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The subtleties of Karma and Akarma PDF Print E-mail
Gita - Gita Articles

ki= karma ki= akarmeti kavayo’pya atra mohit|+
tat te karma pravak^y|mi yaj j@|tv| mok^yase’%ubh|t

Even the wise are confused about what is action and what is inaction. Therefore, I shall clearly explain what action is, knowing that one shall be liberated from the evil of birth and death. (4.16)


What is karma (doing) and what is akarma (non-doing)
Is not easy to determine
Even the wise ones get confused (mohit)
And cannot easily determine the true nature of karma
Therefore, today I shall
Tell you the essence (tattva) of this karma
So that you can really understand the intricacies
And thereby get freed from the bondage of karma ||4:16||

karma[o hyapi boddhavya= boddhavya= ca vikarma[a+
akarma[a% ca boddhavya= gahan| karma[o gati+

The true nature of action is very difficult to understand. Therefore, one should know the nature of attached action, the nature of detached ac¬tion, and also the nature of forbidden action. (4.17)

It is important to know
The identity of karma (doing)
The ways of akarma (non-doing)
And also the intricacies of vikarma (crooked karma)
For, all the movements of karma are so subtle. ||4:17||

karma[y akarma ya+ pa%yed akarma[i ca karma ya+
sa buddhim|n manu^ye^u sa yukta+ k&tsnakarmak&t

One who sees inaction in action and action in inaction, is a wise person. Such a person is a yog$ and has accomplished everything. (See also 3.05, 3.27, 5.08 and 13.29) (4.18)

Karma is being done all around
There are vibrations
And there are noises all around
Inside though is all peace and quiet
There is no doer in sight
Such is the ways
Of the wise
He sees non-doing in all doing
And thus becomes the doer of it all. ||4:18||

Karma and Akarma
Krishna is now talking about the subtleties of Karma (doing, action) and Akarma. (Non-doing or inaction). He first talked about karma and how he himself does all the karma and yet is uninvolved in any karma and then goes on to the subtleties thereof. Krishna’s approach is very methodical.

Krishna is more interested in what is happening behind the scenes that what is so obvious. I am going to school. Do I really want to go to school? I went to Bodh Gaya and sat under the famous Banyan tree. Buddha also sat there at the time he got enlightened. I am sitting there doing nothing. Buddha also sat there doing nothing. Is this Akarma (non-doing). There is a difference and the difference is quite big. Even the wise and educated get confused in understanding the subtle aspects of Karma.

I am sitting under the tree doing nothing. But my mind is going a thousand miles a minute. What was it like when Buddha was here? Was it hot when he sat here? I was feeling so hot. I am not anywhere close to what Akarma (non-doing) is. Buddha on the other hand is just sitting there. There are no ripples in his head. Justness was his being. Is-ness was his existence. Stillness was in the air. This is the state of akarma Krishna is talking about.

This akarma is so important to understand. It has nothing to do with akarmanyata (laziness or no-karma). It is important to understand that akarma (non-doing) has nothing to do with no-karma. Non-activity does not come from akarma. Non-activity is a property of laziness. This is a big problem and especially so for the ones who want to travel on the path of spirituality. I am working as a doctor. I am now writing about Gita. I am on a spiritual path. I develop some followers on the way. They respect me. They email me their questions and they come to me for advice. Should I leave being a doctor and just relax. I will perhaps make money and fame by being a Guru and guide for all these people who are lost.

This is where the movements of karma become so subtle. “Why do I do what I do” becomes so important. Krishna will soon talk about swadhyaya (introspection). It has to come. We all have to look inside our doer self and see what the vibrations are like. Just sitting still is not necessarily stillness of the being. Just leaving my medical profession is not Tyag (giving up or sacrifice).

Krishna talks about vikarma (prohibited karma) here as well. These three terminologies have to be understood by us for better understanding of Gita. We touched this briefly in our column on meditation. Meditation is a journey to no-where and it is a process for nothing. That nothingness is the source of all activity. Krishna touches that in 4:17. It is possible to experience what Krishna is saying here and we shall discuss that in our next column.

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