Gita Series 54. Chapter IV – 16 – 18.

“Even the wise find it difficult to differentiate between action (karma) and inaction (a-karma). Now, I am going to teach you about the principles of karma and after knowing of which you will be freed from all karmic afflictions. Nature of both karmas and a-karmas (action and inaction) should be understood. In the same way the forbidden actions should also be understood, because the depth of karma is deep. The one who beholds action in action and inaction in action, he is considered as wise among men. That yogi is said to be involved in all actions.”

Sastras explain the concept of karma in detail. Wise men would have attained enough knowledge to be called as wise. They also stand confused in interpreting karmas, as there are too many theories on karmas. One normally gets confused as they are not sure whether staying away from actions, in other words, being inactive is the right karma or surrendering the fruits of karmas to the Creator is the right karma or carrying out actions laid down by sastras is the right karma. These are the confusions about karmas even for the learned. However, Krishna has already said that being inactive is a sin and therefore inaction is to be excluded. For example one needs to have some sleep. Sleeping is karma or action. If one does not sleep he is affected biologically. Therefore, one has to sleep to keep his physical body fit that sheaths the Brahman within. If one tends to oversleep, more than the bodily requirement then, it tantamount to inertia that causes karmic affliction. Krishna is about to explain what is causing karmic affliction and what is not.

Krishna says that the concept of karma should be understood first. Karmic afflictions arise while performing karmas. Realising that actions cause karmas, if one tends to remain inactive, that also cause karmic afflictions. Karmic afflictions are embedded in a soul that unfold when the soul attains a form (birth) when it gets associated with prakriti. Krishna says that depth of karma is very deep because it has too many interpretations and repercussions. Karmic theory is not that easy to understand. Performing actions, not performing actions and performing actions that are prohibited, not performing prescribed actions, wrong performance of prescribed actions and the list is endless. In general Krishna says that a person who considers action and inaction on the same footing is considered as wise. When one understands this theory, he is not attached either to positive nor to negative results of an action. Any action is capable of providing both positive and negative results. Only when one chooses to surrender the end result of his action to the Brahman, he is not afflicted by karmas. When one is not interested in the end result of an action, he is then considered as a yogi (one who mastered his mind) since active and inactive stages are the same for him. He continues to dwell in the stage of deep sleep condition even during his waking condition. He is called karma yogi.

Having explained in detail about ‘karma yoga’ in the previous chapters, Krishna chooses to elucidate again about karma. This clearly explains the role played by karma in one’s life. It is improper to say that karmas lead to pain or pleasure. Karmas also lead to salvation. But if an action is performed with ego, then it leads to pain. Wrong actions are those not approved by sastras. Sastras say that one should love fellow men and on the contrary if one chooses to cause trouble to fellow men, then he stands afflicted by evil effects of karmas. Yogi is a person who has developed mental ability to see the Brahman in everything. He becomes a master of advaita philosophy. This is possible only through self exploration, the process of realising the Brahman within. For a yogi, action and inaction are the same. Due to his mental modification, he is able to see actions in all inactions and inactions in all actions. Human birth is the gift of God as human mind is endowed with the capacity to discriminate, the discrimination between the Creator and the created.

Karmas are of three types. They are sanchita, prarabdha and agamya. Sanchita karmas are the total sum of karmas accumulated over past births. Prarabdha karmas is that part of sanchita karma that gets unfolded during this birth. Agamya karma is the sum total of sanchita karma +/- prarabdha karma. Let us take an example. At the time death a person has a total of 60 in sanchita karma. Out of this 60 let us assume that 20 out of 60 is to be realized in his next birth. During the next birth he has two options. The first one is to nullify this figure 20 by performing only good actions. If the sum total of good karmas is more than 20 then it gets adjusted in his sanchita karma and at the end of this birth his sanchita karma could become 50. On the other hand the sum total of karmas accumulated in this birth is more than 20, then his sanchita karma account becomes more than 60, let us say 70. Until the sanchita karma becomes ‘0’ one has to undergo the process of births and deaths.