Chapter 3 – The karma yOga or the Path of Works

SrI:  SrImathE SatakOpAya nama:  SrImathE rAmAnujAya nama:  SrImath varavaramunayE nama:


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ramanujar-4-formsbhagavath rAmAnuja at AzhwArthirunagari, SrIperumbUthUr, SrIrangam and thirunArAyaNapuram











The purpose of this work, Gītā, is to make an exposition of that one-pointed and perfect Loving Faith or Devotion (Bhakti) to that Parabrahma[1. The Great, par excellence, the 669th name of God.] and Purushottama[2. ‘The Super-excellent Person’, the 24th name of God, (vide also, Pātañjala Yoga-Sūtra I.24, (which says purusha-viśesḥ) – Purusha is the common term to denote a thinking substance from an unthinking substance. Utpurusha=bound soul; uttara-purusha=liberated soul, uttama-purusha=the ever-free soul; Purushottama=Soul Supreme=God.], Who is proclaimed in the Vedāntas[3. Lit: The Ends of the Vedas teaching spiritual knowledge.] as the Goal to be reached by the Moksha-aspirers, -Who is proclaimed by the Vedāntas as the Destitute of all the defiling taints such as a-vidya (nescience), and the Possessed of boundless and matchless myriad Attributes of Glory. This Bhakti, -the Means leading to Divinity- is variously known as Vedana, Upāsana, Dhyāna etc. In order to achieve this Bhakti, the realizing of the nature of one’s own ātmā, is a necessary preliminary step. Ātmā-vision or realization is, realizing ātmā’s nature, as declared in the (Veda-) Sentences of Prajāpati thus:-
‘That ātmā, who is devoid of sin etc.’[4. ‘Ya ātma apahata-pāpmā’, etc., Cḥḥ: Up: VIII-7-1.]
1. That this ātmā-vision is to be achieved by jñāna-yoga[5. This represents the sthita-prajñatā, or intuitive wisdom or knowledge or spiritual consciousness referred to in verses 54 to 68, Second Lecture. The wisdom or sthita-prajñatā, is the superior illumination, or super-sensuous consciousness, or intuition produced by Yoga-practice; vide my Three Lectures on “Inspiration, etc.”. Will-concentration is ripened wisdom; this is a spiritual illumination of the mind which sets in before ātmā is realised. It may be called intuition. (sthita-prajñatā) See verse II-39.], (2) that jñāna-yoga is generated by performance of work without attachment (karma-yoga) and (3) that this method of work is based on the knowledge that ātmā is eternal (etc.,) are subjects dealt with already (in the Second Lecture).
In the treatment of Para-vidyā (or the Divine art of reaching the Divine), the method of meditation (upāsana or Bhakti) Divine, known as the dahara-vidyā[6. There are chiefly 32 vidyās or Modes of Meditation, a list of which is attached at end of Lecture 3.] (or the method of bhakti or meditation by which to realize God in the etheric region of the heart), -comprised in the utterances of Prajāpati, -the realization of ātmā-nature by the God-seeker, as the first ancillary step to realization of the Divinity itself, is with reference to this ātmā-realization, in such passages as:-
“Who, understanding that ātmā, contemplates it etc.,”[7. ‘Yas tvam ātmānam anuvidya vijānāti’ Chh: Up: VIII-7-1. The translation is as per Ranga Rāmānuja’s commentary.]
And then, the incorporeal or immaterial nature of pratyag-ātmā (soul), and its nature transcending the states of waking, dreaming and sleep, is declared; and lastly the subject of the dahara-vidyā is closed by declaring the fruit of its practice thus:-
“Thus does this peaceful ātmā (samprasādo), emerging out of this body, and attaining the Ineffable Light (Param jyotiḥ), shines in its natural (or native) effulgence.”
Elsewhere also (ie., in Upanishads other than the Chhāndogya, from which the above citations are made) the subject is similarly dealt with, for example, in such passages of Para-vidyā as:-
