- Material Activities [karma: lit. deed, action]

The Bhagavad-Gita discusses five topics: Isvara, the Supreme Controller; jiva, the living entity; prakriti, material nature; kala, time; and karma, activities. The living entities, material nature, and time are eternal energies of the Lord. Karma, however, is not eternal. "Karma" means matrial activities or work and its results, or action and reaction.
Please also see: "The Law of Cause and Effect".

Although we are reaping the results of our material activities from time immemorial, we can change our karma. Change is possible when we become situated in the mode of goodness, in sanity, and understand what sort of activities we should adopt. If we do that, then all the actions and reactions connected to our past activities can be changed.

Three types of Karma

karma work done as fruitive activity in accordance with scriptural injunctions
vikarma sinful works, done against the injunctions of the religious scriptures
akarma work which dont incure karmic reactions

The Law of Karma states, that every living entity has to suffer or enjoy the reactions of his work, whether good or bad. In order to avoid bad karma one must know to work properly, without incurring negative results. Otherwise, if one does not know how to work in a genuine way he will be entangled in the unwanted results produce by his activities and thus suffer the consequences.

One should know what the right kind of work is to be done, and one should know what is not to be done. One should therefore understand the difference between karma, akarma und vikarma, or the tree types of work, before one starts his activities. Also one should understand how ones activities are influenced by the three gunas, or the three modes of nature.

Regulated activities, as prescribed in the scriptures [karma], in terms of the different orders and divisions of society, performed without attachment or proprietary rights and therefore without love or hatred, and performed for the service of the Lord, without self-gratification, are called actions in the mode of goodness. [Bg 18.23] By acting in the mode of goodness, which brings happiness, the living entity gets illuminated with knowledge of self-realization and thus can free himself from the miseries experienced in the hard struggle for material existence. Such activities lead the performer to the heavenly planets for prolonged sensual enjoyment. However, when a person's pious credits are exhausted, he must return to Earth, just as a person returns from a holiday and resumes his work.

Sinful activities, or work done against the injunctions of the religious scriptures, as well as activities which inflict pain on other living entities is called vikarma. Such activities performed without consideration of future bondage or consequences is considered to be work in ignorance. [Bg 18.25-28] Activities in the mode of ignorance leads to unhappiness, frustration, delusion and degrades the living entity to the hellish planets or a lower species of life. Then one has to work one's way up the evolutionary ladder to regain a human form of life. There are 8,400,000 species of life, but only 400,000 are human varieties, so vikarma is very risky.

Works which don't incur karmic reactions is called akarma. Such activities are able to free one from the cycle of birth and death, because such activities are spiritual in nature, and are dedicated to the Supreme Lord. Devotional Service, done for the Lord, is called Bhakti. A devotee engaged in bhakti-yoga does not get any karmic reaction for his service, because is spiritual and completely transcendental to the three modes of material nature. A person working in devotion for the Supreme Lord is said to be a worker for whom the reactions of work have been burned up by the fire of perfect knowledge"
[Bg. 4.19].

All material activities involve actions and reactions in the three modes of material nature and are carried out in goodness, passion or ignorance, or a combination of these. See also: the three gunas. According to the mixture of the three modes of material nature,the living entity is subjected to the particular results of his actions.

As long as one is not liberated from material nature, one has to perform his duties according to religious principles and in this way gradually rise to the platform of real knowledge. "According to the three modes of material nature and the work associated with them, the four divisions of human society are created by Me," Krishna says [Bg. 4.13]. The four divisions are the brahmanas, the intelligent class, situated in the mode of goodness; the ksatriyas, the military and administrative class, in the mode of passion; vaisyas, the mercantile class, in mixed passion and ignorance; and sudras, the working class, in the mode of ignorance. Every civilized human fits into one of these categories, but not according to birth; it depends on one's personal qualities and work.

"By following his qualities of work, every man can become perfect," Krishna says [Bg. 18.45]. "One who performs his duty without attachment, surrendering the results unto the Supreme Lord, is unaffected by sinful action, as the lotus leaf is untouched by water," says the Bhagavad-Gita [5.10]. By work directed toward the highest perfection of self-realization understanding one's constitutional position as Krishna's eternal servitor one's karma ceases to exist.

In order to avoid bad karmic reactions we do not have to cease all activities and become inert like stones. Rather our activities and consciousness has to be changed, namely from material to spiritual. Spiritual activities done in purified consciousness can liberate the living entities. If one works in materialistic consciousness, one will be bound up to the material world and suffer the consequences. But if one works in spiritual consciousness one can stop karmic reactions and free himself from the repeated circle of birth and death.

please also see:
sinful activities and their effects
freedom from karmic reactions


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