How are karma and jnana the cause of material desires?
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From Prashant

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Transcription :

Transcriber: Sharan Shetty

Edited by: Keshavgopal Das

Question: How are karma and jnana are the cause of material desires?

Answer: The word material can have multiple meanings and at the simplest level, it refers to that which is related with matter. When we want to possess, control and enjoy matter then that desire is called material desire. The path of karma kanda or regulated material enjoyment is based on scriptural guidelines. For example, going to swarga or getting better facilities to enjoy in this world involve fulfilling material desires. When one hears the flowery and beautiful scriptural description of such material enjoyment then it may kindle ones material desires. Some people may want to fulfil their material desires without going through scriptures and instead, by their own independent endeavours (such people comprise the majority today) but in the past ages, people fulfilled their material desires through scriptural guidelines and that was the path of karma kanda which naturally resulted in material desires. Krishna describes about this in the Bhagavad Gita 02.42 – 43
yam imam puṣpitam vacam pravadanty avipascitaḥ
veda-vada-ratah partha nanyad astiti vadinah

kamatmanah svarga-para janma-karma-phala-pradam
kriya-visesa-bahulam bhogaisvarya-gatim prati

Krishna uses the word kamatmanah to figuratively describe that such people are so much filled with material desires that their atma (soul) is made up of kama (material desires). These people follow karma kanda so that they can go to heaven (svarga-para). They are so attracted by the flowery description of the scriptures (puspitam vacam) that they think nothing else is taught in the Vedic scriptures apart from this (nanyad astiti vadinah). Therefore, Krishna says that such people cannot develop the one-pointed intelligence for practicing spiritual life.
The desires for material enjoyment are entangling and from the absolute perspective, any desire to enjoy separate from Krishna can be considered to be sinful because ultimately, we are part and parcels of Krishna and we are meant for his enjoyment. This is not a form of self-deprivation because in giving enjoyment to him, we ourselves get the highest enjoyment that we can ever get in any other way. Thus, it is not self deprivation, it is self-fulfilment. Karma deprives one from this fulfilment because it kindles material desire although those desires are within scriptural guidelines.

The path of jnana is also based on material conception of spiritual reality. It has the idea that since matter has form and matter is limited therefore spirit being unlimited should not have any form and qualities. This is basically a negative material conception projected on spirit. The path of jnana aims at merging into the brahman, that is, the desire to become God. Such a desire is also sinful because instead of serving God, one wants to imitate God and take up his position for oneself. Therefore, the word sinful here does not refer to immoral.

Scriptures use the word sinful in many different ways, sometimes sin may refer to those activities which harm others, those which violate scriptural teachings. This is one definition of sin […]

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Can buddhi-yoga refer to all three yogas – karma, jnana and bhakti?
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Transcription :

Transcriber: Sharan Shetty

Edited by: Keshavgopal Das

Question: Can buddhi-yoga refer to all three yogas – karma, jnana and bhakti?

Answer: The word buddhi yoga does not refer to any specific process. There is no particular system of sadhana called as buddhi yoga. It is a compound word used by Lord Krishna in the Gita. Technically speaking, the two words that form the compound word buddhi yoga mean intelligence used for the purpose of yoga or yoga performed with intelligence with the purpose of pursuing higher spiritual connection. Hence, this can be done in all the three processes – karma, jnana and bhakti.

In karma yoga, if one meditates that he is not the body and therefore should not be attached to the fruits of work and bodily gratification and then performs action, then one is using his intelligence to connect with the Supreme Truth. Such use of intelligence can also be called as buddhi yoga.

In jnana yoga, when one uses one’s intelligence to connect with the ultimate spiritual reality without necessarily knowing what that spiritual reality is (either personal or impersonal) or ones connection with the spiritual reality is more intellectualised than personalised (i.e. more abstract in terms of attraction to the greatness of the Absolute Truth rather than the personality or sweetness of the Absolute Truth) then such use of intelligence can also be called as buddhi yoga.

In bhakti yoga, buddhi yoga will be intelligence used to serve Krishna in a way that is most pleasing to him.

Thus, the word buddhi yoga can mean all the three things.

In the Gita, jnana yoga is not discussed much because the Gita was spoken on a battlefield. The context involves that Arjuna needs to perform his duty of fighting. Therefore, jnana yoga, which centres on renunciation of the world, is not compatible with the context of the Gita. That is why, the Gita does not talk about jnana yoga much. Therefore, wherever the word buddhi yoga is used in the Gita, it is either meant for karma yoga or bhakti yoga.

In BG 02.39, Krishna uses the word buddhi yoga to explain that now I have spoken to you the difference between body and soul so that when you act in such knowledge you can free yourself from the bondage of work. This is buddhi yoga referring to karma yoga.

