Sarva karma sanyaasa

Sarva karma sanyaasa

We are addressing some of the questions raised in the course of these presentations. One is by Shree Bhaskar in terms of sanyaasa. 


And finally, what your good self explained in the mail pertains to ‘karma phala tyAga’ with ahaMkAra & mamakAra tyAga…But story does not end there, shankara at various places without any ambiguity insists on ‘sarva karma saNyAsa’ too i.e. nivrutti mArga.  If time permits kindly share your thoughts on these two points.  


Here is my perspective on the topic addressed:  

Karma phala tyaaga is what it says – I am renouncing the results of an action – What does that mean or what does that really involve. Let us take an example. I worked very hard for a month and as a result I got paid, the salary that is due to me. Now scripture says I have to practice karma phala thyaaga for my chitta suddhi or for purification of my mind.  Does that involve renouncing my salary? If so, pretty soon I will be on the streets begging for food. In addition, I will be dragging all others who depend on that salary. Obviously that is not what karma phala tyaaga implies. When it says that I have to renounce the results of my action, I can do so only if there is feeling that the results are mine that is there is a mamakaara associated with the results. I cannot definitely renounce that which does not belong to me. There is a famous saying in Telugu – attagari sommu alluDu daanamu cesinaTTu – that is it is like mother-in-laws wealth the son-in-law is readily and freely donating to others. Hence, I have to own it for me to renounce. The salary belongs to me since I worked hard and earned out my sweat; we say. That is our attitude when we perform an action and gets the results of the action.  We think we deserve. By the by, there is a booklet with the title – Serve & Deserve – by Swami Tejomayanandaji glorifying Hanuman who serves without any expectations and returns; hence deserves to be revered as God himself. The essence of the book is – I have to serve in order for me to deserve.  

The renunciation of fruits of the action, therefore, involves a change in the attitude with which I receive the fruits of my actions. In addition, it involves an attitude with which I expend or dispose off the fruits of action. First, the purpose of karma yoga is to prepare my mind for jnana yoga, the very karma has to be done with Iswara arpita buddhi or an action performed with an attitude of offering to the Lord. Lord will accept only if it is offered with devotion – yat karoshi yadaShNaati .. tat kuruShva madarpanam – whatever you do, eat etc offer it to Me – says Krishna. Before that He says,- I will accept whatever you offer – patram, pushpam, phalam, toyam, yo me bhktyaa prayacchasi– who ever offers me a leaf, a flower, a fruit or even little water, I will accept it if it is offered with devotion. Therefore it is not what I offer but with what attitude I offer counts.  

Since the Lord is everywhere, including in the field of action that I am involved, in order for me to offer the action to the Lord, the action should be offer-worthy. That means first it should be 1) dhaarmic action, and 2) complete action, well executed to the best of my ability, taking into consideration all the factors that go into the action. Dhaarmic actions could be those that are obligatory; that is obligatory because of my status in the family, in the society, in the organization that I am involved or actions that are done for the benefit of society at large. We say Lord is omnipresent, that is present everywhere or there is no place where He is not. However, when I recognize this fact and recognize His presence in every field of action or set-up that I am involved, I cannot but be a devotee all the time. Hence I am not a devotee only in the temple; I have to be a full-time devotee, if and when I recognize the truth of the statement that He is omnipresent. That is jnaana part of the karma yoga, that is, the recognition of His presence everywhere, in every field of action.  

Hence karma yoga involves performing all obligatory actions while remaining as a full time devotee of the Lord. Hence as a father I am a devotee + a father thus becoming a devoted father, as a husband I become devoted husband, similarly devoted wife, devoted son/daughter, devoted student/teacher, devoted employee/employer, devoted citizen; thus the seal of devotion goes with every action, since in every action He is there. Hence Krishna says yogaH karmasu koushalam – the dexterity in action becomes a norm for a karma yogi. This is what is involved in offering action as a prayer to the Lord, as a devotee. All the obligatory actions become the best that I can perform with as much of perfection as possible. In that perfection, the Lord Himself manifests in the action or the action itself becomes an inspired action. The second aspect is to recognize that Lord is karma phala daata – the one who gives the results for the action taking into consideration innumerable factors that are involved in framing the results. Let us take a simple action of throwing a stone. Once I throw a stone or once throwing action is completed, the trajectory of the stone does not depend any more on me but on the gravitational laws, frictional laws etc which are authored by Him. In addition, other factors can come in, such as someone or something coming in between the stone and the target thereby undermining the result of the intended action, for which I have no control. Hence all those factors that I have no control in formulating the results of the action are together called daivam, discussed in 18th Ch. of Gita. In essence, the results for my action come from Him and I have no control on the result. Another way of looking at this is, I can only perform an action in the present and the result is always is future to the action and I have no control on the future. Hence Krishna’s statement – karmani eva adhikaaraste; maaphaleshu kadaachana – to be translated as, one has only choice in action but not in the results of the action. I cannot will the result of an action. Thus I have recognized His presence in the set up and perform the action as best as I can and offer the action with devotion as a prayer to the Lord. Since the result of action comes from Him, I accept the result as prasaadam (I do not know an equivalent word in English) that is with reverential attitude, since it comes from Him. This means there is no mamakaara in the result when I accept the result as His prasadam. I have no attachment to the result. Next when someone offers as Lord’s prasaadam my attitude in receiving it is an attitude of reverence, since it comes from Him. Irrespective of whether it is a sweet, hot or bitter; food, flower, or water, I accept it without questioning why or why not –thus only with a reverential attitude without any likes and dislikes superimposed on it. Thus the result is accepted without a reaction. If the result is not what I wanted, then I learn from the result and formulate or refine the next course of action and perform with greater skill which again is offered to the Lord as kaikaryam or as a prayer. Krishna says when everyone performs their allotted action cooperatively for the benefit of the totality, it forms a yagna and the gods which are deities of the phenomenal forces have to shower the results when they are pleased by the action (that is when the action is perfect). Thus we please the gods in performing our action in unison cooperatively, and gods have to please us by giving proper results; and we perform again thus setting the eternal wheel of action and results. In the cooperative action, I have to share the results with those who participated in the yago of action, in proportion to the input. That is the wheel of dharma set into eternal motion- says Krishna. In essence the karma phala tyaaga involves 1. performace of action as a duty (which is called service) and accepting the result as prasaadam – without reaction other than a reverential attitude. In the process mamakaara or notion that this is mine goes away – What I have is His gift and what I do with what I have is my gift to Him- says Gurudev Swami Chinmayanandaji – this continuous exchange of gifts forms dhaarmic wheel of action set forth by the creator himself in the beginning of creation, says Krishna. This is the essence of karma phala tyaagam. In the process, from the result, I utilize part of it for my and for my family needs, and the rest I put back into the field of action for the benefit of the totality. Thus whatever I have is His gift and that has to be properly utilized giving back to the totality or to the Lord Himself as my gift, after taking care of my needs as well as those who depend on me. Living within that frame of mind will purify the mind and prepare it for the jnaana yoga.  

