“Everything is an emanation from the supreme spirit, and by His inconceivable power He can convert spirit into matter and matter into spirit. Therefore a material thing (so-called) is at once turned into a spiritual force by the great will of the Lord. The necessary condition for such a change is to employ so-called matter in the service of the spirit. That is the way to treat our material diseases and elevate ourselves to the spiritual plane where there is no misery, no lamentation and no fear.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.5.33 Purport)
“I like the concept of ‘karma-free.’ I first came across it while reading about prasadam, in the context of food offered to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Though He is everywhere and everything, God is not inside of everything. He creates the material energy, is omnipresent through the expansion known as Supersoul, and at the same time is aloof from everything.
“Due to His causeless mercy and boundless compassion, He agrees to appear in ways that we can identify Him. That is the purpose of the deity or the basic altar area inside of a home. Obviously, God exists both inside of the home and outside, in the same way that the modern employee can conduct their business at both the office and at home, in most cases.
“The office still exists as a place of focus and attention. The employees engaged collectively for furthering a cause can meet together and hopefully make further advancement towards the goal. In the same way, the area in the home designated for spiritual life, for focused worship, can help a person advance quickly in the endeavor of spiritual life, which is the highest achievement for man, purushartha.
“In this special place devotees offer various items, such as incense sticks, lamps, water, whisk fans, and ringing bells. On a more advanced level, they may present food preparations before the deity, offering Him everything they have just made. This is a kind of sacrifice.
“The explanation is that the resulting food, which is the Lord’s mercy, is karma-free. It is prasadam, and it is distinct from food prepared for one’s own satisfaction. Karma is work that has accompanying consequences to the development of the body, either in this lifetime or a future one.
“Karma-free sounds great, in theory, but how do we validate? Isn’t it an easy way for someone to make themselves superior? I could say that I am karma-free in my eating pizza and cake, while another person gets derided as gluttonous. The people watching television are in maya, but my doing the same is furthering the purpose of explaining the science of self-realization, in gaining points of reference to be used in discourse. You could go on and on making cheap excuses for your behavior that is actually material in nature.”
The comparison we find in Shrimad Bhagavatam is to medicine, particularly therapeutics. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada uses the example of milk. Sometimes, in consuming too much dairy, we get problems in the bowels. Yet the very same milk, prepared in a certain way, can act as the cure for the ailment.
This material energy brings misery in three ways, tapatraya. It is a cause of bondage for the living entity, who is pure spirit soul. We are aloof from the temporarily manifest material energy, but at the same time we are in association. Therefore, we suffer from the interaction.
The very same material energy can be used for our rescue. That is how an activity can become karma-free. We are using the same ingredients that might otherwise lead to health issues and mental agitation, but since we are dedicating everything to the Supreme Lord, there is a healing potency.
Any person can make any claim in theory, from the full range of totally reasonable to the wild and crazy. Through practical application, we can make a test for ourselves. The same eyes that are used for perusing endless streams of viral videos and news stories can be utilized for consuming the timeless wisdom of Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam, which are preserved to the modern day in the original text.
Our ears can be used for hearing the sweet sounds of dedication in song to the Almighty, in listening to advanced yogis describe the complexities, intricacies, and endless glories of the Supreme Lord. After the fact, we can judge for ourselves if there is indeed a difference in nature, if somehow the material elements have come to life in a way we never previously imagined.
If pleased by offering is He,
Then entire engagement karma-free.
Though with material elements using,
For higher purpose choosing.
Any person any claim can make,
Truth from the evidence to take.
That dedicating some time to hear,
And experiencing understanding clear.