The Concept of Karma

What Is The Concept of Karma?

Yama & Niyama

Karma is a concept that has its origin in the Eastern religions of Hinduism and Buddhism. Purely speaking in literary terms, Karma is a Sanskrit word that means “action.” 

The concept of Karma appears first in Rigveda ( 1500 BCE), and it further developed into philosophy as we know of it now. What started with a limited meaning of ritualistic action, later transformed into its philosophical understanding in the succeeding Upanishads (800 BCE – 300 BCE).

In simpler terms, it means that whatever we do has its commensurate effects. If you throw a pebble in the water it is bound to cause ripples. The bigger the pebble or the stronger the throw, the bigger will be the ripples.

Whatever you do, gives you defined, similar results. What happens to you, happens because you caused it with your actions.

If you plant a mango seed, you can only expect to grow a mango tree! 

Expansion of The Concept of Karma from its Origins

Soon The Concept of Karma transformed and its scope widened into a term that relates to the cycle of cause and effect. This further expanded to include the cycle of reincarnation, purely in a religious context.

Though its specifics vary, depending on the religion, karma denotes this cycle of cause and effect. This rule applies not only to action but also to a person’s beliefs and way of life.

These days the word karma is often misused to signify luck, fate or destiny. It is also wrongly used to explain hardships and sudden health issues. Karma is also a convenient way to explain ostensibly random hardships.

What Does Karma Signify?

As per Karma, like action produces like effects; which means- a good act will lead to a beneficial effect in the future, and a bad deed may transform into a harmful effect.

In the later Upanishads and religious beliefs, Karma is bound with the concept of rebirth, about how a person is born after death, thus affecting a person’s future life.

This is explained by way of good or bad fortune as a result of actions (Karma) performed in past lives.

Following the law of karma encourages us to enhance the quality of our life. We naturally start avoiding actions that cause suffering to both ourselves and others. By following the Law of Karma we experience greater happiness and create happiness in our future.

One of the earliest illustrations of karma, the act and its causality is reflected in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad , wherein it states:

Now as a man is like this or like that,
according to as he acts and according to 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


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