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Upadesa Saram - Action and Knowledge

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Action & Knowledge


In Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna says karma Anubhandheenimanushya loke – that this world of humans in bound by Karma i.e actions.

Krishna says in Gita

Na me partha asthi karthavyam trishu lokeshu kinchana
Na anavaaptam avaaptavyam vartha eva cha karmaani 3-22

O Arjuna, I have no duties, not even little, in all the three worlds because I have nothing to be attained which I have not got now. But still I remain amidst action.

Karmanyevaadhikaarasthe ma phaleshu kadaachana
Ma karma phala hetur bhoor ma te sangotsa vikarmani 2-47

O Arjuna, you have right only to perform action and not to the fruit of the action. Do works without any expectation of the results, but still don’t get attached to inaction.

Thus, this human body will be doing work & nobody can stop it. Thus work or actions will continue. But the liberty from the individual is whether he wants to remain attached to the actions or whether he wants to remain detached to the actions. When the individual is attached to the actions, the pure Self is being identified wrongly with the Ego. This identification causes the Ego to suffer & because a person identifies himself with the Ego, he seems to suffer and cries. But in Reality, the person or the pure Consciousness is not at all affected by any actions because actions cannot touch the Self as the Self is beyond all actions. The Self is that which gives these illusory actions light. These illusory actions are like water seen in desert – neither do the objects exist nor do the actions. Even the Ego has no existence because Ego exists only when there are external objects, but when there is only one Self, one without a second, where does external objects appear & hence there is no Ego.

Thus wrong knowledge is the cause of this Ego and the sufferings arising out of this Ego.

But when a person realizes this Reality, then the world becomes a mere drama and the actor understands that this is only an illusion and not a Reality. Thus, he gets detached to the actions and the fruits of those actions. When a person is detached to the actions and its fruits, whether good is happening or bad is happening, he remains the same. This is real nature of the Self & only in this case, the person remains in his natural state of Consciousness.

As he is remaining in his natural state, he rejoices in the Bliss of the Self – he thus realizes that the objects that are seen are only the Self & not different from it. Thus, due to detachment from the action and its fruits, the person realizes his own real nature & thereby attains liberation from the illusory actions and the world.

Actions arise out of desires & desires arise out of ignorance.
When a person doesn’t know that he is perfect, he desires to be perfect. This desire is to be satisfied or gratified & hence this turns into actions. Actions are done & to maintain the state of temporary happiness (gained from these actions), the person has to do more actions. Thus actions again tempt the person to desire more & more actions continue. This cycle continues endlessly.

Thus Manu says in Manu Smriti that to remove desire by enjoying them is like pouring ghee into fire to kill the fire!!!!

This ignorance can be removed only through knowledge about oneself. This knowledge is termed as Atma Vidya or Brahma Vidya.

The ritualistic people are termed as Mimamsakaas – people who strongly believe that rituals alone give ultimate Bliss & that these rituals are in themselves efficient to give happiness & that these rituals don’t need any external God for their fruits. Thus these were non-believers of God. They fully believed in the Vedas. The Vedas have two parts – Karma Kanda or ritualistic portion and the Jnaana Kanda or knowledge portions. These Mimamsakaas believe in the ritualistic portion. The knowledge portion comprises the Upanishads which tell that any action is limited and hence the results of those actions are also limited.

If a person does good deeds, then he attains Swarga or heaven. But even the heaven is not Eternal. Once the punyaas of the person are exhausted, he returns back to Earth.

The Eternal happiness is inherent in man. Each person is divine and is the Self of the nature of Nitya Suddha Buddha Mukta – ever pure, ever enlightened and ever liberated. But this Reality of one’s own nature is not known because of ignorance. This ignorance has to be removed. This is the ultimate goal of human birth. When this ignorance veil is removed, then the individual realizes that “I am the Self, I am perfect, I am Blissful in nature”, thereby stops all seeking, all becoming, all external quests for Eternal happiness.

But there are some pre requisites for getting this knowledge about oneself. When a mirror is dirty, a person cannot see his face clearly. Similarly when the mind is impure, the individual cannot see his own real nature. Thus purity of mind is a pre requisite for Self-Knowledge. This pre requisite of purification is attained through action (action done without any attachment to the doer and the fruits of the actions). This path which helps in purification of mind & thereby to liberation or realization is called Karma Yoga.

The path wherein the individual completely merges into the Supreme Being or God who is all-pervading and who is the only one present is called Bhakthi Yoga or path of devotion.

There is yet another path called Raja Yoga wherein the mind is controlled and the thoughts are vanquished wherein the Reality of the Self is known. The thoughts arise from the Ego. The Ego arises out of ignorance from the Self. Thus when thoughts are eradicated, then the Self is realized. Thus, control of the mind is given emphasis in this path wherein Yama, Niyama, Asana etc are methods or steps to this final goal of realization.

The ultimate or final step to realization is the Jnaana Yoga path of Knowledge wherein a person realizes that “I am the Self, I am Bliss Absolute and one without a second”. This path of knowledge has the scriptures and the scriptural teachings as its base. Unlike other paths where the final step is realization of Oneness or Absolute non-duality, here the very path itself leads to the Absolute non-dual Brahman or the Self.

Whatever path a person follows (the above four paths of Bhakthi, Karma, Raja and Jnaana), he reaches the final step where he has to realize the essential non-duality behind this seemingly existing dual world. This final state is expressed in the Upanishads through the great dictums of “TAT TVAM ASI” – THAT THOU ART and all.

Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi in this work of his brings out the essence and explanation of each of these four paths. Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi gives special emphasis to the path of Knowledge because ultimately a person has to realize the truth or get knowledge that “I am the Supreme Being, there is no difference between this individual being and the all-pervading being of God or Brahman”.


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