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From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Kāmyakarma literally means ‘desire-motivated actions’. These actions are permitted to be performed to fulfill one’s desires if they cannot be got in the normal course by only human efforts. The kāmyeṣtis of the Vedas and the various vratas prescribed by the purāṇas belong to this category. It is one of the four karmas as classified below.

Classification of Karma[edit]

A human being can never rest without performing karma or some sort of action or activity. As per the scriptures, such karmas are of four types:

  1. Niṣiddhakarma - prohibited actions
  2. Kāmyakarma - actions motivated by desires
  3. Nityakarma and Naimittikakarma - obligatory actions prescribed to be performed daily and on special occasions
  4. Niṣkāmakarma - desireless actions

Niṣiddhakarma and Nityakarma[edit]

Niṣiddhakarma are the sinful actions. These actions are:

  • Stealing
  • Rape
  • Murder

These actions are highly condemned and hence must be eschewed at all costs.

Nityakarmas are the prescribed daily duties. They are:


Naimittikakarmas are the occasional rites. These rites include:

  • Śrāddhas - obsequial rites
  • Fasting on certain days like ekādaśīs


Niṣkāmakarma is any good work done without selfish desires or motives. These actions include:

  • Service to others
  • Offerings to God with the motive of worship only

This type of work purifies the mind and ultimately leads to the realization of the Self within.


  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore