(The Doctrine of Karma and Jnana Combined)
by Swami Sivananda
The cause of human suffering is Avidya or ignorance. Sri Sankara holds the view that it is the knowledge of Brahman only that is capable of eradicating the ignorance of human beings. Others hold the view that the pursuit of the knowledge of the Self should be accompanied by the performance of Vedic and Smarta rites. This view is known as the Samuchchaya Vada, because the theory entails a conjunction of two means for the realisation of one end. They bring the illustration of the bird. Just as a bird necessarily needs two wings for flying up in the sky, so the individual soul also requires both knowledge and action to enable him to attain Moksha or the final beatitude and that neither the one nor the other is sufficient singly for that purpose.
Karmas, when they are performed as Isvararpana without expectation of fruits, purify the heart. They prepare the ground of Antahkarana for the dawn of Brahma Jnana. Sri Sankara says in his Atma Bodha: "Karmic rituals cannot destroy ignorance, because they are not hostile to each other. But knowledge certainly destroys ignorance, as light destroys the thickest darkness. When compared with other means, Jnana (knowledge of the Self) is the only direct means to freedom. As cooking is not possible without fire, so is emancipation not possible without Brahma Jnana." Sri Sankara refutes the theory of Samuchchaya-Vada.
Neophytes and young men can have work and meditation in the beginning for some years. When they advance in meditation, work must be completely stopped. It becomes a hindrance. That is the reason why the Gita says:
Arurukshor Muner Yogam Karma Karanam Uchyate,
Yogarudhasya tasyaiva Shamah Karanam Uchyate.
"For a sage who is seeking Yoga, action is called the means; for the same sage when he is enthroned in Yoga, serenity is called the means." Ch. VI-3.
Only that advanced Yogi who can meditate for hours together can stop work. If ordinary students give up work they will become Tamasic and lazy. If you do not improve in pure meditation, then combine work with meditation. Use your common sense always. One can reach a certain stage only in Yoga, Jnana or Bhakti while he remains in the world.
Seclusion and Nivritti are needed for highest realisation. The full-blown Yogi or Jnani or Bhakta should again come back to the world to elevate other people, for the purpose of Lokasangraha (world-solidarity).