(Consciously I have refrained from mentioning any religious texts, shlokas or hymns in this write-up)
Karma is a Sanskrit word which means action, but it is generally used to mean a certain definite connection between what is being done now and what will happen in the future.
The example often shown is that if a man sows seeds of neem, he must not expect a crop of sweet grapes; if he plants prickly cactus, he must not expect to gather juicy apples. Karma, therefore, may be summed up in a short sentence: A man reaps as he sows!
Karma is a principle in which “cause and effect” are as inseparably linked in the moral sphere as assumed in the physical sphere by science. A good action has its reward and a bad action leads to retribution. It is important to understand that karma does not go away, one must either reap the benefits or suffer the consequences of his past actions, though there are some ways to reduce the impact (discussed later in the write-up).
Every action of ours has a thought behind it and every thought has a desire behind it. These three things action, thought, desire are the three threads that are twisted into the cord of Karma. Our actions make the people round us happy or unhappy; if we make them happy, we have sown happiness like a seed, and it grows up into happiness for ourselves; if we make them unhappy, we have sown unhappiness like a seed, and it grows up into unhappiness for ourselves.
As mentioned above, every action has a thought behind it. Such thoughts makes what is called our character. Thoughts generally have desires behind them. Now desire brings us the object we wish for. Therefore, character leads to the results, outcomes in our lives!
Karma manifests (i.e., happens) in three ways: with the body, with speech and with the mind.
- Physical Karma: When we act physically, the body serves as an instrument enabling our intention.
- Oral Karma: This is when we speak, expressing our thoughts and intentions, which can occur directly through speech and indirectly through writing or other means of communication.
- Mental Karma: When we think, plan and desire, without manifesting an external action, this is the mental Karma.
But what lies behind all these forms of action is the mind or our thoughts, and the main mental factor that causes the action is intention. Our intentional actions produce effects that ultimately return to us.
He, who uses thought to check desire, instead of letting desire control thought will be able to accumulate credit balance in his karmic account:
- By resisting vile impulses, we replace them with their opposites, i.e., good qualities. Then we develop a virtuous character and become wise and enlightened.
- As we gradually change our habits, we change our character and as we change our character, we change our whole existence.
Therefore, one needs to strongly emphasize the need to pay attention to every action, every choice. Because our every choice holds enormous potential for the future.
Types of Karma:
There are three different types of Karma:
- Agami Karma which is the result of our current decision and action. This is the Karma we are creating for ourselves right here in the current moment. It is the action that we create and the choices we make right now, as we live this present lifetime.
- Prarabdha Karma is that portion of the past Karma that is responsible for the present. The things that we did in the past makes what we are today. This pertains our present life, most of the time.
- Sanchitta Karma is the vast accumulation of Karma that encompasses our countless past lifetimes.
Can we escape from Karma?
- The seeds of Karma can only ripen under the right conditions. But if the right conditions are not met, they remain seeds. And if they are destroyed, then they can never mature.
- Karma may even be destroyed by another Karma. It is therefore important to understand that our current lifestyle, our mood and behavior can influence the way our old Karma grows.
- However, some past Karma, mainly the evil ones may be so powerful that they must reach maturation. We cannot escape it no matter what we do.
- But for the most part, the maturation of the previous Karma depends on the way we live now. If we live carelessly and recklessly, we will give the previous bad Karma the opportunity to mature. This may prevent good Karma from producing effects, or it may nullify the good effects.
- On the other hand, if we now live wisely and prudently, we will give our former good Karma the opportunity to mature and prevent the effects of our bad Karma, i.e., weaken them, destroy them, or prevent their maturation.
- If we look closely at our lives, we will see that our experiences are of two types: First, the experience that comes to us passively and which we receive regardless of whether we choosen it or not. And secondly, the experience that is actively created through our intentions, choices, and dispositions.
- The passive side of the experience is largely due to the influence of the past Karma. Generally, we have to deal with it and learn to accept it. But within these constraints there is space: the vast space of the present moment, in which we can rebuild our world with our own mind.
- If we allow ourselves to be dominated by evil thoughts, then we will continue to live in misery and pain and we will continue to cultivate the seeds of rebirth in a world of suffering. On the other hand, if our behavior is pure and our mind is good and understanding, then we can transform our world and build a world of genuine happiness and peace.