Jnana versus Karma

Karma Kanda is the section of the Vedas that lists rituals, ceremonies and actions, which, when performed, lead one to enjoyment and power. On the other hand, Jnana Kanda, comprising the philosophical teachings of the Upanishads, deals with the liberating knowledge and disclaims action as a means of attaining liberation. It would appear that these sections are fundamentally contradictory.

However, there is no contradiction when one notes that these are prescribed according to the qualifications and abilities of the aspirant, says Velukkudi Sri Krishnan in a lecture. Vedic thought is comprehensive and all-inclusive, and provides all with options for spiritual growth. All rituals and ceremonies enjoined in the Vedas are shown to be meaningful as they are founded on dharma and are concerned with the spiritual welfare of human existence.

Sacrifices are prescribed for the common good such as rains at proper seasons to sustain life. There are also yagas that can be performed by individuals for personal gain. Soma yaga confers on an individual the chance to live in the celestial world. Dasaratha performed putrakameshti yaga and gained the status of father. Kings perform Aswamedha yaga to establish their empire. But such continued performance of karma and repeated enjoyment of results do not lead to salvation.

Jnana Kanda concerns three principals — God, world and the Self — and their inter-relationship. Vedanta teaches the Nivritti Marga, or the path of turning away from actions, to arrive at the knowledge of this relationship. This knowledge would redeem one from the cycle of birth and death, and not the karma performed with an eye on material and selfish aims.

Arjuna was ready to renounce the battlefield and take up the path of meditation. Krishna points out that sanyasa and meditation are not easily attained and require tremendous effort. Renunciation is located in the mind and not in the act. It calls for training of the mind and control of the senses. This is not possible when we are driven by our senses and gunas. Acts dedicated to God and done with a detached attitude help to purify the mind and lead to jnana.

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Printable version | Jan 16, 2022 9:58:24 PM |

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