Yoga Sūtra Chapter Four verse 7

कर्माशुक्लाकृष्णं योगिनः त्रिविधमितरेषाम् ॥७॥

karma-aśukla-akṛṣṇaṃ yoginaḥ trividham-itareṣām ||7||

The actions of one who has Yoga
are neither white nor black,
of others it is three fold.

karman - act, action, performance; work, labour, activity; any religious act or rite; organ of senseaśukla - not whiteakṛṣṇa - not blackyoga - the act of yoking, joining, attaching, harnessing; a yoke, team, vehicle, conveyance; employment, use, application, performance; a means, expedient, device, way, manner, methodtrividha - three folditara - others

Commentaries and Reflections

Commentary by S Ramaswami:

“Thus the action of a Yogi is designated as neither Black nor White, whereas the rest is of three kinds.

This Sūtra is there to indicate that even if a Yogi continues to operate he will not acquire further actions or Karma, this is after Viveka Khyāti.

This is in answer to IV 6. Among all the Siddhas the actions of the Yogi do not produce tendencies or Āṣaya.

Thus Karma can be put into four kinds. This Sūtra is to distinguish between the Karma of a Yogi and that of the rest.

Karma Saṃnyāsa renounces the action

Karma Phala Saṃnyāsa renounces the fruit of the action (Kriya Yoga of C2 v1).

The Karma Yogi does his action without worrying about the fruit.

Thus the difference between Nirodha Yogi and the Karma Yogi is that in Nirodha all actions have been renounced except bodily functions.

In Nirodha there is no activity.

For the Karma Yogi the action can be of two types: with or without personal gain.

The four kinds are:

Black: Steeped in vice, definitely wrong. Impelled by greed etc…

In tradition those activities that are Adharmic.

Black and white: Those activities which require external means: family, jobs, making use of other people, animals, depriving others for the sake of family, etc…

These actions gather latencies which either hurt or benefit in the future.

Thus, all human endeavours come under this and the results are always mixed.

White: Internal improvement in clarity of mind. Tapas, Svādhyāya etc…

Will give you a higher birth as no injury to anybody.

Still in bondage as there is no Prakṛti-Puruṣa-Viveka. However, because it does not depend on props or affect others it is Sattvic.

Neither Black nor White: That which is neither Black nor White. That is the last phase in the bodily activity or last birth of a Yogi who has considerably reduced his activities of Kleśa (afflictions).

Thus they are actions which don’t produce further births. Thus the Yogi or Saṃnyāsa has renounced the benefits of his actions (as an offering to Īśvara) and doesn’t take up external help.

The Yogi here is between the attainment of Siddhi and Kaivalya.

However, these two Sūtra draw the line or distinction between the Siddhi and the Yogi.

The path of the Yogi is towards Puruṣa Jñāna. Only by knowing the nature of the true self can Asmitā and the mind cease to function.”

Commentary by Paul Harvey:

“Even though Yoga talks about the possibility of
a state of being expressing motiveless action,
for the rest of us there is always an ulterior motive.

The issue is what it truly is, rather than just whether it
had what we believed as a white, grey or black intention.
Also, whether this intention is what we wanted to believe,
or is there another truth lurking within our sense of right?
Thus, the outcome may well differ from what we believed.

However, as many of our motives fall within the grey spectrum,
a deeper introspection into the reality of intention is important.
To at least minimise Viparyaya, existing as a flight of fancy, or
posing as if a truth convincing in its rightness to exist, when in
reality, merely an opinion, even if not its deeper partner Avidyā.”