Chapter 16 -Karma
Karma is a basic law of material nature through which the
supreme authority and power of the Supreme Personality of Godhead
is expressed. Karma means that one gets a reaction for any activity
that is performed within the material world, in other words,
it refers to the law of action and consequent reaction.
The Bhagavad-gita describes three types of karma, whereas
"karma" in these explanations is understood as action.
Pious activities in accordance with the higher laws of nature
or the Vedic scriptures. This type of action generally allows
the living entity to reach higher planets after leaving the present
body or at least get another human body on earth.
Some of these activities are: giving donations to brahmanas,
building of hospitals or wells, feeding hungry people, or any
other helpful and generally beneficial activities.
One has to understand, however, that it is impossible to completely
avoid sinful activities since one already kills countless tiny
life forms simply by breathing.
Illicit activities against the laws of nature. Each activity
which ignores or opposes the Vedic injunctions or their basic
activities can be considered to be in that category.
Within this category of activities are: the torturing and
killing of animals, theft, cheating, intoxication, arson, illicit
sex-life, prostitution and similar activities which destroy the
social harmony and peace in society.
The consequences of vikarma are e.g. birth in a low class
human life form under suffering and miserable conditions, poverty,
incurable and severe diseases, or birth in a non-human life form.
As the activities of the living entities are never exclusively
pious or sinful and the law of karma is very subtle and extremely
complex, it is impossible to give an extensive description which
goes beyond the basic principles.
One may achieve a high position because of one's good karma,
but since it is practically impossible to completely avoid sinful
activities and one may also have to expect sinful reactions from
previous lives. One can suddenly fall from one's high position
and be forced to reap one's bad karma.
Though the good and bad reactions to our previous activities
are unavoidable and unchangeable for a karmi (fruititive, motivated
worker), one still has the free will to change one's course of
action in every moment of one's life. If the action however,
is already performed, one has to either enjoy or suffer the reactions
for it. The reactions for our activities don't have to necessarily
be experienced within our present life but can also be manifest
in our next life. This explains e.g. unnatural conditions by
birth. The accumulation of gross actions in our present life
influences our subtle body at the time of death and thus we create
our next body.
The effect of the law of karma can only be avoided by transcendentalists
who are engaged in akarma-activities. Activities which don't
cause karmic reactions are known as "akarma". This
does not refer to material inertia by not doing anything. Purely
transcendental activities which are performed solely for the
pleasure of the Supreme Personality of Godhead are akarma.(Bhagavad
This type of activity qualifies us to reach the spiritual
world after leaving our present body.
One should, however, note that it is impossible to perform
akarma-activities without being guided by an experienced spiritual
master. The reason for this is that we are not able to fully
understand the desire and plan of the Lord. In other words, akarma
means that one acts beyond self imposed conceptions of "good"
"A person who accepts the path of devotional service
is not bereft of the results derived from studying the Vedas,
performing austere sacrifices, giving charity or pursuing philosophical
and fruititive activities. Simply by performing devotional service,
he attains all these, and at the end he reaches the supreme eternal
abode." (Bhagavad Gita 8.28)
One cannot refrain from action. One's actions need to be purified
and at the same time one should not be attached to the results.
Here is Lord Krishna's instruction:
"Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you
offer or give away, and whatever austerities you perform-do that,
O son of Kunti, as an offering to Me. In this way you will be
freed from bondage to work and its auspicious and inauspicious
results. With your mind fixed on Me in this principle of renunciation,
you will be liberated and come to Me." Bhagavad-gita 9.27-28