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World Psychology: Psychology by Country · Psychology of Displaced Persons

Karma (Sanskrit: कर्म from the root kṛ, "to do") is a word of ancient origin meaning action or activity and its subsequent results (also called karma-phala, "the fruits of action"). It is commonly understood as a term to denote the entire cycle of cause and effect as described in the philosophies of a number of Dharmic Religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism.

Karma is a sum of all that an individual has done, is currently doing and will do. Individuals go through certain processes and accompanying experiences throughout their lives which they have chosen, and those would be based on the results of their own creations: "karma". Karma is not about retribution, vengeance, punishment or reward. Karma simply deals with what is. The effects of all deeds actively create past, present and future experiences, thus making one responsible for one's own life, and the pain and joy it brings to others. In religions that incorporate reincarnation, karma extends through one's present life and all past and future lives as well.

Throughout this process, many see God as playing some kind of role, for example, as the dispenser of the fruits of karma[1]. Other Hindus consider the natural laws of causation sufficient to explain the effects of karma.[2][3][4] Some interpretations of the Bhagavad Gita [5] suggest an intermediate view, that karma is a law of cause and effect yet God can mitigate karma for His devotees. Another view holds that a Sadguru, acting on God's behalf, can mitigate or work out some of the karma of the disciple. [6][7][8]

The "Law of Karma" is central in Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism (religions born in Nepal and India). All living creatures are responsible for their karma - their actions and the effects of their actions - and for their release from samsara. As a term, it can be traced back to the early Upanishads.

The Law of Karma is taught in the esoteric Christian tradition, Essenian and later Rosicrucian, as the "Law of Cause and Consequence/Effect" [9]. However, this western esoteric tradition adds that the essence of the teachings of Christ is that the law of sin and death may be overcome by Love, which will restore immortality.

Actions do not create karma (good or bad) only when the actions are performed by an individual in the state of Moksha. Such a person is called "Stithaprajna". Adi Sankara gave the dictum of "Akarmaiva Moksha" which means "Moksha can be attained only by doing, not by a process of effort". All actions performed by one in the state of Moksha are termed as Dharma.

Hindus believe that everything in the Universe is in the state of creation, maintenance or destruction. The Hindu trinity of Gods Brahma (creator), Vishnu (maintainer) and Shiva (Destroyer) correspond to the states of creation, maintenance and destruction. At the thought level, the mind creates a thought, maintains (follows) it for some time and the thought ultimately dies down (perhaps to be replaced by another thought). The Hindus believe there is a fourth state of being (called Turiya) where the mind is not engaged in thinking but just observes the thoughts. Actions in the Turiya state do not create karma. The practice of meditation is aimed at giving individuals the experience of being in the Turiya state. An individual who is constantly in the Turiya state is said to have attained Moksha. In such an individual, actions happen as a response to events (and not because of thought process); such actions do not result in accumulation of Karma.

The process view of release (moksha) from ego-consciousness (ahamkar) through individual responsibility for the totality of action with its inherent karma can be contrasted with the soteriological view of mainstream denominations of Christianity: grace given by faith in the suffering, death and resurrection of a singular savior.

Karma in the Dharma-based religions[]


Main article: Karma in Hinduism

One of the first and most dramatical illustrations of karma can be found in epic, the Mahabharata. In the Mahabharata we see that the protagonist Arjuna is preparing for a battle, he then realizes that the enemy consists of members of his own family and decides not to fight. His charioteer (Krishna) who is considered to be one of the incarnations of god (Vishnu), then explains to Arjuna the concept of "duty" among other things and makes Arjuna realize that it is his duty to fight. The whole of Bhagavad Gita (part of Mahabharata) is a dialogue between these two on various aspects of life including Morality and a host of other philosophical points. The original Hindu concept of karma was later enhanced by several other movements within the religion, most notably Vedanta, and Tantra.

Karma literally means "deed" or "act" and more broadly names the universal principle of cause and effect, action and reaction which governs all life. Karma is not fate, for man acts with free will creating his own destiny. According to the Vedas, if we sow goodness, we will reap goodness; if we sow evil, we will reap evil. Karma refers to the totality of our actions and their concomitant reactions in this and previous lives, all of which determines our future. The conquest of karma lies in intelligent action and dispassionate reaction. Not all karma rebounds immediately. Some accumulates and returns unexpectedly in this or other births.

It is considered to be a spiritually originated law that cannot be abrogated by any person but can be mitigated by God in Hinduism. Karma is not punishment or retribution, but simply an extended expression of natural acts. The effects experienced are also able to be mitigated by actions and are not necessarily fateful. That is to say, a particular action now doesn't bind you to some particular, pre-determined future experience or reaction; it's not a simple, one-to-one correspondence of reward / punishment.


