Karma (/ˈkɑːrmə/; a Sanskrit word or in Pali as : kamma) means action, work or deed .it also refers to the spiritual principle of cause and effect where intent and actions of an individual (cause) influence the future of that individual (effect).
According to various religious and philosophical views, it is the universal causal law by which good or bad actions determine the future modes of an individual’s existence.
symbols of karma according to religious beliefs
Endless knot Endless knot on Nepalese temple prayer wheel
Karma symbols such as endless knot (above) are common cultural motifs in Asia. Endless knots symbolize interlinking of cause and effect, a Karmic cycle that continues eternally. The endless knot is visible in the center of the prayer wheel.
Lotus symbolically represents karma in many Asian traditions. A blooming lotus flower is one of the few flowers that simultaneously carries seeds inside itself while it blooms. Seed is symbolically seen as cause, the flower effect. Lotus is also considered as a reminder that one can grow, share good karma and remain unstained even in muddy circumstances.
doctrine of karma
Karma represents the ethical dimension of the process of rebirth (samsara), belief in which is generally shared among the religious traditions of India. Indian soteriologies (theories of salvation) posit that future births and life situations will be conditioned by actions performed during one’s present life—which itself has been conditioned by the accumulated effects of actions performed in previous lives.
The doctrine of karma thus directs adherents of Indian religions toward their common goal: release (moksha) from the cycle of birth and death. Karma thus serves two main functions within Indian moral philosophy: it provides the major motivation to live a moral life, and it serves as the primary explanation of the existence of evil.
earliest evidence of the term’s expansion – karma
the term karma carried no ethical significance in its earliest specialized usage. In ancient texts (1000–700 BCE) of the Vedic religion, karma referred simply to ritual and sacrificial action. As the priestly theology of sacrifice was articulated by Brahman priests over the following centuries, however, ritual action came to be regarded as effective by itself, independent of the gods. Karma as ritual functioned autonomously and according to a cosmic ritual law.
The earliest evidence of the term’s expansion into an ethical domain is provided in the Upanishads, a genre of the Vedas (sacred scriptures) concerned with ontology, or the philosophical study of being. In the middle of the 1st millennium BC era , the Vedic theologian Yajnavalkya expressed a belief that later became commonplace but was considered new and esoteric at the time: “A man turns into something good by good action and into something bad by bad action.” Although within the Vedic ritual tradition “good action” and “bad action” may have included both ritual and moral acts, this moral aspect of karma increasingly dominated theological discourse, especially in the religions of Buddhism and Jainism, which emerged about the middle of the 1st millennium BCE. Both of these religions embraced ascetic modes of life and rejected the ritual concerns of the Brahman priests.
law of karma
The connection between the ritual and moral dimensions of karma is especially evident in the notion of karma as a causal law, popularly known as the “law of karma.”
Many religious traditions —notably the Abrahamic religions that emerged in the Middle East (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam)—place reward and punishment for human actions in the hands of a divine lawgiver. In contrast, the classical traditions of India—Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, much like the Vedic sacrificial theology that preceded them—view karma as operating according to an autonomous causal law. No divine will or external agent intervenes in the relationship of the moral act to its inevitable result. The law of karma thus represents a markedly nontheistic theodicy, or explanation of why there is evil in the world.
theories of karma
1. principle of causality –
One of the earliest association of karma to causality occurs in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad of Hinduism. For example, at 4.4.5-6, it states:
Now as a man is like this or like that,
according as he acts and according as he behaves, so will he be;
a man of good acts will become good, a man of bad acts, bad;
he becomes pure by pure deeds, bad by bad deeds;
And here they say that a person consists of desires,
and as is his desire, so is his will;
and as is his will, so is his deed;
and whatever deed he does, that he will reap.
— Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 7th Century BCE
2. ethicization –
The second theme common to karma theories is ethicization. This begins with the premise that every action has a consequence, which will come to fruition in either this or a future life; thus, morally good acts will have positive consequences, whereas bad acts will produce negative results. An individual’s present situation is thereby explained by reference to actions in his present or in previous lifetimes. Karma is not itself “reward and punishment”, but the law that produces consequence.according to Halbfass notes, good karma is considered as dharma and leads to punya (merit), while bad karma is considered adharma and leads to pāp (demerit, sin).
thus A karma theory considers not only the action, but also actor’s intentions, attitude, and desires before and during the action. The karma concept thus encourages each person to seek and live a moral life, as well as avoid an immoral life. The meaning and significance of karma is thus as a building block of an ethical theory.
also called as saṃsāra, is the concept that all life forms go through a cycle of reincarnation, that is a series of births and rebirths. The rebirths and consequent life may be in different realm, condition or form. The karma theories suggest that the realm, condition and form depends on the quality and quantity of karma. In schools that believe in rebirth, every living being’s soul transmigrates (recycles) after death, carrying the seeds of Karmic impulses from life just completed, into another life and lifetime of karmas
Different religious views of karma
- The Bible refers to karma in the book of Galatians when it says, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man sow, that shall he also reap.” If you sow evil, you will reap evil in the form of suffering. And if you sow goodness, you will reap goodness in the form of inner joy. Every action, every thought, brings about its own corresponding rewards. Human suffering is not a sign of God’s anger with mankind. It is a sign, rather, of man’s ignorance of the divine law. thus,here Karma is the way God teaches us.
