Prapanna Pārijāta | Chapter 8



The Determination of Prescribed Karmas


The determination of the duties of a Prapanna from among those prescribed [by the Dharma Śāstras] is dealt with now.


The obligatory duties prescribed in Śruti1, Smriti2 und other Śāstras ought to be performed. For the lord of Lakshmi says: “Śruti and Smriti are my injunctions.”3


A Prapanna shall also perform what is specifically prescribed for him in the [Pāñcharātra] Śāstras; always engage in activities such as making garlands for Vishnu etc.


Lakshmi responded to Indra’s question in Her own Tantra (Lakshmi Tantra 17:82-91) about the duties prescribed for those practising Nyāsa-Vidyā (the path of surrender) as follows:—


“He who rejects both upāya4 and apāya5 and, convinced of God’s protection, practices the middle path by surrendering to God all that he possess will realise that Puruṣottama the God of gods is his protector.”

6 7.

Indra said:—

“O Ambikā, what is the middle path between upāya and apāya?

Since all actions arise from either upāya (stratagem) or apāya (detriment) accordingly as the injunctions or prohibitions laid down in the Śāstra are obeyed or disregarded, it would appear that every activity necessarily falls under the category of either upāya or apāya.”

8 – 9.

Śrī said: —

“O King of the Devas! There are three mysterious types of Karma; learn to distinguish between them by applying the prohibitions and injunctions laid down in the Śāstras.

Some deeds produce harmful results and some beneficial, others again expiatory actions for sins. In the light of the Śāstra I recognise these three types of actions.

10 13.

The first two types known as upāya and apāya should be relinquished.

The third group of expiatory actions is of two types:

Prāyaśchitta are those expiatory rites which are done to counteract the negative consequences of misdeeds. The intelligent ones should avoid these deeds as well as the first two.

Only those deeds should surely be done which, when done produce no benefit but which, when left undone produce harm. This is the attitude taken by the Vedas, which endorse the middle way between the detrimental and expedient.

One who follows this road seeks refuge and surrenders wholeheartedly to Janārdana the Lord of the Universe (Jagannātha).

14 – 16.

What has been taught here is this: —

Injury to other beings (hiṁsā) and theft etc. are detrimental actions [which lead to ruin].

Desiderative (Kāmya karmas) are those various acts which lead to some personal achievement — they may include Sānkhya6 and Yoga7.

Similarly the expiatory acts (Prāyaśchitta) which remit all kinds of misdemeanours already committed are of two kinds:

one is fasting e.g. Chāndrāyaṇa and the other is sandhya (the morning, noon and evening devotions) as well as worship and such other [obligatory] karmas.

17 18.

Of these, injury to other beings and all other detrimental activities (apāya), building temple and other activities [performed for some personal achievement and with a view to future rewards] as well as [the study of] Sānkhya and other activities concerned with self-liberation (upāya) and also all forms of penances (Prāyaśchitta) –

should never be practiced at any time.

19 – 20.

Those karmas (rites) which are mentioned as absolving future misdemeanours such as sandhyā (the morning, noon and evening prayers), archana (worship) Pañcha Maha Yajña (the five great sacrifices8 ) and such others as are recommended for those that are desirous of liberation (mumukṣu)

and the occasional rites such as the oblation consisting of first fruits at the end of the rainy season (agrayana), the [sacraments such as] parting of the hair during pregnancy (Sīmantonnayana) etc.

and also the setting up of the sacred-fires (Agnyādhana) etc. ought to be done by the twice-born (Dvījas) if they have a right to them.

But those deeds that are proscribed (nishiddha), those done for some gain (Kāmya) and those that are the means for securing some future fruition (upāya) should not be performed.


Should an occasion arise, one should perform that Prāyaśchitta (expiatory rite) which is specially prescribed for a Prapanna by Lakshmi in Lakshmi Tantra.

22 – 24.

Śrī said —

“The method prescribed by this Śāstra if practiced even once will liberate one, whereas by following both upāya and apāya one is bereft of the advantage [of Prapatti].

If one intentionally commits some misdemeanour (apāya) an expiatory rite should be performed without delay, but one who has taken refuge discovers that the act itself [of taking refuge] is as efficacious [as an expiatory rite]. Again even if the Upāyas are accepted as such the position remains unchanged.”


“The expiation of sinful acts must be done through taking refuge in Me alone, consort of the God or gods.” (L.T. 17:92 – 94.)


Therefore whatever may be the misdemeanour of a Prapanna done either intentionally or through neglect, is immediately rectified by taking refuge (śaraṇāgati)9.


