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An Overview of Karma

Author: Lena Santos

Karma is a Sanskrit word than means act or action. In a nutshell, Karma is all about reaping the consequences of one’s action. The adage “what goes around comes around” and “you get what you deserve” are somewhat akin to the whole concept of Karma. The concept of Karma is evident even in Abrahamic religions such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Though these religions are based on the faith that a supreme God imposes his will on the believers in general sense, these religions also teach that “you reap what you sow” – karma albeit limited to one lifetime and a promise of everlasting life after death.

It seems like the concept of Karma is not limited to Hinduism and Buddhism for the Bible has explicit verses that could relate to Karma.

All things whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. (NIV Matthew 7:12)


Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A person reaps what he sows. (NIV Gal. 6:7)

The “Golden Rule” also implies the same tenet on how a person should live his life: What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.

Though the word Karma has been connoted as punishment for past bad deeds, Karma is not a concrete being or object or ideal that judges one’s action. Karma is simply the very universal law of cause and effect brought about by any thought, word or action that a person has done and its effect to the present situation. Karma can also relate to the “future” consequence of a deed that a person has done. A simplistic example is it is our Karma to suffer the consequences brought about by our blatant abuse of nature and its natural resources. Global warming, oils spills and drought are just some of the consequences we are in now.

Karma is not vindictive. It is not a form of punishment. It is only the result of a person’s good or bad deeds that has come full circle. The cause and effect factor is at play. A person’s suffering or problematic situation could be attributed to a dreadful thing he did to someone. On the other hand, that same person might experience joy and contentment as a result of a good deed he has done in the past. This is saying that a particular action does not have a specific corresponding Karma. There is no pre-determined reaction to an action. Only time and circumstances will tell of how a present act, good or bad will reap its Karma.

There are different schools of thoughts regarding Karma. Views about Karma differ in Hinduism and Buddhism.

In Hinduism, Karma is a spiritual law. There are Hindus who believe that there is a greater god who is directly involved in the law of Karma while there are those who believe that the natural and universal principle of cause and effect lies behind the concept of Karma. Followers of Ishvara consider the deity as having a direct hand in delivering Karma. A sect of Hinduism known as Vedanta believe that there is a supreme being whose will is directly involved regarding an individual’s Karma. According to these Hindus:

God does not make one suffer for no reason nor does He make one happy for no reason. God is very fair and gives you exactly what you deserve.

Every human has free will. He has full control of his actions and he does know which are bad and good deeds according to his own belief. Every religion, teaches its followers a set of doctrines or rules as their guidelines to their daily living. A person’s actions are almost always deliberate unless presented with an outside force or threat that sway’s his good judgment. Taking this in consideration it can be said that Karma is not fate per se for each human has the freedom to choose what is right from wrong. He knows that if one does a good deed he will acquire good Karma and if one does dastardly acts, he will reap bad things.

How can one bring about Karma? According to Swamiji, a leading guru and Yogi practitioner, there are four ways to produce Karma – through thoughts, words, and actions and through actions done by others according to one’s instructions.

In essence everything that a person has thought of, spoken, done and caused is Karma including his present thoughts, words and actions. The teachings of Hinduism are to do the right thing at the right time for a better karma. A Hindu is encouraged to have pure thoughts, positive actions, a lot of meditation and prayers to better influence present-life Karma and aim for an even better Karma in the next life.

In Buddhism Karma is a personal thing. There is no supreme deity that wills his mind into a believer’s karma. An enlightened being’s Karma is the actions of his intentions which bring the “fruit” of his intentions. Good or bad, the intention has its consequence.

An intention can be expressed through actions or words. It can be said that Karma is the “action of intention” and the “intended action”. The former refers only on the thought or notion of a person’s objective while the later refers to the actual physical manifestation of the intention. In short, whether you have only thought about harming a person or you have actually harmed a person bears no difference in karmic effect. Thinking about it and actually doing it are just about equal in relation to Karma.

As I see it, every conventional religion teaches its followers that every action has its consequence. The fundamental teachings and approach may differ but every mainstream religion imparts the same basic principle. In the end, will it really matter if it was God’s law or it was the law of karma that judged you? As I see it, the essential concept is that you impart positivity to reap positivity.

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