A rambling note on the origins of the ideology of karmayoga

Karmayoga is a much abused concept these days,nowadays people think that it is doing whatever job one’s bosses or political superiors assign to them perfectly and  chores)pleasingly(or even daily. Or sometimes school students are told that their studying hard and getting good grades means they are good karmayogis, but no,it means nothing like that. This idea had its origins amongst(specifically) shuklayajurvaidika circles(as noted in the 2nd mantra of the ishopanishad). Karmayoga means doing one’s nitya and naimittika karmas and yAgas as laid down in the smArta systems as appropriate to one’s varNa while dedicating all its puNyas and other results to the supreme deity of whatever system your ideal is:vAsudeva,shiva,etc. In fact,this was probably the ideology of an old set of ritualists who later became the one of the groups that went into the formation of pA~NcharAtra:The mantrasiddhAntins are a group of brAhmaNas belonging to the kANva and mAdhyadina shAkhAs of the shuklayajurveda,who are supposed to meditate on vAsudeva as they are doing somayAga and dedicate their fruits to him. It is this strain of ritualist thought that found its expression in the karmayoga idea of the Gita(which,textually speaking is belonging to an old sAtavata esque strain of thought in ancient India). And of course,the other tendency of ancient Hindu thought to homologize all actions as ritual:even sex,would mean ending up in an Aurobindo-esque ‘All life is yoga.’ conclusion.

 

Above are verses from the charyapAda of the pAdmasaMhitA which note that the followers of mantrasiddhAnta do contemplation of vAsudeva with trayimantras(vedamantras),associated with the kANva and mAdhyadina shAkhAs,and thee brAhmaNas worship vAsudeva while performing somayAga. This was the original ideal of karmayoga,historically speaking.

An end (semi) rant: The vyAdha gItA has been completely hopelessly ripped out of its original context to a society which is scarcely little like anything that would have supported the historical-cum-mythical vyAdha.

An involutionary scheme(which yudhiSThira underwent according to the bhAgavata purANa)

The scheme of involution(a vaiSNavized sAGkhya scheme,it may be called) runs like this(1st skandha,15th adhyaya,shlokas 41-42)

  1. speech+other sense organs
  2. manas
  3. prANa
  4. apAna
  5. mRtyu(deity of anus)
  6. 5 bhUtas
  7. 3 guNas
  8. singular avidyA
  9. jiva
  10. brahman(identified as nArAyaNa/viShNupAda a few lines later)

Another place where sAGkhya appears in the bhAgavata purANa is in the 3rd skandha

https://bhargavabhashana.wordpress.com/2017/07/16/creation-as-per-srimad-bhagavatam-3-26/

 

 

Some mentalities

Some mentalities like the one mentioned in this section(page 71 of the PDF document) of the Laghu Yoga Vasiṣṭha set in stably only when the vāsanās favourable to generating that state of mind set in. They can be generated in various ways,like:

  • This meditation on various parts of the body(pages 44 to 50 of the document)(after completing the preliminaries to do that sort of meditation) in the Nāstika Theravāda tradition
  • Bhagavad Nāmasmaraṇa(after leading a life with moderation and control in senses)(uninterrupted rememberance/repitition of the names of various deities like Viṣṇu,Kṛṣṇa,Śiva,etc). In this light,the advice of Rūpa Gosvāmīn in the Upadeśāmṛta is helpful(quoting from Prabhupada’s translation)

 

vāco vegaṁ manasaḥ krodha-vegaṁ
jihvā-vegam udaropastha-vegam
 etān vegān yo viṣaheta dhīraḥ
sarvām apīmāṁ pṛthivīṁ sa śiṣyāt
A sober person who can tolerate the urge to speak, the mind’s demands, the actions of anger and the urges of the tongue, belly and genitals is qualified to make disciples all over the world.
atyāhāraḥ prayāsaś ca
prajalpo niyamāgrahaḥ
jana-saṅgaś ca laulyaṁ ca
ṣaḍbhir bhaktir vinaśyati
One’s devotional service is spoiled when he becomes too entangled in the following six activities: (1) eating more than necessary or collecting more funds than required; (2) overendeavoring for mundane things that are very difficult to obtain; (3) talking unnecessarily about mundane subject matters; (4) Practicing the scriptural rules and regulations only for the sake of following them and not for the sake of spiritual advancement, or rejecting the rules and regulations of the scriptures and working independently or whimsically; (5) associating with worldly-minded persons who are not interested in devotionalism; and (6) being greedy for mundane achievements.
utsāhān niścayād dhairyāt
tat-tat-karma-pravartanāt
saṅga-tyāgāt sato vṛtteḥ
ṣaḍbhir bhaktiḥ prasidhyati
There are six principles favorable to the execution of pure devotional service: (1) being enthusiastic, (2) endeavoring with confidence, (3) being patient, (4) acting according to regulative principles [such as śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥsmaraṇam [SB 7.5.23]—hearing, chanting and remembering Kṛṣṇa], (5) abandoning the association of nondevotees, and (6) following in the footsteps of the previous ācāryas. These six principles undoubtedly assure the complete success of pure devotional service.
Of course in the course of practicing devotional service as mentioned above,that vāsanā automatically sets in as a consequence of the bhava towards the deity.
So,insights like these are of a ‘yogic’ class,and do not remain stable/hardly arise in one who is not inclined to any form of yoga(hence,the reason you don’t find many anatomy students/professors becoming renunciants),and have to be cultivated and strengthened as we practice yoga.