In BG 10.10, Krishna uses the word buddhi yoga to refer to the intelligence by which one will come to him. This is buddhi yoga referring to bhakti yoga.
In BG 18.57, Krishna uses the word buddhi yoga in reference to take shelter of devotional activities (buddhi-yogam upasritya) and renouncing all work to him, making him the goal, always being conscious of him. Here as well, buddhi yoga refers to bhakti yoga.

In the Gita, Lord Krishna uses the word buddhi yoga to refer to karma yoga in BG 2.39 and then bhakti yoga in BG 10.10 and BG 18.57. But in terms of the […]

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Gita 09.15 – Jnana yajna is not the same as jnana-yoga
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Gita verse-by-verse study Podcast
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Transcription :

Transcriber: Sharan Shetty

Edited by: Keshavgopal Das

Question: Gita 09.15 – Is jnana yajna is the same as jnana-yoga?
Answer: Gita 09.15 states,

jnana-yajnena capy anye yajanto mam upasate
ekatvena prthaktvena bahudha visvato-mukham

“Others, who engage in sacrifice by the cultivation of knowledge, worship the Supreme Lord as the one without a second, as diverse in many, and in the universal form.”

This is an important transitional verse in the Gita. Lord Krishna talks about people with widely varied conceptions about him. BG 09.11 and BG 09.12 talks about people who misunderstand Krishna by thinking him to be a material person or thinking his form to be ordinary. In BG 09.13 and BG 09.14, Krishna has talked about those who understand him to be the Absolute Truth and surrender to him, making him the ultimate goal of their lives. The first category of men is described by the word mudha (foolish) and the second category is described as mahatma (great souls). Between these two categories, there are many other people about whom Krishna talks in BG 09.15. These people are addressed as anye (others) and it’s a separate category. Krishna says these people worship me through knowledge (jnana-yajnena). They are those who conceive things in oneness (ekatvena) or in duality (prthaktvena).

The word jnana yajnena is also used by Krishna in BG 4.28 and BG 4.33 and later, most famously, in BG 18.70 where he says that “He who studies this sacred conversation of ours worships Me by his intelligence”.

In a broad sense, jnana yajna can be called as using our knowledge in the pursuit of the Absolute Truth. What the conception of the Absolute Truth is and what knowledge different people have will vary from seeker-to-seeker. Accordingly, the nature of jnana yajna will vary. That is why, one should not think that jnana yajna and jnana yoga are same. Jnana yoga is a particular method of sadhana which involves certain intellectual conceptions. In verse BG 09.15, Lord Krishna talks about three ways in which people do jnana yajna: (i) ekatvena (ii) prthaktvena bahudha (iii) vishvato mukham

(i) Ekatvena (oneness): There are transcendentalists who by the eyes of knowledge see beyond the duality and diversity that characterises life at the material level. Krishna talks about this in BG 18.20 as knowledge in the mode of goodness where he says, “That knowledge by which one undivided spiritual nature is seen in all living entities, though they are divided into innumerable forms, you should understand to be in the mode of goodness”.

One should understand that all conceptions of oneness are not one. There are conceptions of oneness which consider Krishna’s form to be an illusion which Krishna disapproves strongly by calling holders of such views as mudha (foolish) in BG 9.11. In BG 9.12, he explains that the endeavours of such people are futile.

In BG 09.15, Krishna talks about those who worship him in a different way which is not necessarily the best but laudable since […]

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How are jnana and karma uncovered in bhakti?
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Transcription :

Transcriber: Sharan Shetty

bEdited by: Keshavgopal Das

Question: How are jnana and karma uncovered in bhakti?
Answer: Jnana and karma are two basic faculties of every living being, more specifically, human beings. Jnana connotes with knowledge or cognition and karma connotes with action. If we consider a body, it has hands, head and heart. Metaphorically, karma is primarily the path of the hands, whereas jnana is the path of the head. Underlying the hands and the head and unifying it all is the heart. Bhakti is the process of the heart, but it is not the process of the heart alone, it also engages the hands and the head.

When jnana and karma are covered, they are motivated by something other than pure love. That is why, jnana-karmady-anavṛtam means removing the covering.

The covering is basically a misdirection just like when white light is covered with red film, the light that comes out is red. Similarly, the soul has the capacity for action and cognition but when there is lack of devotion for the Supreme, then the capacity for action and cognition are misdirected.

It is not that bhakti rejects karma and jnana. Bhakti yogis are both active and intellectual, but both these faculties are subordinated to the love they have for the Supreme and therefore harmonised.

