Karma & Gyan

joejo's picture

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Work and Wisdom are the two fold expressions of intelligence but Sankara holds that role of actions is merely purification and there can be no combination of action and knowledge for the former is done by person in ignorance and for following path of knowledge renunciation is necessary.

Whereas IMO Gita does not expound this view of Sankara

Gita 18.5 & 18.6

na tyājyaḿ kāryam eva tat
yajño dānaḿ tapaś caiva
pāvanāni manīṣiṇām

Acts of sacrifice, charity and penance are not to be given up; they must be performed. Indeed, sacrifice, charity and penance purify even the great souls.

etāny api tu karmāṇi
sańgaḿ tyaktvā phalāni ca
kartavyānīti me pārtha
niścitaḿ matam uttamam

All these activities should be performed without attachment or any expectation of result. They should be performed as a matter of duty, O son of Pritha. That is My final opinion.

However, in all fairness Shankara has said

Just as chopping wood is the indirect cause and fire the direct cause of cooking, spiritual practice is the indirect cause and Self- knowledge the direct cause of liberation." (2)

"Action cannot remove ignorance for they are not opposed. Self-Knowledge removes it as light removes darkness." (3)

Both taken from

Shankara in his commentary on Gita has robustly presented his view. One reference given below commentary 2.10


But we need to act to live has been effectively dealt with by Lord Krishna himself in 4.21 wherein he says in the second part of the verse (sloka) that for doing actions for the bare maintenance of the body one does not incur sin. This is spoken of in connection with a renunciate as the preceding part says one who is without hope and having renounced all undertaking.

It is not that Gita does not extol a man of renunciation and the one following the path of knowledge or as Gita puts it Sankhya. This "Sankhya" of Gita has probably nothing to do with Sankhya as one of the six system of Indian Philosophy. Yoga of Patanjali is based on Sankhya philosophy of sage Kapila who was the founder and it's methods do not find favour with Vedanta Philosophy as Self being of its very nature Pure and unsullied no action is needed to achieve it since it forms the very basis of the Individual. Patanjali has given his system in Yoga Sutras and the aim is stated in the very second sutra or aphorism as yogash chitta vritti nirodhah ||2||
योगश्चित्तवृत्तिनिरोधः ॥२॥

The cosmology too of Vedanta and Sankhya differ slightly.
According to Vedanta Ignorance could be defined as 'I am the body' idea.
Ignorance has been explained by an example of rope and snake.

This example originates from the commentaries of GauDapaada on the MaaNDuukya upanishhad. Seeing a rope in the dark, it is mistaken for a snake - an error or adhyaasa. We mistakenly superimpose the image of an illusory snake onto the real rope. In just such a way we superimpose the illusion of objects etc. upon the one aatman.

For details the link is given below:-


Renunciation logically would be giving up this idea that 'I am a body'. However, if a person does not Identify himself with the body then the worldly pursuits hold no meaning. Renunciation would then be the logical step. He would go to a Teacher and in accordance with tradition learn the essentials.

True Understanding brings about appropriate response. In the example of snake and rope the knowledge that it is a rope and not a snake puts to rest all fears and physiological reactions.

In short the problems caused by Ignorance can only be removed by Knowledge. Actions for furthering ones self interest in the world and other pursuits for the pleasure arise because we consider ourselves to be the body. Hence, renunciation of 'I am the body' idea amounts to giving up all actions. This is the Vedantic view