Main article: Karma in Buddhism

In Buddhism, karma (Pāli kamma) is strictly distinguished from vipāka ("fruit" or "result"). Karma is categorized within the group or groups of cause (Pāli hetu) in the chain of cause and effect, where it consists of the elements volitional activities (Pali sankhara) and action (Pali bhava). Any action is understood to create "seeds" in the mind which will sprout into the appropriate result (Pāli vipaka) when they meet with the right conditions. Most types of karmas, with good or bad result, will keep one within the wheel of saṃsāra; others will liberate one to nirvāṇa. Ultimately, when full enlightenment is achieved as a Buddha, one is not under the control of karma anymore.

In Buddhism, karma is directly related to the motivation behind an action. The motivation usually makes the difference between 'good' and 'bad', but included in the motivation is also the aspect of ignorance; so a well-intended action from a deluded mind can easily be 'bad' in the sense that it creates unpleasant results for the 'actor'.

Other Niyama Dharmas[]

In Buddhism, Karma is not the only cause of anything that happens. There are Five "Niyama Dharma" that causes a result. They are...

  • Karma Niyama - Consequences of one's actions
  • Dhamma Niyama - Laws of nature
  • Irthu Niyama - The seasons changes and climate
  • Biija Niyama - Genetical inheritance
  • Chitta Niyama - Will of mind

The last four are also summarized as 'conditions' or 'circumstances' in which karmic potential can ripen as result.

Analogs of Karma[]

If we accept the basic ethical purpose of Karma is to behave responsibly, and the tenet of Karma may be simply stated 'if you do good things, good things will happen to you - if you do bad things, bad things will happen to you', then it is possible for us to identify analogs with other religions that do not rely on Karma as a metaphysical assertion or doctrine.

Karma does not specifically concern itself with salvation - it is just as important within a basic socio-ethical stance. However, as a mechanic, Karma can be identified in purpose with the concept of God's relation to 'good works' as found within organized religion, as well as any other religions that assert an omniscient, omnipotent judge, as Hinduism considers with respect to the role of Karma.

Similarly, the Egyptian goddess Ma'at (the divine judge) played a similar and impartial role meting out justice in a manner very similar to Karma; Ma'at could not be appeased by faith or regret - an action done was done, with no space for the more recent theistic concepts of grace, as Hinduism allows for its role of God.

Parallels may also be found in the Greek goddess Ananke (Necessity, Inevitability, or Compulsion), who was the mother of the Moirae (Fates) and dealt out one's "heimarmene" (allotted portion) strictly according to one's actions both in this life and in previous incarnations.

Western interpretation[]

An academic and religious definition was mentioned above. Millions of people believe in karma and it is a part of many cultures and the psyches of millions of people. Others without religious backgrounds, especially in western cultures or with Christian upbringings, become convinced of the existence of Karma. For some, karma is a more reasonable concept than eternal damnation for the wicked. Spirituality or a belief that virtue is rewarded and sin creates suffering might lead to a belief in Karma.

According to Karma, performance of positive action results with the reaction of a good conditioning in one's experience, whereas a negative action results in a reaction of a bad response. This may be an immediate result following the act, or a delayed result occurring either in the present life or the next. Thus, meritorious acts may create rebirth into a higher station, such as a superior human being or a godlike being, while evil acts result in rebirth as a human living in less desirable circumstances, or as a lower animal. Some observers have compared the action of karma to Western notions of sin and judgment by God or gods, while others understand karma as an inherent principle of the universe without the intervention of any supernatural Being. In Hinduism, God does play a role and is seen as a dispenser of karma; see Karma in Hinduism for more details. The latter understanding (without intervention) is accurate with regard to Buddhism and Jainism.

Most teachings say that for common mortals, having an involvement with Karma is an unavoidable part of day-to-day living. However, in light of the Hindu philosophical school of Vedanta, as well as Gautama Buddha's teachings, one is advised to either avoid, control or become mindful of the effects of desires and aversions as a way to moderate or change one's karma (or, more accurately, one's karmic results).

Some people have problems with the teaching on karma, often of what exactly the Buddha is asking them to believe in when asking them to have conviction in karma.

  • First, action really is happening -- it is not an illusion.
  • Second, you really are responsible for your actions. There is no outside force like the stars or some good or evil being acting through you. When you are conscious, you are the one who decides what to do.
  • Third, your actions have results -- you are not just writing on the water -- and those results can be good or bad depending on the quality of the intention behind the act.

In the popular American television series My Name Is Earl, Earl Hickey (played by Jason Lee) becomes the victim of karma but eventually realizes that he must make up for all the bad things he's done in order to stop being punished.


Main article: Spiritist doctrine

In Spiritism, karma (termed "the law of cause and effect") plays a central role in determining how one's life needs to be. Spirits are encouraged to choose how (and when) to suffer retribution for the wrong they did in previous lives. Disabilities, physical or mental impairment or even an unlucky life are due to the choices a spirit makes before incarnating (i.e. being born to a new life).