‘By knowing the Deva (Paramātma) through the discriminative ātmā-knowledge, the bold man (sage) shakes off joy and grief.’[8. ‘Adhyatma-yog-ādhigamena Devam matvā dhīro harsha-Śokau jahāti.’ Kat: Up: II-12. adhigama is knowledge, or consciousness. Yogā is concentration. Adhyātmā-yog-ādhigama is knowledge of ātmā obtained by concentration, a knowledge discriminating between chit, achit and Īśvara. (Īśvara is the term which, in preference, Rāmānuja uses to denote God, in all his philosophical discussions; Chit being used for individual soul, meaning ‘sentient or intelligent or conscious’, and A-chit for matter or that which is not sentient, not intelligent, not conscious’. A-chit, chit and Īśvara thus constitute the tatva-traya, or the Three Verieties, or the Three necessary Postulates of Existence. Also, Īśvara or the all-perfect Lord is Parabrahm Itself in the Viśhisḥtādvaita literature, not the Lower Brahm of the Advaita as distinguished from the Higher Brahm. The Vedānta-Sūtras make no such distinctions (vide: G. Thebaut’s Vedanta Sutras).)] ‘Knowing the Deva’ indicates the Goal, and ‘through discriminative ātmā-knowledge’ indicates the ātmā-knowledge as the constituent member of the Paravidyā. (So the passage points out that Soul-knowledge is a necessary preliminary step to God-knowledge). After postulating, thus, the necessity of ātmā-knowledge, the nature of ātmā is next inquired into by such clauses as:-
‘The intelligent ātmā is neither born nor dies’[9. ‘Najāyate mṛiyate vā vipaśchit.’ Kat: Up: II-18.]
Then beginning from:
‘The minutose than the minute’[10. ‘Anor-aṇīyān.’ Kath: Up: II-20], and affirming:-
‘By knowing the Magnificent, All-pervading Ātmā (God) the bold man (sage) does no more grieve’[11. ‘Mahāntam vibhum ātmānam matvā dhīro na śochati.’ Kat: Up: II-22.]:- thus showing the nature of Param-ātmā (God) and the result of Pratyag-ātmā (soul) attaining Param-ātmā, the passage:
“This (Param)-ātmā or the Soul of all (i.e., All-pervading Being) is not attainable (merely) by means of much hearing (about Him, i.e., by means of much Scriptural erudition) nor (merely) by means of well (i.e., thoughtfully) discoursing (on Him), nor (merely) by means of the fixing (of Him) in the intellect; He is attainable by him alone whom He elects (or makes choice of)[12. Cf. the expression:- “Many be called, but few chosen” Matt: 20-16, and “For many are called but few are chosen” Matt: 22-14.]. To him (whom by an act of sovereign Grace, He thus elects), the Soul (of all), -discovers His essence (i.e., reveals Himself)”[13. The translation is by Yogi S. Pārthasārathi Aiyangār. Original is ‘Nāyam Ātmā pravachanena labhyo, na medhayā na bahunā śrutena yam evaisha vṛiṇute tena labhyas tasyaisha Ātmā vivṛiṇute tanūm svām’. Kath: Up: II-23. This passage occurs also in Mund: Up: III-2-3.] and so on, (the Kathopanishat) discusses the nature of Param-ātmā, the means or meditation (upāsana) by which to attain Him, and shows that the meditation is of the form of Loving Devotion (bhakti-rāpatā). And finally, the fruit of devotion is stated thus:- ’That man who has discriminative knowledge[14. Discriminatory knowledge of the natures of chit, achit and Īśvara (vide earlier note.)] as his charioteer, and who has the reins of his mind (in his hand), reaches the end of the journey, viz: the supreme state of Vishṇu (the All-pervader)[15. ‘Vijñāna-sārathir yas tu manaḥ pragrahavān naraḥ, sodhvanaḥ-pāram āpnoti tad visnoḥ paramam padam.’ Kat: Up: III-9.].’
(This being the purpose of the Gita), the next Four Lectures (Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth), deal with the subject of the postulant (or aspirant) Pratyag-ātmā’s cognition or realization, and the Means or Method (viz., Meditation) by which to realize it.

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