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Where in Bhagavad-gita can I find definitions of: sukarma, vikarma, and akarma?


by Laxmimoni dasi

Bhagavad-gita addresses karma, in all of its varieties, throughout the entire text. The Gita does not specifically use the word "sukarma," however the prefix "su" means auspicious. Sukarma is that action which causes no material karma (reaction), either "good" or "bad." It is the same as akarma — karma or work that does not bind us.

If you look at verse 2:47 you will see a summary of the various types of Karma (work) briefly described by Srila Prabhupada. In verse 4:20 and purport you will get definitions of akarma and vikarma, with reference to those specific terms. Also in verse 3:6 and the purport akarma is discussed and in verse 3:15 vikarma is discussed.

"Surrender Unto Me" is a study guide for the Bhagavad Gita written by HH Bhurijana Prabhu which goes into great detail about the various types of karmas that the living entity may encounter in regards to work, knowledge, attachment, and the yoga ladder. The word "Karma" has many meanings in Sanskrit and so these different meanings have to be sorted out to really understand the concept.

In the Gita itself Srila Prabhupada addresses these concepts but often without using the specific words. Often the concepts of vikarma and akarma are used in relationship with the yoga ladder. The jiva (self) progresses from the bottom of the yoga ladder — base sense enjoyment — where the living entity has no cares for what happens to anyone else, or even himself in the future. That is known as vikarma, (bad karma or work which binds in a negative way).

As the jiva becomes more aware, he may worship the demigods to obtain better sense gratification. That is called karma kanda, work which binds but in a "positive" way. Next, he progresses to serving the Supreme for the purpose of getting a better material life, ("Dear Lord, please give me an 'A' on the test or a good husband"). That is sakama yoga, or work which attempts to please the Lord but with attachment to material things. From there, the living entity progresses to niskama karma yoga, which is characterized by giving up attachment. Within that rung of the ladder there are various levels...the highest is sukarma, or transcendental karma. For example, I serve Krishna, develop love for Him and get no material reaction; my "reaction" is that I leave the material world and go back to serve Him there. Also for my work I am not interested in any reward except that Lord Krishna is happy. This is the level of the Gopis (cowherd girls of Vrindavan - the most elevated spiritual personalities).

The reason I put "good" karma and "bad" karma in quotes is that any material karma that binds us to the material world is actually bad. We don't belong in the material world. We belong in the spiritual world. So if we are born wealthy, beautiful, etc. ("good" karma) that's not really what we want; because we're still bound in a material body. Or, if we're poor, ugly, miserable, etc. ("bad" karma), again we're bound to a material body. It's kind of like being in a prison. One case is like being in a "first class" cell and in another case is like being in solitary confinement. One is worse then the other but both are in prison!