What sets Spiritism apart from the traditional view is that it understands karma as a condition inherent to the spirit, either incarnated or not: the consequences of the crimes committed by the spirit last beyond the physical life and cause him (moral) pain in the afterlife. The choice of a life of hardships is, therefore, a way to get rid of the pain caused by moral guilt and to perfect qualities that are necessary for the spirit to progress to a higher form.

Because Spiritism always accepted the plurality of inhabited worlds, its concept of karma became considerably complex. There are worlds that are "primitive" (in the sense that they are home to spirits newly born and still very low on intellect and morals) and a succession of more and more advanced worlds to where spirits move as they are elevated. A spirit may choose to be born on a world inferior to his own as a penance or as a mission.

New Age and Theosophy[]

The idea of karma was popularized in the Western world through the work of the Theosophical Society. Kardecist and Western New Age reinterpretations of karma frequently cast it as a sort of luck associated with virtue: if one does good or spiritually valuable acts, one deserves and can expect good luck; conversely, if one does harmful things, one can expect bad luck or unfortunate happenings. In this conception, karma is affiliated with the Neopagan law of return or Threefold Law, the idea that the beneficial or harmful effects one has on the world will return to oneself.

There is also the metaphysical idea that, because karma is a force of nature and not a sentient creature capable of making value judgments, karma isn't about good and evil deeds, since applying those labels would require those judgments, but about positive and negative energy, where negative energy can include things not seen as "being bad" like sadness and fear, and positive energy can be caused by being creative and solving problems as well as by exuding love and doing virtuous acts.[citation needed]It is referred to as "omniverse karma" or "omni-karma"[citation needed] because it requires the existence of an omniverse (a space which contains all possible universes), and includes concepts such as souls, psychic energy, synchronicity (a concept originally from renowned psychologist Carl Jung, which says that things that happen at the same time are related), and ideas from quantum and theoretical physics.

Karma on a practical level[]

Karma actually has two different meanings. The first is Karma as a universal law, the second one something people have to endure. A lot of different eastern and western spiritual traditions are working with the concept but it is still not commonly understood.

Under the mystical paradigm of mind over matter, Karma simply becomes a part of the laws of cause and effect. It breaks down to "What you do is what you get" according to the theory that the universe is responding to every action we take, which is also the base of divination and synchronicity. Therefore, the concept of Karma is not about good or bad, related to a person it is about what is wanted.

The second meaning of Karma is similar to a programming bug. With a decision a human being declares a function that is reused under similar conditions until the decision is revised and the Karma is released. An untrained human usually has several thousands of those functions that represent default actions for every possible situation we have ever encountered. In new situations, we base our decisions on the already made ones, causing our Karma to extend. If the outcome of the decision is a desirable one we call it "good Karma", otherwise it is "bad Karma". In any case is Karma something that limits our possible actions to an automated reaction and should be generally treated as "bad".

Karma transfer[]

In the incarnation process the karmic potential is transferred from the higher being (and possibly genetically too) to the spawned entity. In this process the person repeats past Karma from the childhood to the beginning of adulthood as personal history. In this process, the personality of a person may change several times until the point is reached where the soul continues development. This mechanism adopts the Karma to a new life and calibrates a person for the current environment. The transfer concentrates only on the "core Karma" that is part of the soul development. There are several Karma takeovers from the parents and other people that are not native to the soul and will not affect the soul in other incarnations. The "core Karma" is what the higher being needs to learn and/or experience and is literally a program.

An interesting aspect is that Karma may be transferred from one person to another on agreement. That should only be done once for training (with a very minor problem) or in real emergencies. In any case the receiver has to deal with a karmic problem that is not native to him. With a severe case, the effects may be lethal. The sender could face the problem that the transferred Karma is part of the "core Karma". If so the problem is just delayed and has to be solved later (possibly in a later incarnation). A spiritual master who has no Karma left may take some from others (mostly from his disciples) to keep his mortal existence in this world.

Karma also may be released at once and entirely. This is something a spiritual master may (but will not) do on request or it may happen as spiritual accident. A person that experiences a full karmic release has three options to take within a few seconds: 1) to fully adapt to a situation without Karma, 2) to reclaim the released Karma, or 3) to die. It is most unlikely that a person is able to adapt, and most people would die instantly. In case of a spiritual accident it is wise to at least try to reclaim the Karma.

Karma and energetics[]

In the body, Karma manifests on different layers. At first it is only in the mind but binds at the same time on a defined spot in the energetic body. This is the layer where the healers are working. At the beginning, the karmic function is closely invisible but will be spotted by the healer when the function picks up energy and grows to a sensible structure. The disturbances vary in appearance from cloudy structures, color anomalies, holes where energy get lost and so on.

