Monday, July 23, 2007


[There was a power breakdown and so some portion in the initial lecture was not available. I am reproducing whatever I listened to]

In the river Thamrabarani at the bathing ghat Sankhani Padithurai, on Vaikasi Visakam, Nammalwar icon is bathed in the center of the river and along with thousands of devotees. Why this bathing ghat got this name? Long ago there was a king Sanku, who mediated. A sage inquired as to why he was meditating and the King’s reply was that he wanted to become one of the Ashta Dik Palaka [the Eight gods guarding the eight directions of this world]. The sage told him that this way he could never achieve his objective and told that he should take the form of a conch [sanku in Tamil] and remain at the place where the river Thamrabarani mingled with the sea during nights and in the day he should come along the river and go around the Sri Adinatha and Sri Polinduninra Piran temple in Alwar Thirunagari. Doing this 1000 times will get him his objective. Sanku did likewise along with many conches. Thus the place got the name Thiru Sankani Padithurai. Nammalwar fame was so great that he was the subject of a discussion among the great Tamil poets Thiruvalluvar, Idaikadar and Avvaiyar. Thiruvaimozhi brought fame to Tamil discovered by Rishi Agastya and to Thirukkural. Nammalwar preached Karma yoga to serve God and His devotees. We will see the 8th sloka of Chapter Three:

niyatam kuru karma tvam
karma jyayo hy akarmanah
sarira-yatrapi ca te
na prasiddhyed akarmanah

"Perform your prescribed duty, as it is better than Gyana yoga. One in Gyana yoga cannot even maintain one’s physical body without work."

Sri Krishna lists yet another reason to practice Karma yoga. Niyatam karma kuru= do duties specified to, tvam= you. Akarmanah= different from Karma i.e. Gyana yoga. Karma jyayo= Karma yoga is better. For those who are incapable of practicing Gyana yoga, Karma yoga is a better recourse. Who are they? We, the ordinary persons. By doing our specified and habituated duties, we perform Karma yoga and that is better than doing Gyana yoga directly. He cites an important reason for this in the second part of the sloka. Akarmanah= by sitting in Gyana yoga, sarira yatrapi ca= even for maintaining the body, na prasiddhyed = is not possible. One can admire the calm atmosphere of the Kshetram and the river and decide to start Gyana yoga directly. But the body has to be maintained and so we have to arrange for timely food. For this one has to work and thereby indulge in righteous earning and work as per shastra and law. This is nothing but Karma yoga. So the substance is that even for a person wanting to practice Gyana yoga, Karma yoga becomes inevitable to maintain the body that is required to do Gyana yoga. We have to perform our shasras accepted duties and earn our livelihood. With the available resources we prepare food, offer it to God and after feeding the deprived and the poor we also consume to keep our body in running condition. This is what Sri Krishna has been telling in all these slokas. This is Karma yoga and continuous practice keeps our mind serene and rajo/ tamo qualities fade and our likes and dislikes are eliminated. This is the step for Gyana yoga. Therefore, direct Gyana yoga will not be possible even to maintain our health. Karma yoga is unavoidable for Gyana yoga but the converse is not true. Arjuna got a doubt here. What if one directly practices Gyana yoga and disregards his health? One may die and let that happen and he can then get atman sakshatkaram after death. Sri Krishna tells that atman sakshatkaram cannot be achieved by mere death. Death will only get the soul swarga [heaven] or naraka [hell] or another birth. To get moksham one should have completed the Gyana yoga. To do that one has to live and for that one has to maintain one’s body by work. In fact, without caring for the body and doing Gyana yoga will tantamount to attempting suicide, which is forbidden by shastras and by law. Arjuna has another doubt. Sri Krishna advises that at least to maintain the soul in the body one has to work. According to shastras, death is determined by one’s fate or vidhi. So, how can one end life by mere not doing anything to keep the body alive? Because keeping alive is not in our hands as this is already determined by fate. Swami Vedantha Desika clarifies this in his Tatparya Chandrika. There are two types of actions or karma: Niyatha karma and aniyatha karma. In niyatha karma, its course, result and effects are all pre-decided. In aniyatha karma such pre-decision is not there and one can make efforts to achieve certain results. For example, in the story of Parikshit, he was destined to die after seven days by a sage. This could not be changed. All are not niyatha karma. Otherwise we will have fatalistic attitudes and we will never go to a doctor for our ailments. There are many which need our efforts and with the blessings of God we can carry them out. We have to maintain our body and health. So Karma yoga is habitual, it cannot be avoided and it is bound to obtain results. Even a gyana yogi cannot avoid Karma yoga.

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