The fool who knowing full well that misdemeanours (apāya) lead to one’s detriment, continues to act in that way shall surely only experience the [negative] Karma of those deeds, there’s no atonement even by this (Śaraṇāgati).


A Prapanna ought not to commit misdemeanours through pride that one is a Prapanna. The fool even while being conscious of performing detrimental acts falls down.


The wise never commit [such deeds]. If through ignorance or mistake they do act negatively, they burn them all with the fire of knowledge through clarity [of perception].


In this connection Bhagavān Krishna says to the attentive Arjuna: —

“As a well- kindled fire reduces to ashes fuel so does the fire of knowledge reduce to ashes all Karma.” (Gītā 4:37)


To the sages whose minds are purified by the knowledge of God, the knowledge of God mentioned in the Śāstras is itself the atonement for all the sins they may commit.


“One’s accomplishments are equal to the degree of belief (visvasa) one possesses. The efficacy of belief cannot be measured.”


An intelligent person should always follow the approved customs mentioned in the Vedas.

The Pāñcharātra Śāstras  refer to the transgression of the prescribed Vedic conduct as follows:—

34. 35.

“In order not to maintain Dharmas, for the preservation of the family, to govern the world (loka) without disturbance, for the establishment of social norms, and to gratify Me and Vishnu, the God of gods, the Wielder of the bow (Śārṅga), the wise shall not transgress the Vedic laws even mentally.” (L.T. 17:94,95)

36. 37.

"Just as [even] the favourite of a king who destroys a beautiful channel inaugurated by the king even though he [the king] be indifferent towards it, which is of public use and which sustains the growth of many plants, shall be impaled on a spike;

in the same manner, a person who violates the usage established by the Vedas even though he be dear to Me, ceases to be my beloved on account of the transgression of My command.

38. 39.

With reference to these Vedic injunctions, a wise person shall abandon the idea that their performance is the means to an end.

But remaining in his own caste and order of life (varṇa-āśrama10) according to place and time, he shall perform only those actions agreeable to God that have been specially prescribed by Him.

  • 1. Śruti — lit. ‘What is heard’ – refers to the Vedas. There are very few specific injunctions imbedded in the Vedas, most are of a general moral nature such as ahimsa paramo dharma — non-injury is the highest religious practice, satyam vāda — speak the truth etc.
  • 2. Smṛti — lit. “What is remembered” – refers to the Law Books all of which have human authors and which have more specific injunctions covering every aspect of one’s life, social, domestic as well as political and criminal.
  • 3. They are God’s laws only in a figurative sense not literally.
  • 4. Upāyas are stratagems for worldly success and achieving one’s goals or self-initiated methods for attaining Liberation recommended by the Scriptures such as Bhakti, Jñana and Karma Yoga, pilgrimages, austerities, and other spiritual practices.
  • 5. Apāyas are detrimental criminal activities such as violence, aggression, theft etc.
  • 6. Sānkhya — The system of non-theistic philosophy attributed to the sage Kapila. It is called Sānkhya because it enumerates twenty five Tattvas or various categories of reality beginning with Prakriti or Pradhāna — primordial matter; and Purusha or Self. The conscious Self Purusha is passive and Prakriti Active. Purusha becomes entangled in samsara and its attendant sufferings and is born again and again. A correct knowledge of the 25 categories will enable one to overcome ignorance and suffering and achieve liberation from samsāra. More...
  • 7. Yoga: A practical methodology attributed to sage Patañjali who taught that the means to liberation was eighth-fold — aṣṭāṅga. Four of the limbs apply to physical and moral development and the other four deal with meditation.More...
  • 8. Pañcha Maha Yajña: — The five daily duties incumbent upon every householder in particular. The 5 acts discharge the debts with which we are all born —
    1. Debt to parents, 2. To the gods, 3. To the sages, 4. To other members of society and 5. To the environment.
  • 9. The Vaḍakalai position is that a lapsed Prapanna should either perform the act of Prapatti again or perform atonements mentioned in the Dharma Śāstra for misdemeanours committed after Śaraṇāgati.
    This also disputed by the Teṅkalai who declare that no actual expiation is needed other than recalling to mind the original act of Prapatti.
  • 10. The Varṇāśrama system was means for ordering and governing society. There were four recognised social communities:
    the Brahmins = intellectuals, Kṣatriyas = administrators and security forces, Vaiṣyas = businessmen and merchants, Śūdras = workers.
    The three communities other than the workers had four stages of life: brahmacharya = studentship, grihastha = householder, Vānaprastha = retiree, Sannyāsa = renunciate. The workers had only one — that of householder and were exempt from the other stages.