The next level of understanding comes with jnaana where I understand that I am not ever a doer to have the result. Here there is no karma phala tyaaga since karma itself does not belong to me. It is clear understanding that I am never a doer to begin with. This understanding comes with jnaana where I understand that I am akarthaa – in spite of actions being done by the body, mind and intellect, BMI. This understanding comes only when I recognize that they (BMI) are in me and I am not in them. They are part of prakRiti which is my lower nature. My true nature is I am pure existence-consciousness-limitless. I pervade this entire universe of beings and objects in an unmanifested form –

maya tatam idam sarvam jagat avyakta muurtinaa,

mastaani sarva bhuutani na ca aham teshu avasthitaH| says Krishna.

I pervade this entire universe in unmanifested form. In Me only all beings are there, but yet I am not in any of them. When jnaani understands that I am that – tat tvam asi- any claims that I am doer gets transcended in that understanding – He may scream with ecstasy – akartaaham abhoktaaham ahameva ahamavyayaH – I am neither doer nor enjoyer, I am that I am eternal and inexhaustible.  When that understanding sinks in, I recognize that BMI belongs to the prakRiti which is nothing but maayaa only – maayantu prakRitim viddhyaat says swetasvatara Up. I recognize that  I am pure saakshii and prakRiti becomes dynamic in my presence and performs an action and Sat-chit-ananda that I am is never get affected by the actions or inactions of the prakRiti. Krishna says: prakRiti eva ca karmaaNi kriyamaanaani sarvaShaH|,

yaH pasyati tat aatmaanam akartaaram sa pasyati||

– All actions are done by prakRiti alone and who ever recognizes that I am never a doer – he alone sees the truth. Hence jnaani understands that actions do not belong to him but to prakRiti but that prakRiti acts in his presence only. He remains akarthaa or non-doer in spite of any action that is being done in his presence. Krishna discusses action, inaction and unaction exhaustively in Ch. 4 saying that many have misconceptions about it.   

With this understanding we can look at the question – what does the sarva karma sanyaasa – renunciation of all actions implies. This cannot be done by giving up the action as Krishna discusses in the 18th Ch. Gita. He starts the gitopadesha with the statement that no one can remain even for a second without performing an action. If so, how can I give up an action. However if I understand correctly that I am never an actor in spite of the action that is being done at BMI level, then I have – as though – renounced any notion that I am actor – that forms the essence of sarva karma sanyaasa – giving up all the actions without any exception. Hence the statement essentially means there is no more kartRitva bhaavam, that is the notion that I am doer is gone in the awakening of the knowledge that I am pure saakshii swaruupam. Clear understanding of this fact is sarva karma sanyaasa. It is essentially renouncing the wrong notions that I am doer and therefore I have give up the doing. If I am never a doer, where is there then to give up. Therefore karma sanyaasa should imply I am renouncing the notion that I am a doer. That can happen only when I understand the fact that I am pure sat-chit-ananda swaruupa. Hence Krishna says:

naivakinchit karomiiti yukto manyeta tattavavit|

pasyanshRinvanspRishan jigran ashnan gacchanswapansvasan||

pralayan visRijan gRahanan unmiShannimiShannapi|

indriyanindriyaartheShu vartanta iti dharayan||

All activities are being done by the senses as they are programmed and jnaani understands that he is never a doer –Krishna lists all the activities at BMI level as being performed by the prakRiti itself.  

That understanding is sarva karma sanyaasa – it is not really renouncing actions that I never do but renouncing the notion that I am doer. Notions will get removed only in the awakening of the knowledge.  

Hari Om!


Leave a Reply