Verses 16-18 of Chapter 4 talks about action, forbidden action, and inaction and the resulting karmic reactions. We discuss the different kinds of karma, how karma plays out over lifetimes, and whether or not we, as spiritual practitioners, are obliged to assume greater social responsibilities. We also discuss the psychology of karma.
- Karma, vikarma, and akarma
- Yoga as a call to action
- The link between one’s psychology and karma
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Abbreviations used in these notes: BG for Bhagavad Gita, SB for Srimad Bhagavatam
kiṁ karma kim akarmeti
kavayo ’py atra mohitāḥ
tat te karma pravakṣyāmi
yaj jñātvā mokṣyase ’śubhāt
kim — what is; karma — action; kim — what is; akarma — inaction; iti — thus; kavayaḥ — the intelligent; api — also; atra— in this matter; mohitāḥ — are bewildered; tat — that; te — unto you; karma — work; pravakṣyāmi — I shall explain; yat — which; jñātvā — knowing; mokṣyase — you will be liberated; aśubhāt — from ill fortune.
Even the intelligent are bewildered in determining what is action and what is inaction. Now I shall explain to you what action is, knowing which you shall be liberated from all misfortune.
The intricacies of action are very hard to understand. Therefore one should know properly what action is, what forbidden action is and what inaction is.
One who sees inaction in action and action in inaction is intelligent among men, and he is in the transcendental position, although engaged in all sorts of activities.
The unsuccessful yogī, after many, many years of enjoyment on the planets of the pious living entities, is born into a family of righteous people, or into a family of rich aristocracy.
Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, O son of Kuntī, that state he will attain without fail.
The living entity in the material world carries his different conceptions of life from one body to another, as the air carries aromas. Thus he takes one kind of body and again quits it to take another.
My dear Lord, one who earnestly waits for You to bestow Your causeless mercy upon him, all the while patiently suffering the reactions of his past misdeeds and offering You respectful obeisances with his heart, words and body, is surely eligible for liberation, for it has become his rightful claim.
Kumbha Mela – Currently, the world’s largest gathering of people. Over 100 million pilgrims from around the world will bathe at the confluence of the Ganges, Saraswati, and Yamuna rivers in India.
- pranayama – yogic breathing techniques
- paramatma – “Super-soul,” God in the heart of each being as witness and well-wisher accompanying each soul through its many births
- karma – Material actions (performed for one’s own benefit or one’s extended circles)
- akarma – Actions offered in devotion to God, which consequently do not generate material reactions.
- vikarma – Actions performed that intentionally contradict scriptural guidelines of righteous behavior.
- yoga-bhrashta – Someone who practiced yoga in previous lives but did not complete the yoga path, and consequently is born into circumstances favorable to resuming yoga practice, e.g. into a wealthy or spiritually inclined family.
- tapas – A sacrifice of something personal for a higher good, e.g. of time for self-discipline, solitude, or prolonged meditation.
Haribol! Thank you for taking the quiz.
Would you like to take the quiz again? The answer is discussed in the podcast (Long Island Series, Week 20 BG 4.16-18)
Visit gitawisdom.org/quiz to try some more questions.
#1. What type of karma is antithetical to one’s spiritual progress? One might call it “negative karma”.
Vikarma. Vikarma actions are contrary to the wisdom teachings: harm to others, harm to yourself, harm to the environment, harm to animals, etc. Anything that is not spiritually progressive, which is retrograde in our return back to a holy life, is vikarma.