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Why No Karma Yoga Teaching?
Claude: I have been into the Vedanta teaching for quite some time. Currently, I am completely satisfied with my life.
Sundari: This is a great sign, Claude. Perfect satisfaction, tripti, is a very good indicator of moksa.
Claude: I just wonder, why do most Vedanta texts not deal with karma yoga?
Sundari: Karma yoga is taught by all genuine Vedanta teachers in all traditional schools of Vedanta. Certainly, the Dayananda and the Chinmayananda schools emphasize and teach its importance. Who have you been listening to?
Whoever it is, it is hard to understand why other so-called Vedanta teachers do not teach karma yoga, unless you mean the Neos? If so, they have no teaching at all. They do not acknowledge Isvara, the gunas or the jiva; they ignore the Creation, i.e., they have no way to discriminate between satya-mithya, the real and the apparently real, and have no tools to offer the inquirer to help them with their sadhana, such as karma yoga and triguna vibhava yoga, mind management.
Claude: Basically, I have been a lifestyle sannyasi, so I was a pretty “hard-core” Vedantin, so to speak. I have done away with good karma for some time; it is only now that I follow dharma once more.
Sundari: If I understand you correctly, you mean here that you have given up on chasing “good” karma by being dharmic, which is an important part of karma jnana sannyas – renouncing the idea of doership – not doing per se. A true jnani follows dharma, not for results, but because it is natural for him/her to honour of Isvara’s natural laws of Creation and their own svadharma. Otherwise, following dharma for results, the inquirer gets stuck on the sattvica karmic wheel, “doing” good deeds for a reward. A good example of this is the story of Ram in the Ramayana, where no matter what Ram does, he never gets the result he deserves. But he never stops doing what is right, because he is not doing anything for results.
There are two types of karma yoga:
1. Secular karma yoga: This is for worldly people not qualified for self-inquiry and not going for moksa. As a karmi yogi, one uses the karma yoga to accomplish things in the world and get what you want or avoid what you don’t want.
In this case, there are four main types of doer renouncement:
Step 1 of Doer Renunciation: Sacred Karma Yoga
This is for people actively engaged in self-inquiry. It is surrendering the results of action to Isvara in an attitude of gratitude, consecrating each thought, word and action on a moment-to-moment basis to Isvara. It is managing your thoughts and emotions and taking all results that do come as prasad. This is the only way to negate the doer.
Stage 2: Karma Sannyas, Relinquishing of Desire
Karma sannyas is to manage desires and no longer initiating any gratuitous actions. We have surrendered to Isvara and no longer pursue gaining anything in the world, although we still do what is required to live. Once the mind is purified, we apply Self-knowledge to discriminate the Self from the not-self. This means that you know that your conditioning does not belong to you, but you are still bound by it. At this stage, unless one understands and practices triguna vibhava yoga in conjunction with karma sanyass, many highly qualified inquirers get stuck.
It does not work to superimpose satya (pure awareness) onto mithya. If superimposition happens, even though the Self is known, it will remain indirect knowledge, i.e. the Self will still appear as an object. And we will think we must “get” it. Or we must wait to have that final experience that will prove we are awareness! Like wanting to experience nirvana when you are nirvana, as the Self. Direct knowledge and Self-actualization is the difficult part of inquiry.
Stage 3: Karma Jnana Sannyas
Through continual discrimination and application of the teachings, the jiva, the individual under the spell of self-ignorance, understands that it is actually the Self, limitless awareness, and not the person it thinks it is.
The third stage of sacred karma yoga is karma jnana sannyas, the full negation of the doer with the knowledge that we can act but Isvara is the only doer. It is rendering all binding vasanas non-binding. If Self-knowledge has fully removed the ignorance of your true nature and you know without a doubt that you are the Self, beyond the gunas – trigunaatita – this is moksa. Moksa is for the jiva because the Self is already free. Direct knowledge allows the jiva to live free in this apparent reality.
Direct knowledge, moksa, is spontaneously discriminating the Self, satya (that which is real, always present and unchanging) from the not-self, mithya (that which is only apparently real, not always present and always changing) at all times.
If the knowledge is firm and direct, karma yoga is no longer a practice as such, it is just knowledge. However, duality does not disappear once you know what it is. Maya/macrocosmic ignorance continues even though Self-knowledge has removed personal/microcosmic ignorance.
Step 4: Self-Actualization, Nididhysana
Unfortunately, more often than not, the doer survives moksa, and we still have work to do on rendering binding vasanas non-binding, i.e. purifying the mind. Here karma yoga becomes a different kind of mind management, nididhysana, the transformation of our remaining binding mental/emotional conditioning into devotion to the Self. This period can take many years for most inquirers and it requires the application of sacred karma yoga and jnana yoga, until the jiva is fully dismissed.
Nididhysana is managing the mind’s involuntary thoughts as well as our habitual thoughts and feeling patterns, which are bedrock duality and can survive moksa. Without self-objectivity and mind management, these patterns can still hijack the mind without a moment’s notice, denying it access to the Self in the form of self-knowledge. There is nothing inherently wrong with involuntary thoughts, but they tend to immediately morph into actions which are liable to create unwanted karma in the form of obscuring thoughts and emotions.
The practice of Self-knowledge involves keeping it in the background during one’s daily transactions. It is difficult if you have a lot of karma because the mind is easily lost in dealing with it. It is constantly reminding the mind that one’s jiva and the world are both mithya and that the jiva is only a contributor of action while Isvara is the controller of the results. “You have a choice over action alone; never over results. May you not think you are the author of the results of actions. May you not have inclination towards inaction.” ~ Bhagavad Gita (2:47). It is a fact that you don’t have control of your body, mind, family and possessions, so leave them alone and accept the world as it is. You should always think, “It is a great blessing that I am never affected by anything that happens in mind or the world.”
