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Day 56 – Q 5.What is the meaning of Karma? From where does the Karma philosophy originate? Discuss.

5. What is the meaning of Karma? From where does the Karma philosophy originate? Discuss. 

कर्म का अर्थ क्या है? कर्म दर्शन की उत्पत्ति कहाँ से होती है? चर्चा करें।


Karma is an important element of Indian philosophical tradition. It believes in the actions of women/men and tries to establish relations between actions and their results. According to it, a person reaps what she/he sows and thus asks people to act just. Destiny of a person is decided more by her/his actions than others.


  • Philosophically, Karma is the universal causal law by which good or bad actions determine the future modes of an individual’s existence. Karma represents the ethical dimension of the process of rebirth (samsara), belief in which is generally shared among the religious traditions of India.
  • 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.
  • In life, the main aim of discharging our duty properly leads to peace of mind, harmony and ability to enjoy what we have, independent of all other objects of so-called pleasure which we do not have. Subordinate aims are wealth, position, rank, name and fame.
  • For instance in a game of sports, the main benefit we get is that of getting physical fitness and the subordinate benefit can be winning. Even if we lose, the main benefit is not going waste. Both winner and loser get physical fitness.
  • Karma simply means action. Every action has consequences. Conscious choice-making is the most effective way of creating future consequences of karma. Karma creates the future, but it is also an echo from the past.
  • As per the infallible theory of karma, one will definitely have good results for good work done. But the moment one tries to be selfish and work only for money or position, it can lead to trouble. So the Bhagavad Gita’s message is: ‘Do your best always, do not be utterly selfish and have no ego’. That indeed is the art of karma yoga.
  • The idea of Karma first appears in the oldest Hindu text the Rigveda (before c. 1500 BCE) with a limited meaning of ritual action which it continues to hold in the early ritual dominant scriptures until its philosophical scope is extended in the later Upanishads (c.800 BCE – 300 BCE). The term gains a more philosophical weight when the consequences of actions are attached to it. Thus karma gains a moral or ethical dimension.
  • In Hinduism, the theory of karma is more dominant in the Vedānta School. For some schools like Mīmāṃsā, the role of karma is almost negligible. Most traditions agree on three types of karma: prārabdha, saṃcita, and kriyamāṇa which mean karma to be experienced in this lifetime, latent karma which we have not yet reaped, and karma that will result in our future lives, respectively.
  • In later Hindu traditions which are primarily theistic, the grace of God plays an important role in overriding the karmic implications or completely relieving one and thus leading to mokṣa.
  • In Buddhism, essentially there is no soul. The unresolved karma manifest into a new form composed of five skandhas (constituent elements of a being) in one of the six realms of saṃsāra. The eventual nirvāṇa (salvation) comes through the annihilation of residual karma which means the ceasing of the alleged existence of being.
  • The actions with intention (cetanā) carried out by the mind, body and speech and which are driven by ignorance, desire and hatred lead to implications that tie one down in saṃsāra. Following the eightfold path – the set of eight righteous ways of thinking and acting suggested by Buddha – one can attain nirvāṇa.
  • In Jainism, karma is conceived as a subtle matter pervading the entire Universe in the form of particles. These extremely subtle particles cling to the soul obscuring its intrinsic pristine form. It is sometimes described as the contamination that infiltrates the soul and taints it with various colours.


Though the ordinary meaning of Karma is action, at a more comprehensive level it also connotes the motivation behind the action and the objective set of consequences following from it. Thus, the concept of Karma represents one of the prime themes in Indian philosophical speculations and social life where it definitely indicates the prevalence of the belief in a universal harmonious pattern.

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