Shankara on Karma Yoga and Jnana Yoga

8 Outline of Practice

The stages of the path are set out clearly by Shankara many times in his Gita commentary, which is closely followed by his commentary on the Chapter of the Self.

(They may very well have been written about the same time, in view of the fact that some unusual citations are quoted in both of them, sometimes even in the same pairs.)

In Chapter V verse 12, for instance, he gives the stages as follows:

1 karma-yoga (action-yoga) based on the idea ‘I do’, which produces

2 purity of the mind, in which arises

3 attainment of Knowledge, ‘I am Atman’.

4 Renunciation of all actions.

5 jnana-yoga (knowledge-yoga), based on ‘I am’.

6 Peace (liberation).

Karma-yoga itself is divided into four elements practised together:

(a) worship of the Lord;

(b) performing one’s duty without attachment to the fruits of the action;

(c) independence of the pairs of opposites such as heat and cold, pleasure and pain;

(d) practice of samadhi meditation.

The steps of the path will be set out in the following sections from the point of view of practice.
A point to remember is that ‘attainment of Knowledge’ in (3) means a direct vision of Self – it is not simply an intellectual idea.
Shankara refers to the stages nearly a hundred times in his commentary, explaining them in more detail.
Among the phrases which he uses for ‘attainment of Knowledge’ are:

right vision (samyag-darshana)

vision of the supreme (paramartha-darshana)

knowledge of Self (atma-jnana)

knower of true nature of Self (atma-tattva-vid)

knower of true nature of supreme reality (paramartha-tattva-vid)

knower of truth (tattva-vid)

These are not theoretical notions.

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