At one level, purification means removing the impressions which are imposed upon us by the external world. Another understanding of purification is activating the longing for the Supreme which is the innate nature of the soul. Our jnana and karma are misdirected by the various conceptions and contaminations that we have. Hence anavratam means that we remove those conceptions and contaminations. That way, when the soul’s nature to love Krishna is activated then jnana and karma become harmonised.

Shukadeva Goswami had a monistic disposition but when he understood how the all-attractive Supreme Person transcends the impersonal brahman then he used his phenomenal intelligence to compose and speak the Srimad Bhagavatam. Therefore, the jnana which was avrata (covered) became anavrata (uncovered). He used the same knowledge to glorify the personal bhagavan, instead of understanding impersonal brahman which is subordinate to the Supreme Lord.

Similarly, karma may also refer to some pious fruitive activity. There were many kings in the past who would perform such yajnas. Prachin Barhi used to do yajnas but he had no knowledge of transcendence. In Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 4, it is described, that when Prthu Maharaj was doing yajnas, he was not only remembering the particular devatas for whom the yajna was performed, he was also remembering Vishnu and was offering the fruits of the yajna to Vishnu.

Therefore, the idea is that karma or jnana are not to be given up. Arjuna was doing the karma of fighting and wanted to give it up but Krishna did not sanction. Instead he told Arjuna to perform his duty with a spiritual conception and motivation.

Thus, we have the capacity for both action and cognition, which should be harmonised and used […]

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When different paths have stark differences how can all paths be valid and how can we explain our path offers something more?
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How can an introvert practice bhakti when it is so social and public?
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I can’t think when I am with too many people. And I find public harinam kirtan distracting. But when I try to be alone, devotees say that I will go into Maya. But I feel more disoriented when I am with many people and more focused on Krishna when I am alone. How can I practice bhakti?

Answer Podcast

Transcription :

Transcriber: Keshavgopal Das

Question: How can an introvert practice bhakti when it is so social and public?

Answer: If one is an introvert, then it is part of one’s psychophysical nature and one needs to practice bhakti accordingly. Practicing bhakti does not mean going against our basic bodily nature. For introverts, we can find out appropriate services suiting to introvert nature and use those in Krishna’s service. Writing, editing, shastra study, teaching etc., these services are those where introverts generally flourish.

In general, important is that one should not remain unengaged. Association of devotees help in protecting us to become a puppet of one’s mind. This is because in association of others somebody is watching. However, this does not mean that association is the only way to practice bhakti. This is one way which works for many people. Association is also safe for many people.
As introvert, we can choose those services which allow us to remain absorbed more and more.

With respect to kirtans, it is not necessary to do kirtans with hands raised, dancing, smiling looking at others. That is certainly one of way of doing kirtans, but introverts can also do kirtan by closing their eyes, fold their hands, even if introverts dance that can be done inconspicuously. Any seemingly public activity like kirtan can also be done in a way which increases one’s inner absorption.

As far as association is concerned, an introvert may want to find out other introverts and associate with them. In the association of introverts, there will not be a constant pressure to talk something. There will be time in between the talks. There will be time to process the contents of our own consciousness. For extroverts, they talk continuously. For them the focus of action is external, but for introverts the focus is internal. Introverts generally think deeply about their thoughts and then they will speak. I am not saying that either of this way is better or worse. It is just that these are different natures of people. Bhakti Vinod Thakura also says (based on Srila Rupa Goswami’s Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu) that we should have like-minded devotee association (sajatiyashye snigdhe sadhau sangah svato vare). So, introverts can choose to have association of introverts.

It may not be very easy to find people who are introverts but with some search within an association, one may be able to find out. Extroverts find it delighting to be engaged in group conversation, but introverts would like conversation with one or two people at a time. Such a trait is not a form of a weakness, but just that it is a one trait. Introverts need time to think […]

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Are jnana and karma complementary instead of hierarchical?
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From Promila Mataji:

I’ve understood the following points about KY and JnY. However, i am still not clear why Jnana Yoga is considered superior to Karma Yoga in hierarchy (Yoga ladder) when Karma Yoga and Jnana Yoga are actually complementary?

1. Karma Yoga (action in devotion) is superior to Jnana Yoga (renunciation of action due to adaption of knowledge) because KY is easier compared to JnY.

2. In the yoga ladder or hierarchy, JnY is superior and yet in practice KY is superior.

3. Karmas performed without transcendental knowledge are materialistic in nature. So it’s transcendental knowledge that imparts the spiritual qualities to Karmas.

4. Without the application of knowledge (TK, not dry philosophical knowledge), knowledge makes one Mithyacharana, as Krishna warns Arjuna.

