Link:—In the preceding verse, the Lord explained that having known the divine character of actions, the ancient seekers of liberation performed actions. Now, the Lord in the next verse, starts the topic of knowing the truth about action.
kim karma kimakarmeti kavayo'pyatra mohitah
tatte karma pravaksyami yajjnatva moksyase'subhat
What is action? What is inaction? As to this, even the wise are confused. Therefore, I will explain to you what action is, by knowing which, you shall be liberated, from its evil effect (i.e.,) worldly bondage. 16
Kim karma:— Common men believe that activities done with the body and senses are mere actions, while non-performance of an act, is inaction. But, the Lord declares that activities performed with body, speech and mind, are actions (Gita 18/15).
An action, is determined by the motive by which, it is performed. An action, such as adoration of a goddess, is of the mode of goodness, but if it is undertaken with the motive of fulfilling mundane desires, it becomes a mode of passion. If it is undertaken with the motive of someone's ruin, the same action is, of the mode of ignorance. In the same way, actions which are performed without attachment, a sense of mine and desire for fruits, are classed as inaction, and these do not bind a man, to the fruit of action. It means, that truth about action cannot be determined by outward activity only. In this connection, even wise men, possessing knowledge of the scriptures get confused, i.e., they are, at a loss to understand the truth. An action is classed, – as an action or inaction, or is forbidden, according to the motive with which it is performed. Therefore, the Lord declares, that He will explain to Arjuna, what action is, why and how it binds a man, and how he can be liberated from it and by knowing the truth about it.
If a man, has a sense of mine, attachment and desire for fruits, it means that action is being performed by him i.e., he - is tainted by that action, even though he does not perform an outward action. On the other hand, if he has neither a sense of mine, nor attachment nor desire for fruit, it means that actions are not being performed by him i.e., he is not tainted by such actions, even though he performs actions. Thus performance or non-performance of actions is inaction, if he has no attachment, while performance or non-performance of actions is classed as action, if he has any attachment.
Kimakarmeti:—The Lord, divided action into two groups—actions and inaction. Actions, bind a man, while inactions (which are undertaken for others) liberate him.
In reality, physical abjuring of actions, is not inaction. The Lord, has declared that the renunciation of actions, through delusion is stated to be, of the nature of 'ignorance' (Gita 18/7). The exclusion of action, from fear of physical suffering, is called 'passionate' (Gita 18/8). In the renunciation of the nature of 'ignorance' and 'passion', the affinity for actions is not renounced, though the performance of actions is. Renunciation, in which attachment and desire for reward, are abandoned, is regarded as one of 'goodness' (Gita 18/9). In fact, this is called 'inaction', because affinity for actions is renounced in such a exctusion. Therefore, inaction, consists in the performance of actions, by remaining untainted by them.