On the energetic level the karmic problems may be divided into two different groups. The ones that bind the energy to direct it against the organism and the ones that cause the person to lose energy.

The topic of the function relates to an energetic meridian and has a defined spot on the energy grid of the body. The more energy is bound the harder it is to avoid the effects of the karmic function. Over longer periods of time, the bound function is a severe disturbance of the health in that area. The self regeneration will be hindered or disabled and illness of a spot-related kind will manifest physically.

In this view, the Karma clusters. Where one function is bound, others will follow, building clusters of energetic problems that relate to mind problems that relate to body problems. The problems are usually linked and manifest on all people the same way. If the Karmic problem is removed on one layer, it is removed on all other layers simultaneously and instant.

Closely all healing techniques work on that level. Either by harmonizing the energy or by destruction of the karmic structure but all of them are dedicated to remove the cause. Modern medicine works mainly on the removal of the effects which is quite effective but not always sufficient or even necessary. In other words: removing a defect kidney may effectively remove the related karmic problem but healing the Karma may be the more desirable way.

In every case, removed Karma may be reclaimed.

Karma as personal demons[]

Viewed mystically, how Karma functions may be experienced as a personal demon. This does not necessarily mean it is a demon, but it appears to be over it. This is something the demon will try to avoid at all costs. The fairy tale of Rumpelstiltskin of the Brothers Grimm is an illustration of this process and possibly of druidic origins. On this level of view, the demons are person independent and may be observed on different people where they behave exactly the same, resulting in exactly the same health problems.

The science of memetic is on exactly this track but has the problem of being unable to be consequent because of their scientific background. The "demon view" should be seen as description of an effect and not as reality statement - the true reasons for this kind of behavior is unknown but it is a common view among healers.

Removing Karma[]

Removing Karma is generally a good idea but a long and hard thing to do. While removing single functions is a matter of a few minutes, removing all functions is a lengthy process. Working on the removal means increasing the life quality itself and it is a very basic and important process to know.

The most common way to remove Karma is to understand and decide. This is something people do sometimes without knowing about the mechanisms. Usually a karmic problem is a pattern that repeats over and over. The related person behaves in the same way again and again. To break the pattern it is necessary to follow four phases:

  • 1) Identification of the problem
  • 2) Understanding the effects
  • 3) Decision
  • 4) Return of the energy

The identification is the hardest part. As long as the function is active, it is very hard to see and most often the problem is identified in an argument with another person. A common technique to track a problem down is to install an observer. To do so, simply observe yourself with a small part of consciousness that should remain active anytime. It is necessary to keep the observer somewhat "outside" so that it does not get emotionally involved. This needs some training but is an invaluable tool for karma removal.

Understanding the effects often follows automatically after the identification when people suddenly realize what they have done. If it does not come that easy, a closer investigation should detail all effects. If the understanding does not happen, the identification usually is not complete.

The decision is crucial. As long as the problem is identified and no decision is made, the karmic function remains active and intact. At this point it is possible tobehavior (this skips point 4!) or in clearing the karma by simply declaring the old behavior as undesirable.

The return of the energy is something that happens is the immediate sign of success.

A problem is the possible reclaiming of the problem. A "but I cannot.." or "what would my mother say" can instantly undo the removal. In that case the only way to go is to treat all possible opposing internal voices and begin anew.

If a karmic problem is not solved by that steps, the problem is usually clustered. A complete solution needs the effort of clearing all of the related problems.

See also[]

References and related external links[]

Notes and References[]

  1. [1]
  2. Pratima Bowes, The Hindu Religious Tradition 54-80 (Allied Pub. 1976) ISBN 0-7100-8668
  3. Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol. II, at 217-225 (18th reprint 1995) ISBN 81-85301-75-1
  4. Alex Michaels, Hinduism: Past and Present 154-56 (Princeton 1998) ISBN 0-691-08953-1
  5. Verses 4:14, 9.22 and 18.61
  6. Yogananda, Paramahansa, Autobiography of a Yogi, Chapter 21 ISBN 1-56589-212-7
  7. Swami Krishnananda on the Guru mitigating the karma of the disciple
  8. Swami B. V. Tripurari on grace of the Guru destroying karma
  9. Max Heindel, The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception or Mystic Christianity (Part I, Chapter IV: Rebirth and the Law of Consequence), ISBN 0-911272-34-0, 1909

External links[]

als:Karma ar:كارما ast:Karma bg:Карма ca:Karma cs:Karma (buddhismus) da:Karma de:Karma et:Karma es:Karma eo:Karmo fr:Karma gl:Karma id:Karma he:קרמה lt:Karma nl:Karma no:Karma nn:Karma pt:Karma ru:Карма simple:Karma sk:Karma sr:Карма fi:Karma sv:Karma th:กรรม vi:Nghiệp zh:業

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