Question: Can you name references in sastra to sakama [action based on the desire for sense enjoyment]
Answer: The reference for sakama karma, usually called kamya karma, can be found in many places. The first is in Gita itself kamyanam karmana nyasam …. (18.2) The other places are Gitabhusana commentary on Gita 2.31,2.40,2.41,2.45,2.49,18.7 etc., Sararthavarsini on Gita 2.41,2.42,2.49,2.50,18.7 etc, Kramasandarbha and Sararthadarsini on 1.5.12, 1.5.15 of SB and Govinda Bhasya on 1.1.1
Question: These seem more about sa kama activities, indicating prescribed Vedic activities simply based on satisfying one’s desires. But would they also be considered sa-kama karma yoga?
Answer: Yes, everything in Bhagavat Gita is yoga, even Arjuna’s dejection.
Question: What specifically makes them yoga? That they are prescribed on the Vedic path? If so, what would be the specific meaning of yoga in this case?
Answer: Because they are part of the Vedic injunction, the word of God. The meaning of yoga is that they link one to God and ultimately will purify one. Krishna says all karma culminates in jnana.
Question: How would you term one on the path of niskama karma yoga (or bhakti), but who still has material attachments and is therefore not yet on the niskama level? From what I understand, such a person could be termed as practicing sa-kama karma yoga.
Answer: No, he would still be called on the path of niskama karma yoga, if he is not doing any Vedic karma with a fruitive motive.
Question: How would you differentiate such a person from a sakama person on the Vedic path who is only interested in satisfying his desires and has no transcendental objective?
Answer: The major difference lies in the sankalpa [determination, resolve] of the person. That is what makes an act sakama or niskama. Secondly there are certain acts which are only for sakama.
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If you are content in heart, the spiritual world is right here. And contentment is the natural outcome of bhakti.