Karmayoga - Jñānayoga in Rāmānuja or Active Life - Contemplative Life in Aquinas. A Meeting Point betweenIndian and Christian Thought
The Papal Encyclical Fides et Ratio has recommended a dialogue between Eastern and Western philosophy. Karmayoga (skilful management of actions) and jñānayoga (true knowledge of God and man) according to Rāmānuja (main representative of the Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta School of Indian Philosophy) can be fruitfully compared with the doctrine of active and contemplative life in Thomas Aquinas. The Sanskrit word Karma primarily means action. Karma brings bondage or liberation. Rāmānuja integrates Karmayoga, jñānayoga and bhaktiyoga (devotion to God) as different stages in the progressive realisation of salvation. Human being is an embodied self made up of body and soul (ātman), united due to the law of karma. The individual self is an eternal mode, or part of Brahman. It is a centre of existence of its own but also an inseparable attribute of Brahman. Dharma (moral law), artha (wealth), kāma (psychophysical enjoyments), and mokṣa (final liberation) constitute the four puruṣārthas, i.e. those end-values representing man’s final goal as well as the path towards it. The key topic for Rāmānuja is how a human action becomes a pathway for release instead of being a cause of perpetuating the life of bondage. To perform an action in the spirit of karmayoga means to convert it into a sacrificial act by forsaking its fruits (desireless action). Despite their belonging to very different cultural milieus, which have influenced their understanding of fundamental issues regarding God, man, and the world, Rāmānuja and Aquinas coincide in many basic points.