 

 

Defending the identity of yoga, Kumarila style( with homage to Ganganath Jha )

iti dattātreyayogaśāstre –

brāhmaṇaḥ śramaṇo’ vapy bauddho vāpy ārhato’thavā|kapāliko vā cārvākaḥ śraddhayā sahitaḥ sudhiḥ||yogābhyāsarato nityaṃ sarvasiddhimavāpnuyāt|

(Whether a Brahmin,an ascetic,a Jain or a Buddhist or a Kapālika or a Cārvāka materialist,the wise man who is endowed with faith and constantly devoted to the practice of yoga will obtain complete success)

“The statement that a brāhmaṇa, kapālika, bauddha and jaina can achieve success by yoga is to be understood thus. Surely, we cannot interpret kapālika, bauddhādi terms as referring to those who practice the tenets of that school in that entirety. For yoga emphasizes self-restraint and bhūtadayā in one’s acts and the kapālika, if he continues to practice the kapālika dharma fully, he will contravene these precepts of yoga and will not achieve success. Hence, it refers only to practices which are not in contradiction with the precepts of yoga and the dharma of the veda since the sūtrakāra of the yoga siddhānta (pātañjali) accepts veda as pramāṇa. Or, some understand that verse in this manner too, which is not really different from the previous meaning. The śramana and jaina; what they seek to achieve by torturing their bodies, the freedom from karma, they can achieve by practicing yoga. The kapālika, without resorting to any of the fierce acts prescribed for him, can attain union with rudra by practice of this yoga. The brāhmaṇa, unable to exhaust the repository of the vedas, by means of yoga with hiraṇyagarbha, attains the fruit of realizing the whole veda without doing all the karma in the Veda. This is what is meant by success. To each, his desired fruit is granted. In this way, there will be no contradiction. If it be argued that a kristu-panthin can practice yoga as he too wishes to attain Union with that deva, we reject it. A kristu-vādin cannot practice yoga as the devata he worships does not tolerate his pronouncing the names of other devas,let alone revering them. His mata is fundamentally a mata of dveṣa not kṛpā, let alone prema(even if it masquerades and sells itself as one such mata), as demonstrated by the vaiśya-cūḍāmaṇi and his beloved disciple, and the warnings of hypocrisy in the next verses apply to them in the context of our times most appropriately.The acceptance of pātañjali as ācārya, shraddhā in om(praṇava) as sacred sound, faith in the śruti and hiraṇyagarbha are all precluded for him. Hence, for him, there is no success in this path. If it be argued that the bauddha too rejects the veda, we reply that the bauddhas either have to accept that the Veda has limited application (they already do that to some extent in the Mañjuśrīmūlakalpa in their vulgar Sanskrit “eṣa mantro mahābrahmā bodhisattvena … ābhicārukeṣu sarveṣu athavo* ceda paṭhyate ।”),and the pāñcarātrins and śaivas do not reject the Veda but merely state that their own śāstras are viśeṣa, or they have to renounce bauddham and accept the veda wholeheartedly. Thus, this argument too is rejected. Our original interpretation stands. What we said for the kristu-panthin, the same for the mahāmāda-panthin.”

If it be the second alternative, it is to be understood that the terms, ‘brāhmaṇa, bauddha, kapālika, etc’ in the shloka merely point to the status of the person at the time he is about to take up yoga. In the cases of bauddhakapālikādi, there is a renunciation of their formerly held beliefs. The bauddha, if he previously rejected the pramāṇatvam of the veda or ascribed sinful motives to the Veda, stops doing that when he takes up yoga. The kapālika gives up the idea that union with rudra is achieved by doing censureable acts. Hence, the śloka, of the second alternative is adopted, would mean that all persons, regardless of what doctrine they previously followed, would attain success when they take up yoga and act in accordance with the rules therein.

(Slightly modified with credits to @Ghorangirasa.)