others have an excess of rajasa quality. Again some others have an excess of tamasa quality.
Even in the same person, at one time, sattvika quality will be predominant. During such times, he will think good and do good things. In the same person, at some other time, the rajasa quality becomes predominant, inducing him to do things pertaining to that quality, as mentioned before.
Again at some other time, the tamasa quality gets the upper hand, inducing him to pursue undesi- rable activities
41. How do these qualities come about, at different times, in the same person?
Well, the karma theory is the answer for it. Based on the person’s previous karmas. different qualities rule him at different times. This also depends upon the type of food he takes.
42. How does the type of food influence the qualities?
1) Foods which are sweet and nourishing, pleasing to look at, are liked by people, in whom the sattvika quality is predominant.
2) Foods which are bitter or sour, excessively hot and producing a burning sensation in the stomach, are liked by those, who have the rajasa quality predominantly.
3) Food, which has deteriorated due to lapse of time, rotten, foul-smelling; and left over of food earlier consumed by impure persons; is liked by those in whom the tamasa quality is predominant. Also, the food which has not been offered to God,is liked by the tamasic people.
43. It is said that one has to be pure, in regard to 1) body, 2) speech and 3) mind (mano-vak-kaya).Please explain.
Purity of body means:- 1)showing due respect and doing namaskara, to the elders and learned people;
2) Keeping the body clean, by bathing in holy waters and rivers.
3)Not pursuing activities which are prohibited by sastras;
4)Not hurting other living beings.
44. What does purity of speech mean?
1)speaking the truth, without causing any harm to others
2)Speaking sweet words without causing anger or hatred in others,
3)Reciting the Vedas and Divya prabandha.
45. What is purity of mind?
1) not having any bad thought;
2) keeping the mind pure and clean;
3) always thinking about the Lord.
46. What about giving of gifts to others?
The giving of gifts is also classified into three categories sattvika, rajasa, tamasa.
47. What is the sattvika type of gift?
Gifts given to deserving persons, at the time when they are needy, are of sattvic type. Such gifts should be given, without expecting anything in return, from the other person
48. What is the rajasa type of gifts?
Gifts made in return for gifts received earlier. Similarly, giving away useless things, which are not required by the giver; giving gifts, expecting some advantage at a later date; are also considered as rajasa type
49. What is the tamasa type of gifts?
Gifts of things, which are prohibited by sastras; gifts which are given to undeserving persons, who may use these gifts for immoral purposes; gifts which are given with pride and merely for publicity; are all of tamasic type.
50. What about performing works, ordained by sastras?
All works should be done as a matter of duty, till death. While performing these works, they should give up the idea, that they are doing them. They should be clear that actually God is getting the work done through them for His pleasure.
Similarly they should do the work, without aiming for the fruit; i.e., without being interested in the fruit of action. They should leave the end results to God.
51. What are the types of tyagas?.
There are three types of tyagas, depending upon the quality: sattvika tyaga, rajasa tyaga, tamasa tyaga.
52. What is sattvika tyaga?
The duties, as prescribed by sastras, are done as a matter of devotion to the Lord; as worship of the Lord. Here the person does not think, that he is doing the duties.
He understands that God is getting the duties performed through him, for God’s pleasure. So, he dedicates the fruits of his works also to the Lord. Such a type of tyaga is called sattvika tyaga.
In other words, whatever comes on, he takes calmly. He only does his duties as prescribed by the sastras. Whether he gets good results or bad results, he does not bother. He continues doing his prescribed duties.
53. What is rajasa tyaga?
Some persons give up the duties prescribed by Sastras because of difficulties in getting money and materials. Some persons give up the duties because of laziness. This is called rajasa tyaga
54. What is tamasa tyaga?
The sastras have prescribed certain compulsory duties (Karmas), like sandhyavandana and tarpana. If a person gives up the performance of these compulsory duties due to some wrong ideas Or false notions this is called tamasa tyaga.
55. Again, how are the works classified as sattvika, rajasa or tamasa?
Works which are done, as prescribed in the sastras, without thinking that we are actually doing, are sattvika works. We should be clear that it is only the Lord, who gets these things done by us. So, without any desire for fruits or results, we should do the work, as prescribed in the Sastras
56. What is rajasa type of work?
If a person does his work, and is proud that he is doing the work; if he does the work, with a desire for good results, and, for enjoyment of worldly pleasures; this type of work is rajasa work.
57. What is tamasa type of work?
If a man does the work, in ignorance, without understanding the implications; if he is not able to get the work done fully; if the work is done, against sastras; this is the tamasa type of work.
58. How do you classify persons as sattvika, rajasa or tamasa?
1) The person, who does not bother about the results; who remains unaffected by success or failure; is sattvika by nature. He is clear it is only the Lord who gets the work done by him.
2) If a person does the work, with a desire for good results, or with a desire for fame; if he does work, even at the cost of trouble or pain to others; he is of rajasa type.
3) A person who does a work, against the commands of sastras; who is lazy and is not qualified to do the work; who is deceitful; is of the tamasa type.
59. What exactly is moksha?
In Sanskrit the word “Moksha” actually means deliverance or freedom (from the bondage of samsara; from the cycle of births and deaths).
But we say that moksha means not only freedom from samsara, but also attaining Paramapada or Sri Vaikunta and enjoying the Lord.
60. What are the different kinds of moksha. ?
Moksha or Paramapada is only one and is unique. But there, are certain stages, which come very close to moksha or Paramapada. Let me describe them.
1) Salokya – is attaining the world, which is one of the Lord’s; but is not exactly Sri Vaikunta; but the nearby worlds;
2) Sarupya – is the attainment of a form, resembling the Lord’s. This is obtained, as a result of constant meditation on one of the forms, like Rama or Krishna. For example, by constant meditation of Rama, the jivatma may attain a form resembling Rama. This is called Sarupya.
3) Samipya – is attainment of a place, near Sri Vaikunta but not Sri Vaikunta itself.
4) Sayujya – is actual attainment of Paramapada or Sri Vaikunta.
Sayujya alone is the real moksha. The other three, namely salokya, sarupya and samipya are very close to Sayujya.
To be continued…
Source: A Dialog on Hinduism By Sri V.N. Gopala Desikan