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Karma is the Sanskrit word for “action” or “deed”. Any physical or mental action is considered as Karma. The results or ‘fruits’ of actions are called Karma-phala (fruit of Karma). According to Hinduism, life is an infinite chain of results of actions (Karma) in the past. In simple words this works as “Law of Cause and Effect” or “As you sow, so you reap”. The way the results of Karma are delivered in the life is the “Law of Karma”.
Karma in Hinduism (Sanatana dharma) is considered to be a spiritually originated law that governs all life. In the Law of Karma even though an individual is considered to be the sole doer and enjoyer of his Karmas and their ‘fruits’, according to Vedanta, the supreme being (The Divine) plays a major role as the dispenser of the ‘fruits’ of Karma. Many Hindus see God’s direct involvement in this process; others consider the natural laws of causation sufficient to explain the effects of Karma.
In my view, “as you sow, so you reap” is an incomplete definition of Karma. The definition is complete only when the aspect of “the divine role as a dispenser of the fruits of Karma” is recognized and applied to the Law of Karma.
Ways an individual performs Karma
There are mainly three ways an individual performs Karma. We perform acts or deeds every moment in our life through following ways:
Manasa – Mind
Vaachaa – Speech
Karmana – Actions
Law of Karma – God is fair and gives you exactly what you deserve
Summary of Law of Karma is expressed by the following: “God does not make one suffer for no reason nor does He make one happy for no reason. God is fair and gives you exactly what you deserve.” Karma is not punishment or retribution but simply an expression or consequence of natural acts. Although it may often appear like a punishment (or reward), the purpose of Karma is to perfectly follow the cosmic law (God’s system of Universal operation) and not to punish (or reward). Often the way we learn the best is to endure the same type of suffering (of happiness) that we have inflicted (or offered) on others in the past (most of the times in the past life.)
This is God’s Way and Desire to make us leave the World of Maya (Veil of Ignorance or “mudhawastha” or stupefied state of mind) that brings us the sufferings and embrace the Divine Awareness (or The Bliss, Sat-Chit-Ananda, Chaitanya, Moksha, Supreme Awareness, Supreme Consciousness or Super-Soul) and be blissful eternally.
According to the Vedas, if one sows goodness, will reap goodness; if one sows evil, will reap evil, at the same time the delivery of consequences is controlled by the Divine. Karma refers to the totality of our actions and their concomitant reactions in this and previous lives, all of which collectively determines our future (what we call as destiny.)
The fact is: God is PERFECT and God’s system (Law of Karma) works absolutely PERFECTLY. God does not punish or reward people based on his will and fancies. God is neither partial nor unjust. God is not responsible for the wealth of one man or the poverty of another. You suffer on account of your own actions (Prarabdha karma). There is nothing chaotic or capricious in this world. Things do NOT happen in this universe by accident or chance in a disorderly manner or with God’s Random Will. They happen in regular succession and events follow each other in a regular order. They happen exactly as per the perfect system laid down by the God called Law of Karma.
The fact is: God loves every one equally and he is fair to everyone. It is true that the entire universe and our lives run on the “Will of the God” and at the same time that “God’s will” (cosmic system in place) is perfect and fair (not imperfect and unfair that runs on irregular impulses of God’s desires or passions.)
Summary: God has laid down “Absolutely FAIR Cosmic System that works PERFECTLY LOGICALLY” and it is NOT “Willful fancy that works as per God’s wishes”.
Swami Sivananda Sarasvati on Law of Karma
“If you take an individual life as an isolated event which begins with birth of the physical body and terminates with its death you cannot find any correct explanation or solution for the affairs of life. You will be groping in darkness and despair. Your present life is nothing, when compared with the whole soul-life. It is momentary – a mere fragment. If you want to find the cause or antecedent for anything, you will have to go deep into the affairs of the eternal soul-life. Then alone there will be perfect balance of cause and effect, antecedent and consequence. Life does not end with the disintegration of this physical body alone. There is reincarnation. There had been countless previous lives also. You will have to take into consideration the widest view of the life of the soul. Then you will find a perfect, satisfactory solution for all the intricate and complicated affairs of life.
