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Re: Satvika ThyAgaha

From: Mani Varadarajan (
Date: Tue Jun 13 2000 - 18:12:15 PDT

A few more notes on sAttvika tyAga, to finish off my 
knowledge of the topic:

The idea and terminology of sAttvika tyAga is taken
directly from the Gita, adhyAya 18.  The context is 
Sri Krishna's answer to Arjuna's question about the 
correct mode of 'sannyAsa' (renunciation), which, we 
learn from Sri Krishna, is synonymous with 
'tyAga' (abandonment).

The problem is the following. 'tyAga' and 'nyAsa' are of
such fundamental importance that they have declared 
to be means for attaining mOksha.  The Vedanta shastra 
says that 

  by tyAga alone do some attain immortality

       (tyAgenaika amRtatvam AnaSuH -- mahAnArAyaNa up, 5.14),

   being purified in mind by means of sannyAsa-yoga 
   ascetics, their bodies falling off, attain the Lord who
   is higher than the freed selves and become liberated from

       (sannyAsayogAd yatayaH SuddhasattvAH te brahmalokeshu
        parAntakAlE parAmRtAH parimucyanti sarve -- muND up, 3.2.6)

What exactly is the mode of this tyAga or renunciation? How do
they affect our rites, rituals, and religious discipline?

Sri Krishna states that even the learned have disagreed on this
subject (even among followers of the Vedas, according to Sri Ramanuja's 
commentary). Some say that acts such as sacrifice, charity, and 
austerity are fundamentally opposed to liberation, and should be given 
up entirely; others argue that such acts should continue to be performed.

Having laid out the problem, Sri Krishna offers his own opinion, and 
distinguishes the various modes of tyAga:

   The acts of sacrifice, charity, and austerity should not
   be given up, but should be performed, for each of them 
   are the means of mental purification for the wise.

     ( yajna-dAna-tapaH-karma na tyAjyam kAryam eva ca |
       yajno dAno tapaS caiva pAvanAni manIshiNAm || -- 18.5 )

Here, Sri Ramanuja further clarifies that the word 'wise' (manIshiNAm)
means those given to meditative contemplation (mananam).  For those
who seek to meditate on the Supreme throughout their lives, acts
should never be given up, for they are of great help in purifying the mind
of previous karmas. The acts serve as a gateway for God's grace to
purify the mind of the aspirant (commentary on 18.8).

So, what of tyAga itself? Sri Krishna continues that such work
should be done without attachment to the act itself or its fruits (18.6).
If these are given up through delusion (mOha), it is known as
'tAmasika tyAga'. If they are given up because of fear of bodily
suffering, it is known as 'rAjasika tyAga'. Neither of these help
purify the mind and therefore stall the seeker of liberation.

But, when one continues to act, but performs these actions with
dispassion concerning the actions themselves and their fruits, 
it is 'sAttvika tyAga', and it is ennobling:

   When actions are performed as what ought to be done, O Arjuna,
   without attachment to the act as well as its fruit, such
   abandonment is known as 'sAttvika tyAga'.

     ( kAryam ity eva yat karma niyatam kriyate'rjuna |
       sangam tyaktvA phalam caiva sa tyAgaH sAttviko mataH || -- 18.9 )

Sri Ramanuja clarifies that this means that religious activites 
such as one's daily and occasional duties according to one's
position in life must be performed for their own sake, as worship
of Sri Krishna and as a duty, without a hint of possessiveness
or personal motivation.  Such action alone is rooted in the meaning
of the shastras as they are.  Such an understanding alone will
generate true knowledge (ref. Gita 14.17).

This entire passage is a recapitulation of an earlier passage
in the Gita wherein Sri Krishna first propounds his idea of
selfless action performed as worship of himself.  Sri Ramanuja's
commentary here presents perfectly the mental attitude with
which we should approach every action, whether religious or
not, and so I would like to reproduce this important section

   Surrendering all your actions to Me, with a mind focussed
   on the self, free from desire and any sense of selfishness, 
   fight with the heat of excitement abated.

     ( mayi sarvANi karmANi sannyasya adhyAtma-cEtasA |
       nirASIH nirmamo bhUtva yudhyasva vigatajvaraH || -- 3.30 )

An excerpt from Sri Ramanuja's comments:

   Dedicate all actions to Me, the Supreme Person, considering
   them as done by Me, by contemplating on the self -- this self,
   as being actuated by Me because it constitutes My body. And do 
   everything, considering such action only as worship of Me.  Free of
   desire for the result and therefore free of selfishness
   concerning the action, engage in (your duties) devoid of 
   "fever", i.e., the excitement caused by emotions such as 

   Contemplate that the Supreme Person, the Lord of all, the
   Principal of all, gets His own work done for the sole purpose
   of getting Himself worshipped with His own instrument, i.e.,
   this individual self which belongs to Him and is His agent.
      (original given below)

Let us try to wholeheartedly employ this idea to some extent
in our daily lives.

aDiyEn rAmAnuja dAsan,

.... mac charIratayA mat-pravartyAtmasvarUpa-anusandhAnena sarvANi
karmANi mayA eva kriyamANAni iti mayi paramapurushE sannyasya
tAni ca kEvalam mad-ArAdhanAni iti kRtvA tatphalE nirASIH tata
eva tatra karmANi mamatA-rahito bhUtvA vigatajvaro yuddhAdikam
kurushva |

svakIyEna AtmanA kartrA svakIyaiH eva karaNaiH sva-ArAdhanaika-
prayojanAya paramapurushaH sarveSvaraH sarva-SeshI svayam eva
svakarmANi kArayati, ity anusandhyAya ... sukhena karmayogam
eva kurushva ity arthaH |

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