Action (Karma) is inevitable for a human being and the objective of doing it decides if it will be an aid to our spiritual growth or a hindrance. Most of our activities are usually motivated by the desire to make money, earn fame or to simply receive a gesture of appreciation. These expectations leave long-lasting impressions on our sub conscious mind which may sustain beyond a lifetime, if left unfulfilled. Having imprinted on our mind the trail of such actions enslaves us by forging the links of successive lives.
While delivering talks on Gita in Dhule jail (1932), Acharya Vinoba Bhave gave a beautiful explanation about the trinity of Karam yoga- Karma (any action) + Vikarma (special action) = Akarma (no action). Unlike many other thinkers who translate ‘vikarma’ as forbidden action, he has given it a different meaning- special action as prefix ‘vi’ also means ‘vishesh’ (special). Karma is done outwardly while vikarma is done inwardly to keep the mind dedicated to the action yet detached from the outcome. This special aid renders purity to our activities whereby we do the karma but do not carry the burden of being the doer. Such karmas fail to bind us and hence become akarma. In other words, the gunpowder of karma, when ignited through the flame of vikarma, causes a free explosion of energy -akarma. Acharya has further remarked that tantra (technique of an action) must be accompanied by mantra (spirit of an action) because tantra in itself has little value and manta without action is insufficient. True service is possible only when the serving hands are complemented with a chaste sentiment of selflessness.
Every spiritual seeker aims at salvation or liberation and liberation means being attached to nothing. This statement is not to be misinterpreted as an indication for retiring to a secluded cave because detachment is a matter of one’s conscious and not merely body. This has been very well explained in Chapters 3 and 5 of Bhagwad Gita. A recluse may have no craving for sensual pleasures but his act of morality done with a thought of prospective salvation will certainly bind him to his desired fruit. On the contrary, if a householder works for no other sake than the work itself, it will not stick to him in any way. So, the desire for salvation also keeps us away from the ‘real’ liberation.
The fact of the matter is that liberation is our natural state of existence. Innately, we all are absolutely free but the chains of our attachment fasten our mind. No one wills for the iron chain of bad deeds and the golden chain of good deeds is equally binding if one is aspiring for eternal freedom. Swami Vivekananda suggested that the bad tendencies have to be counteracted by righteousness and after subduing the evil, goodness must also be conquered. It implies that none of our actions should cause any ripple on the surface of our mind after getting over. It begins by sincerely taking up the work that comes to us and then progressing towards selflessness i.e. satisfactory completion of work to be considered a reward in itself. This is called a pure action (Nishkam Karam) i.e. outwardly performing the duty but renouncing the result inwardly. In fact, we owe a lot to the creation around us and the opportunity to do good to anyone should be taken as a privilege for enabling us to repay a bit of our debt. Also, we must realize that we have little capacity to make anyone happy, yet we are moved to help somebody for the sake of our own inner joy. Besides, service to our fellow beings can be viewed as a way to express our love for God, which demands nothing in return.
Saints have thus concluded that our deeds act like a mirror which reflects the real nature of our mind and is also a means to purify it. As pure action bears no post-imprint on the mind thereby keeping it free from the law of causation, liberation is attained regardless of the physical encasement.