Yogi Swami Sivananda Saraswati. Every wrong action or crime brings its own punishment in accordance with the law of retribution. The law of causation, the law of action and reaction, the law of compensation and the law of retribution – all operate together. He who hurts another man, hurts himself first.
Remember that God is neither partial nor unjust. Remember that God is not responsible for the wealth of one man or the poverty of another. You suffer on account of your own wicked actions. There is nothing chaotic or capricious in this world. Things do not happen in this universe by accident or chance in a disorderly manner. They happen in regular succession and events follow each other in a regular order. There is a kind of definite connection between what is being done now by you and what will happen in the future. Sow always the seeds which will bring pleasant fruits and which will make you happy herein and hereafter.”
Karma, God and Hinduism. According to Hinduism God is fair and humans have a free will to choose good or evil Karma and therefore, will face the consequences (good or bad) according to their Karma in the past. Karma initiates the entire cycle of cause and effect (i.e., the cycle called Sansara.) Jivatma (soul) cannot attain moksha (salvation) until the accumulated (sanchita) Karmas are completely exhausted by consuming them.
Karma is like a seed, most of the times Karma does not fructify immediately after the seed is sown. We produce numerous Karmic seeds by our actions (speech and thoughts) every moment – desire, aversion, love, hatred, happiness, etc. will undoubtedly produce, a positive or negative result, sooner or later, according to the nature of the seed, if not in this life, then in some future one.
Bhagavad Gita (4-17) says: “Mysterious is the path of action (karma)” The Law of Karma is inscrutable. It is difficult to say what sort of karmas will cause cancer and whether the fruit that you enjoy now is the result of one karma or a combination of several karmas. It is difficult to tell whether the fruit that you enjoy now is from the karma in the current birth or is it from the karmas in previous births (Sanchita karma). Ripe karmas can produce fruits in the same birth under proper circumstances.
God does not send anyone to Heaven or Hell based on their faith
“Law of Karma” is like a universal law say “Law of Gravity” – It applies whether you accept or reject the law. Law of Karma is completely unrelated to faith the person follows. God does not send anyone to Heaven or Hell based on their faith.
Karma Works: Perfectly, Applying to everyone, All the times, Without fail, No exceptions!!!
Karma is the principle of cause and effect, action and reaction, total cosmic justice and personal responsibility. It is very logical: what you sow is what you reap in exact and precise measure (dispensed by the Divine according to the Cosmic principals.) Karma is as predictable as the laws of gravity: what is done to you is the net result of what you have done to others. He who hurts others, has already hurt himself in the future. The most important unpredictable aspect of Law of Karma is the “Delivery” (or consequences) that are controlled by the Divine.
Karma begins to propel you as Soul on a personal journey through the universe. Karma ends when you have perfected yourself in art of doing Karma without attachment. The ability to do Karma without attachment (without expectation of Karma-phala) can be attained by perfecting oneself on the path to the Divine by following various yogas – Karma yoga (yoga of action without attachment), Bhakti yoga (yoga of love for the Divine), Gyan yoga (yoga of knowledge and awareness), Siddha or Kundalini yoga (yoga of divine consciousness), Hatha yoga (purification of the body and mind through Asanas and Pranayama), Laya yoga (yoga of meditating on interior energy centers), Mantra yoga (yoga of Divine or Sacred words, phrases, or syllables) or any combination of these.
Karmic Baggage and Karmic Blessings. We carry Karmic Baggage and Karmic Blessing depending on whether we’ve performed positive or negative actions in the past. Vikars [Kama (Lust), Krodh (Rage or uncontrolled anger), Lobh (Greed), Moh (Attachment or emotional attachment) and Ahankar (ego)] continue to rule human life until we are carrying Maya (Veil of Ignorance or “mudhawastha” or stupefied state of mind.)