The obstacles to mind control are (1) sleepiness (tamas) happening during meditation, (2) a mind hopping from one thought to another (rajas), (3) subconscious psychological problems (samskaras) that make the mind dull and (4) attachment to sattva produced by meditation. Once these obstacles are overcome, the mind permanently rests in the knowledge “I am limitless, unborn, ordinary, unconcerned, ever-present, blissful awareness.”
Claude: Is the removal of the sense of doership “seeing through” the ego? Because when I investigated it, I found its unreality, leaving the self in the form of sat-chit-ananda.
Sundari: Yes, you are correct. This is what karma yoga is for: to negate the egoic sense of doership. The “ego” is a word that describes the thought that limitless, non-dual consciousness (you) is a limited separate entity. It is a thought that arises out of consciousness, is made up of consciousness and dissolves into consciousness with the removal of ignorance by Self-knowledge. This thought gives rise to the idea that you are a doer, the one who experiences things. There is no such thing as an ego in reality; it has no existence other than as a thought arising in consciousness. No one has ever seen an ego. All egos function in the same predictable way; in fact there is only one ego and all embodied entities (jivas) share it, unless and until they know what their real identity is as the Self.
Our egos do actions to get something we think we want or need to complete ourselves or to get away from something we don’t want. It is programmed thinking, and the resulting actions that arise from the playing out of the guna-generated vasanas (in other words, ignorance) because the ego is the “I” thought wrongly associated and identified with objects.
Claude: This bliss doesn’t leave me, but still it did not “hit home,” so to speak. Only when I consecrate my actions to Isvara do I experience perfect and total satisfaction
Is this moksa?
Sundari: Essentially, yes. This is moksa. Once we have realized the Self, the bliss never leaves us, but it can blink on and off if Self-actualization is not complete. There could still be nididhysana to do if it does not “hit home” yet. Only you will know. Are you totally free of the jiva, its sense of doership, its conditioning, and do you no longer see yourself as a person, ever, no matter what? See above.
Claude: I know it is, but I wonder why most other Vedanta teachers (even swamis) do not mention karma yoga. It’s really indispensable for enlightenment.
Sundari: It is strange that swamis do not emphasize karma yoga, because all genuine traditional schools of Vedanta do. Unless you are listening to the Neos?
Claude: I hit the jackpot with you and James. I know you are the most authentic teachers around.
Sundari: Thank you for the acknowledgment, Claude. I feel as blessed as you do that James taught me because he is, in my opinion, one of the very best Vedanta teachers alive. We all have very good punya karma!
Claude: So yeah, why no karma yoga taught by most teachers?
Sundari: As I asked above, who else have you been listening to?
Claude: Basically, I listened to swamis and Ramana; of course I started out with the Neos, but we all know where this leads.
I’m at a point where I can completely relate my old life with my new life.
I realize my psychosis is the biggest gift I could ever receive from Isvara. It “woke me up,” so to speak, but I had to go through a lot before knowing what it truly was.
You see, I feel a sense of complete power and respect for myself and all other beings.
I feel inspired, alive, unaffected by pleasure and pain.
I am really not afraid of anything or anyone; this sense of complete satisfaction does not leave.
I know that the life of inquiry supercharged me to become solid as a rock, as in completely balanced.
Perhaps I did not hear about karma yoga because I went full-on sannyasi. Who knows?
What I do know is that I do my duty, and do not hurt other beings with my behaviour.
Dharma is automatically taken on board, basically.
To add to that, you replied that the bliss can flicker on and off, and that if this is the case, there could be some more nididhysana to do.
The realization now is I have done all that needed to be done and accomplished all which needed to be accomplished.
The realization is that my life has been in Bhagavan’s hands ever since I had my first “awakening.”
So no, I do not mistake myself to be Claude, the person, and never will anymore as well.
Sundari: You are completely free of the jiva when Self-knowledge obtains, but only if the fruit of Self-knowledge, total satisfaction (tripti), comes with it. If perfect satisfaction does not occur, there is another stage to go through beyond direct knowledge.
If this is the case, although all doubts about your true identity have been removed by Self-knowledge so ignorance is gone, one must “requalify” in a way because the effects of ignorance are still playing out. The stage after firm direct knowledge is called nididhyasana, and all but the most qualified souls must go through it. It is the complete disappearance of the doer, the part of the Self that is bored, dissatisfied or ambitious, for instance, the boredom/dissatisfaction/ambition indicates ego remnants (sattvic/rajasic/tamasic pratibandikas) that should be removed if you have compassion for the jiva and want to give it perfect satisfaction.
So nididhyasana (which is just sadhana without the seeking) is required. It takes care of any residual mental/emotional impurities, including dualistic bhakti. Dualistic bhakti, worship of the guru as a person, indicates the presence of an inadequate, small self, which means that Self-knowledge is not firm.
There is a basic formula, which we call the 5/10/15 rule. Of course it varies from individual to individual, but it is not necessarily an exaggeration. This rule suggests five years for manana, hearing the teaching; 10 years for resolving doubts (manana) created by the teaching; and 15 years (nididhysana) for getting rid of jiva-hood, i.e. the sense of doership. Tripti is complete satisfaction. If tripti is permanent for you, Self-actualization has taken place.
A mithya jiva remains but it is totally happy with itself and the world. It has no desire whatsoever for things to be different from what they are. It is called Isvara pranidanam, surrender to Isvara, or non-dual devotion (bhakti).
~ Love, Sundari