2.The concept of karma in Hinduism developed and evolved over centuries. The earliest Upanishads began with the questions about how and why man is born, and what happens after death. As answers to the latter, the early theories in these ancient Sanskrit documents include pancagni vidya (the five fire doctrine), pitryana (the cyclic path of fathers) and devayana (the cycle-transcending, path of the gods). Those who do superficial rituals and seek material gain, claimed these ancient scholars, travel the way of their fathers and recycle back into another life; those who renounce these, go into the forest and pursue spiritual knowledge, were claimed to climb into the higher path of the gods. It is these who break the cycle and are not reborn. With the composition of the Epics – the common man’s introduction to Dharma in Hinduism – the ideas of causality and essential elements of the theory of karma were being recited in folk stories. For example:
As a man himself sows, so he himself reaps; no man inherits the good or evil act of another man. The fruit is of the same quality as the action.
— Mahabharata, xii.291.22
3. Karma and karmaphala are fundamental concepts in Buddhism. The concepts of karma and karmaphala explain how our intentional actions keep us tied to rebirth in samsara, whereas the Buddhist path, as exemplified in the Noble Eightfold Path, shows us the way out of rebirth. Karmaphala is the “fruit or “result of karma. A similar term is karmavipaka, the “maturation or “cooking”of karma. The cycle of rebirth is determined by karma.In the Buddhist tradition, karma refers to actions driven by intention a deed done deliberately through body, speech or mind, which leads to future consequences. The Nibbedhika Sutta, Anguttara Nikaya 6.63:
Intention (cetana) I tell you, is kamma. Intending, one does kamma by way of body, speech, & intellect.
4. In Jainism, “karma” conveys a totally different meaning from that commonly understood in Hindu philosophy and western civilization. Jain philosophy is the oldest Indian philosophy that completely separates body (matter) from the soul (pure consciousness). In Jainism, karma is referred to as karmic dirt, as it consists of very subtle particles of matter that pervade the entire universe. Karmas are attracted to the karmic field of a soul due to vibrations created by activities of mind, speech, and body as well as various mental dispositions. Hence the karmas are the subtle matter surrounding the consciousness of a soul. When these two components (consciousness and karma) interact, we experience the life we know at present. Jain texts expound that seven tattvas (truths or fundamentals) constitute reality. These are
Jīva- the soul which is characterized by consciousness
Ajīva- the non-soul
Āsrava- inflow of auspicious and evil karmic matter into the soul.
Bandha (bondage)- mutual intermingling of the soul and karmas.
Samvara (stoppage)- obstruction of the inflow of karmic matter into the soul.
Nirjara (gradual dissociation)- separation or falling off of part of karmic matter from the soul.
Mokṣha (liberation)- complete annihilation of all karmic matter (bound with any particular soul).
5.In Sikhism, all living beings are described as being under the influence of maya’s three qualities. Always present together in varying mix and degrees, these three qualities of maya bind the soul to the body and to the earth plane. Above these three qualities is the eternal time. Due to the influence of three modes of Maya’s nature, jivas (individual beings) perform activities under the control and purview of the eternal time. These activities are called “karma”. The underlying principle is that karma is the law that brings back the results of actions to the person performing them.
This life is likened to a field in which our karma is the seed. We harvest exactly what we sow; no less, no more. This infallible law of karma holds everyone responsible for what the person is or is going to be. Based on the total sum of past karma, some feel close to the Pure Being in this life and others feel separated. This is the Gurbani’s (Sri Guru Granth Sahib) law of karma. Like other Indian and oriental schools of thought, the Gurbani also accepts the doctrines of karma and reincarnation as the facts of nature.
Mary Jo Meadow suggests karma is akin to “Christian notions of sin and its effects. She states that the Christian teaching on a Last Judgment according to one’s charity is a teaching on karma. Christianity also teaches morals such as one reaps what one sows and live by the sword, die by the sword (Matthew 26:52). Most scholars, however, consider the concept of Last Judgment as different from karma, with karma as an ongoing process that occurs every day in one’s life, while Last Judgment, by contrast, is a one-time review at the end of life.
Can karma be changed ? if the answer is yes – then how ?
Human beings, according to laws of nature, must pay for all their wrong actions, but when they tune themselves to God through techniques of meditation and remember the perfect image within them, then, realizing their divinity, they need not suffer for their past human errors. But if they again become identified with their humanity by not forgiving others, then they again subject themselves to be governed by the exacting law of karma. Karma can also be changed by the intervention of a Self-realized master who is free from karma.
HOW one can be free OF KARMA?
Very few people realize how many of their actions and desires are generated by past karma. They believe they are acting on free will, but instead they are acting out habits buried deep in their subconscious mind from many past lifetimes.
The way out of this cycle is to renounce the false notion that one demonstrates freedom by giving free reign to one’s desires. By attuning oneself with the infinite wisdom behind karmic law, one accepts God and His guidance from within, rather than being guided by desire. The more one lives guided from within, the greater one’s control over outer events in life. As long as one is acting on divine guidance rather than ego, one accrues no more karma, and it is eventually dissipated.
The Law of Karma may be represented by an archer shooting arrows from a bow. The arrows already released are past karma.We still have a quiver full of arrows that we are simply carrying around for the future. Only the arrow that we have
fitted into our bow is the only one still under our control. It is our present
karma. Once we let it fly it is beyond our control; it speeds on to produce its
!!!! Aristotle remarked: “Though you have
the power to throw a rock, you do not have
the power to retrieve it in mid-flight.”
And so it is with our words and actions. !!!!
as Karma, being made by human will, is subject to human modification. so If one wants to change their karma, begin by changing your attitude: first toward outer events, people and things, then toward yourself. What you have brought upon yourself may come to an end of itself once you find the positive quality that you need to develop in your attitude toward it to replace the negative one. The person who can live without troubles has yet to be found, but the person who can live without worrying about them may be found wherever these teachings are understood.
thus, Life is not trying to make us happy or unhappy. It is trying to make us
understand. Happiness or unhappiness comes as a by-product of our success or
failure in understanding which eventually leads to karma.