How are jnana and karma uncovered in bhakti?
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 in the purpose of devotion. That is jnana-karmady-anavratam.
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