Pravritti and Nivritti

Published - May 15, 2019 09:55 pm IST

The Bhagavad Gita is called Smriti Prasthana as it is part of the Mahabharata. Smritis derive their teaching from Sruti, the Vedas and the Upanishads, believed to be the source of all esoteric and metaphysical knowledge. So Sruti is revealed scripture, unlike Smriti that teaches the essence of the Vedas through divine incarnations, sages, etc.

In the section on Karma Yoga, when Krishna explains the path of karma, Arjuna has many doubts about the relative efficacy of Karma and Jnana. Adi Sankara’s Gita Bashya provides precise clarifications on such issues when the nuances of Vedic karma and dharma that people are expected to uphold with faith at all costs are clearly explained, pointed out Nannilam Sri V. Rajagopala Ganapadigal in a discourse. The Vedas have ordained two paths, Pravritti and Nivritti, to guide the active life of people, both as an individual pursuing spiritual goal and as a member in a social set up. Both paths are meant to lead to salvation. Pravritti dharma entails one to follow the worldly path and seek salvation, while Nivritti dharma is rooted in renunciation of the worldly aims. Both are meant to serve the needs of people born with inherent tendencies to either lead a life of action or of contemplation.

In other words, Pravritti pertains to ‘ashrama’ dharma and is the path shown by sages Marichi, Atri, Angiras and others. Nivritti is the path of renunciation and the jnana marga that the Sanatkumara sages exemplify. Those upholding Pravritti marga have been created to lead life to propagate the race; but still they lead disciplined lives and realise God by discharging the ordained duties in a detached and selfless manner without any personal gain or expectation. It is shown that Karma by itself cannot lead to salvation; but in the process of doing one’s karma one attains chitta suddhi and gains jnana by which he is likely to attain salvation.

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