It is impossible for the karma yogi to practise Jnana Yoga


Now what would that situation be in the case of one who saw the Supreme Self in Molotov?  Well, one example is given which is familiar perhaps more to people in the East.  In some tropical diseases, they can go into a delirium and sometimes they can become extremely violent.  They have the impression that they’re being attacked, and people who are strong or who have some technique are deputed to control them in an emergency.  In those cases it can be almost like a wild beast and you can be punched in the face and kicked, and force or skill has to be used to control them. It has to be used.  But the man who is doing this knows and sees within the wild beast a noble human being who is temporarily covered over by a delirium.  The wild beast has to be met and has to be controlled, but it doesn’t mean that he believes that the nature of what is there is that of a wild beast.  Our teacher used to give some examples: it didn’t mean to see the Lord in everyone, it didn’t mean simply to fall in with them as they were.  Our teacher sometimes pointed this out.  Christ was by no means always meek – he was quite capable of telling his critics that they were liars, children of the devil, because of their pride and arrogance. 

So the process after realisation – Shankara says the typical case – is that he begins to retire from action.  But our teacher, and Shankara in seven places, pointed out that there are cases where he is involved in action when this vision comes to him, and that he then continues in that action, but on a different basis.  Shankara says that it’s impossible for the karma yogi to practice Jnana Yoga – quite impossible.  He says this very strongly, for instance in chapter 10.  But our teacher was a very faithful follower of Shri Shankara and therefore anything that he said about the two paths being pursued together was only tentative.  We can see that the Gita itself presents the two paths together.  Sometimes in verse following verse but what Shankara is saying is that to pursue the path of Jnana Yoga the person must have the vision of the Self and then it will not be for him to adopt the position of being separate from the Lord – he has seen already the true Self. 

In the same way he defines Karma Yoga in chapter 12 as two elements.  He says it’s samadhi on the universal Form which has been shown in chapter 11 and it’s works for the sake of the Lord. He gives two elements there; but we’re expected to fill in the third one – the patient endurance of opposites.  He says this is not for those who have realised the true Self – they’re working in a different way.  They are simply confirming their vision of the true Self.  They’re not working in Karma Yoga and when they do works it’s on a different basis.  The karma yogi is doing works to purify the mind, and as a worship of God; but the jnana yogi is doing works – he has nothing that he needs to do – for the protection of the world and to set a good example to the world.

The process by which the Karma Yoga elements are changed into the corresponding elements of one who sees the Self and who is practicing Jnana Yoga in order to attain liberation – as Shri Shankara repeatedly says, the patient endurance of the opposites becomes that he is no longer afflicted by them at all.  Shankara says in chapter 18 for instance that the Samkhya will not feel any pain in the Self as a result of any changes, because all changes take place in the field and he is the witness of the field. Shankara explains that impressions of the past can sometimes rise and, although they’re known to be illusory, they can affect us.

Various examples are given, but one that is familiar in the East is that a man who’s had a drug (we would say a man who’s drunk) comes in at night and he throws himself down on the bed.  He feels a convulsion underneath it and thinks it’s a snake.  The force of his body has killed the snake, but he’s scratched his hand in jumping up and in his intoxicated state he thinks the snake has bitten him and then he begins to feel intense pain.  When the doctor is called, he sees that this is no snake-bite, but the man is intoxicated, he’s certain.  He says, “I can feel the pain – it’s terrible.”  The doctor doesn’t say, “Oh, nonsense!”   He says, “Well we’ve got it in time, he only just grazed you.  I’ll do this…” and he applies some foot ointment, or something like that.  He says, “It will take time, but it will go down gradually.”  Some of them take it up by stages – they say, “The pain in the whole arm, then it will clear from here, and here.”  And they actually feel the pain clearing up.  This is quite a well-known remedy, it been recorded in a number of books.  The doctor’s action is on a different basis.  His action is in accordance with the beliefs of the people of the world who are acting themselves.

The Gita says that he should perform his actions in the same way as they perform their actions.  An example is given, like parents playing the kind of games with their children where you win counters.  The parents play very seriously, so do the children, but the basis is entirely different.  The children actually think they gaining something; they think they’re getting rich as the counters pile up, or they get very depressed as they begin to lose all their counters.  The parents have the same experience and they play in the same way, but the basis is entirely different.  This example is given of what is technically called lila under which the temporary limitations are taken as real for the time being and the game is enjoyed.

© Trevor Leggett

This series of talks:
Section 1: The Transformation of Karma Yoga

Section 2: Janaka had samyag darshana – right vision of the Self

Section 3: Karma Yoga has the three elements and they’re based on the buddhi

Section 4: It is impossible for the karma yogi to practise Jnana Yoga

Section 5 :A flash of God-vision is affirmed by meditation on the Self

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