Driver behind the Life and Karma. Depending on which one of the three subtle components (Tri-Gunas – Sattwa, Rajo, Tamo) is predominant within us, it influences how we:
- React to situations
- Make decisions
- Make choices
- Live our lives
Tri-Gunas (Sattwa, Rajo, Tamo) are the driver behind the thought, thought is the driver behind the action (Karma). Karma is the driver behind the life (of cause and effect) that we live.
Tri-Gunas is the seed – Karma is the tree – Consequence of the Karma is the fruit that we are living today.
- 1) Satwik Gun = Satwik Karma = Satwik fruit = Person is more close to the God
- 2) Tamo Gun = Tamasik Karma = Tamasik fruit = Person is far away from the God
Rebirth (Reincarnation). Desire produces karma. You work and exert to acquire the objects of your desire. Karma produces its fruits as pain or pleasure. You will have to take birth after birth to reap the fruits of your karmas. This is the law of karma.
The wheel of life (“samsara”) must continue until the soul (Jivatma) has Karma attached to it. The cycle of birth, life, and death will continue until all Karma is full consumed. When one revolution of the wheel (one life) is completed, life begins again with a rebirth. This is how law of Karma works. Karma leads us in the journey of life from the first manifestation as an amoeba to the last manifestation… the 8.4 millionth manifestations. The process of rebirth continues until there is balance in Karmic account. The soul is liberated from the karmic bondage when the Karmic balance is consumed totally.
How Karmic account balance is maintained? The accumulated result of all actions from all our past lifetimes is called “Sanchita Karma”. The interesting part is how this account of Karmic Credit/Debt is maintained. It is never maintained as a total net balance (as done in case of a bank account) but always stored as a separate account of Credit and Debit that never cancels each other, for each soul.
Types of Karma
- Sanchita Karma: The accumulated result of all your actions from all your past lifetimes. This is your total cosmic debt. Every moment of every day either you are adding to it or you are reducing this cosmic debt.
- Prarabdha Karma: The portion of your “sanchita” Karma being worked on in the present life. That is part of one’s Sanchita Karma which must be worked out in the present life (no options). Because the law of Karma implies determinism in human activities, Prarabdha is often translated as destiny. When you work down your agreed upon debt in this lifetime, then more past debts surface to be worked upon in the next birth.
- Agami Karma: Approaching or Future Karma: This is the Karma or the actions that are now going to be done which will give their results later in the future. Some of Agami Karmas bear fruit in the current life; others are stored for future births in the form of Sanchita Karma.
- Kriyamana Karma: This is Karma that we create in our daily life because of our thoughts, will and actions. It refers to the decisions before us to act upon. These karma consequences add to our Future Sanchita Karma as we perform the current karma. But, not all of this karma goes to the Sanchita balance and some of them can fructify in the current life (i.e. you speed on a highway and you get a ticket. Karma is created and consumed immediately in this case.)
You can lead a happy life by following ‘Law of Karma’
To live a good and happy life, every man should have a comprehensive understanding of God’s Cosmic System (law of Karma), and its operations. If man acquires this karmic knowledge and puts it into practice, then he can pull on in this world smoothly and happily. He can utilize the helping forces to serve his ends in the best possible manner. He can neutralize the hostile or antagonistic currents. Just as the fish swims against the current, so also he will be able to go against the hostile currents by adjusting himself properly and safeguarding himself through suitable precautionary methods. God helps those (to some extent) who understand and apply the law of Karma in their life.
In absence of knowledge of functioning of God’s Cosmic System (Law of karma) man becomes a slave (of his desires). He is tossed around here and there helplessly by various currents in his present life. Various hostile forces (generated because of his past actions) drag him in different directions. He drifts like a wooden log in a river. He always leads a miserable and unhappy life even if he has all the wealth and possessions in this world.