'karmically wholesome' or 'profitable', salutary, morally good, (skillful)
Connotations of the term, according to Com. (Atthasālini), are: of good health, blameless, productive of favourable karma-result, skillful. It should be noted that Com. excludes the meaning 'skillful', when the term is applied to states of consciousness.
It is defined in M.9 as the 10 wholesome courses of action (s. kammapatha). In psychological terms, 'karmically wholesome' are all those karmical volitions (kamma-cetanā) and the consciousness and mental factors associated therewith, which are accompanied by 2 or 3 wholesome roots (s. mūla), i.e. by greedlessness (alobha) and hatelessness (adosa), and in some cases also by non-delusion (amoha: wisdom, understanding). Such states of consciousness are regarded as 'karmically wholesome' as they are causes of favourable karma results and contain the seeds of a happy destiny or rebirth. From this explanation, two facts should be noted:
(1) it is volition that makes a state of consciousness, or an act, 'good' or 'bad';
(2) the moral criterion in Buddhism is the presence or absence of the 3 wholesome or moral roots (s. mūla).
The above explanations refer to mundane (lokiya, q.v.) wholesome consciousness. Supermundane wholesome (lokuttara-kusala) states, i.e. the four paths of sanctity (s. ariyapuggala), have as results only the corresponding four fruitions; they do not constitute karma, nor do they lead to rebirth, and this applies also to the good actions of an Arahat (Tab. I, 73-80) and his meditative states (Tab. 1, 81-89), which are all karmically inoperative (functional; s. kiriya).
Kusala belongs to a threefold division of all consciousness, as found in the Abhidhamma (Dhs.), into
unwholesome (akusala) and
karmically neutral (avyākata),
which is the first of the triads (tika) in the Abhidhamma schedule (mātikā); s. Guide, pp. 4ff., 12ff; Vis.M. XIV, 83ff.