Considering these points, it seems more appropriate to call them complementary yogas rather than one being superior in hierarchy and the other though superior in hierarchy, is inferior in practice.

Answer Podcast:

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Transcriber: Sharan Shetty

Edited by: Keshavgopal Das

Transcription :

Question: Are jnana and karma complementary instead of hierarchical?

Answer: Karma and jnana can broadly refer to action and intellectual analysis whereas karma yoga and jnana yoga are specific processes. Beyond these two, there is the path of bhakti yoga.

Karma yoga and jnana yoga, as yoga sadhanas, are not complimentary. They are mutually exclusive, and it is not that karma yogi’s practice is incomplete without jnana yoga or vice versa. Both are two distinct processes of yoga and if a person is practicing karma yoga then he cannot be practicing jnana yoga which requires renunciation of action. Their essential methodologies involve opposite courses of action because karma yoga involves action and jnana yoga involves inaction.

With respect to their intention, in the Fifth Chapter, Lord Krishna talks about their common goal. The analysis of Third and Fifth Chapter is same but in the Fifth Chapter, Krishna goes deeper into certain subjects. In Bhagavad-gita 5.4 and 5.5, Krishna says,

sankhya-yogau prthag balah pravadanti na panditah
ekam apy asthitah samyag ubhayor vindate phalam
“Only the ignorant speak of devotional service [karma-yoga] as being different from the analytical study of the material world [sankhya]. Those who are actually learned say that he who applies himself well to one of these paths achieves the results of both.”

yat sankhyaih prapyate sthanam tad yogair api gamyate
ekam sankhyam ca yogam ca yaḥ pasyati sa pasyati
“One who knows that the position reached by means of analytical study can also be attained by devotional service, and who therefore sees analytical study and devotional service to be on the same level, sees things as they are.”

Therefore, it is clear from the above two verses that those who think that the paths of sankhya and yoga are two different paths have a childish mentality and Krishna further states that actually if one who attains perfection in one process then one attains the destination that is intended from both the processes. Ultimately, both are meant to take us towards transcendence which is explained by Lord Krishna in Gita 5.2, sannyasaḥ karma-yogas ca niḥsreyasa-karav ubhau […]

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Does karma continue perpetually because we hurt others and they hurt us back as a reaction again and again?
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Can you explain Brahman and Paramatma realizations in detail?
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Answer Podcast


Transcriber: Sharan Shetty

Edited by: Keshavgopal Das

Question: Can you explain brahman and paramatma realizations in detail?

Answer: There are different ways in which these realisations can be understood like the sac-cit-ananda progression perspective given by Srila Prabhupada in Sri Isopanisad and another perspective is -Energies of the Absolute given by Srila Jiva Goswami in the Sandarbhas. Srila Prabhupada explains that both – atma and Supreme Lord are sac-cid ananda. Brahman realisation is when one starts perceiving that everything in the material nature is temporary and tries to think about something that must be beyond this which is actually eternal because we all have a longing for eternity and if nothing were eternal then from where would that longing come from. Why would we long to live eternally if there were no such thing as eternal life just like a person who has never seen gold would never desire for gold.

When one starts looking for the eternal and comes to the level of perceiving the eternal then he has perceived the sat aspect of the sac-cid-ananda feature of the Supreme Lord. Thus, perceiving the sat aspect is the characteristic of those who have realised the brahman but the important thing is, it is not that Brahman has only sat feature because brahman, paramatma and bhagavan are non-different and so they all have sac-cit-ananda feature. But the seeker who has realised brahman has realised only the sat aspect of the Absolute Truth. Progressively, when one moves forward and thinks that there is order in this world and realises it is controlled by a conscious being who is overseeing everything and keeping this order then one comes to the cit level. Here, one understands that there is a being who is supreme and the controller. At this level, one’s focus is on God as the controller of the material world and this is the paramatma realization. Beyond this when one evolves, he starts to think about the activities performed by the Supreme Being (most people think of what God can do for them but not about what God himself does in his abode). When one understands that the goal of existence is to be happy and therefore the Absolute Truth must also have this opulence of happiness in full, at that time, one comes to the bhagavan realisation where one understands that God lives with his devotees and performs many pastimes and in those pastimes rejoices eternally.

Srila Prabhupada explains that the realisation of the all-pervasive spirit in the sense that beyond this ever changing matter, there is some substratum which is eternal, is brahman realisation. Progressively, the understanding of the localized expansion of the Supreme Lord who although is present everywhere and can control from anywhere still he is present within the universe and from there he co-ordinates and controls it as explained in Brahma Samhita Chapter 5 Verse 35,
andantara-stha-paramanu- chayantara-stham
(All the universes exist in Him and He is present in His fullness in every one of the atoms that […]

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