Karma (car-ma) is a word meaning the result of a person's actions as well as the actions themselves. It is a term about the cycle of cause and effect. According to the theory of Karma, what happens to a person, happens because they caused it with their actions. It is an important part of many religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism.
The theory of karma can be thought to be an extension to Newton's third law of action and reaction where every action of any kind including words, thoughts feelings, the totality of our existence, will eventually have a reaction, same type of energy coming back to the one that caused it. It implies that absolutely nothing exists, which does not comply with the law of cause and effect. On the scale of the Universe it would imply absolute determinism of all actions, feelings, thoughts and developments for the past and for the future making both calculable, if the current state of the Universe would be known fully.
In terms of spiritual development, Karma is about all that a person has done, is doing and will do. Karma is not about punishment or reward. It makes a person responsible for their own life, and how they treat other people.
Definition[change | change source]
Karma is the universal principle of cause and effect. Our actions, both good and bad, come back to us in the future, helping us to learn from life’s lessons and become better people. In religions that include reincarnation, karma extends through one's present life and all past and future lives as well.
Karma is basically energy. One person throws out energy through thoughts, words and actions, and it comes back, in time, through other people. Karma is the best teacher, forcing people to face the consequences of their actions and thus improve and refine their behavior, or suffer if they do not. Even harsh karma, when faced in wisdom, can be the greatest spark for spiritual growth. The conquest of karma lies in intelligent action and unemotional response.
Examples of karma[change | change source]
“I say kind words to you, and you feel peaceful and happy. I say harsh words to you, and you become ruffled and upset. The kindness and the harshness will return to me, through others, at a later time.Finally, what I give is what I get back.”
“An architect thinks creative, productive thoughts while drawing plans for a new building. But were he to think destructive, unproductive thoughts, he would soon not be able to accomplish any kind of positive task even if he desired to do so.”
Karma in Hinduism[change | change source]
Hindus look at time as a circle, as things cycle around again. Karma is a very just law which, like gravity, treats everyone the same. The law of karma puts man at the center of responsibility for everything he does and everything that is done to him. Understanding the way karma works, Hindus try to live a virtuous life. This is called dharma.
There are three types of karma in Hinduism:
- sanchita karma, the sum total of past karmas yet to be resolved;
- prarabdha karma, that portion of sanchita karma that is to be experienced in this life; and
- kriyamana karma, the karma that humans are currently creating, which will bear fruit in future.
The role of divine forces[change | change source]
Karma is considered one of the natural laws of the mind, just as gravity is a law of matter. Just as God created gravity to bring order to the physical world, He created karma as a divine system of justice that is self-governing and infinitely fair. It automatically creates the appropriate future experience in response to the current action.
Several different views exist in Hinduism regarding the role of divine beings. In Hinduism, many see the deities or devas as playing some kind of role. Other Hindus, such as the Mimamsakas, reject such notions and see karma as acting independently, considering the natural laws of causation sufficient to explain the effects of karma.
Some interpretations of the Bhagavad Gita suggest an intermediate view, that karma is a law of cause and effect yet God can mitigate karma for His devotees. It is said in Bhagavad Gita that only the karma that is done with a sense of doership and with attachment to the karma could cause good or bad reactions. Karma that is done with an attitude of duty and without attachment to the results will not create any effect and will move one closer to God.
Related pages[change | change source]
- Just-World Phenomenon is like Karma
References[change | change source]
- Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, "Ten Questions people ask About Hinduism …and ten terrific answers!" (p. 5) 
- Pratima Bowes, The Hindu Religious Tradition 54-80 (Allied Pub. 1976) ISBN 0710086687
- Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol. II, at 217-225 (18th reprint 1995) ISBN 81-85301-75-1
- Alex Michaels, Hinduism: Past and Present 154-56 (Princeton 1998) ISBN 0-691-08953-1
- Verses 4:14, 9.22 and 18.61
- Yogananda, Paramahansa, Autobiography of a Yogi, Chapter 21 ISBN 1-56589-212-7
- Swami Krishnananda on the Guru mitigating the karma of the disciple
- Swami B. V. Tripurari on grace of the Guru destroying karma