Nishkama Karma

By Dr. K S Radhakrishnan on 08-08-2017

The term ‘nishkama karma’ has been misunderstood even by the said to be experts of Indian Systems of Thought. Such experts believe that nishkama karma is karma devoid of results (phala). Some of them even interpreted that man has to work without getting anything from it. Such a position is ridiculous, illogical and inhuman, because it has been misinterpreted that a laborer is not expected to demand the wages because the duty of the laborer is only to perform work. Such a ridiculous argument has been made by those who failed to understand even the normal theory of possession, which specifically establishes the connection between cause and effect. Where there is a cause, there must be a result (effect). So, nishkama karma specifically denies that there can be karma without phala (result); it only means that one has to concentrate oneself on the karma when it is to be performed, rather than the phala (result) that can be expected. This is because the cause occurs in the ‘present’ and the result has to be occurred in the future.

Nobody can regulate the future because future is something which has to be occurred. So, what is practically and logically possible is to regulate the present which is at our command. Therefore, the karma being performed at present is to be performed with utmost concentration and intensity. Anything that is performed with utmost concentration and intensity must be able to produce better results in the future. Nishkama karma logically says that one has to regulate the present to regulate the future. It also means that better performance of karma in the present must be able to produce better rewards in the future.  Therefore, ‘Advaita’ believes that every person who wants to do something with utmost care and concentration must be ready to practice nishkama karma. Nishkama karma is not a meaningless process of renunciation of results of action but it is a process that demands everyone to perform his/her actions with utmost care in the present. Here, one must be able to regulate oneself. In short, nishkama karma is nothing but the performance of self-regulated actions.

About The Author

Dr. K S Radhakrishnan

Dr. K S Radhakrishnan (formerly Vice-Chancellor of Sri Sankaracharya University and Chairman, Kerala Public Service Commission) is a learned scholar who has been earnestly trying to revive the ancient knowledge in Indian culture. He worked as a lecturer early in his life and now lives an eloquent advocate of social and cultural causes.