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Karma

Karma

A doctrine common to Hinduism, Buddhism, and Theosophy, although not wholly adopted by Theosophists as taught in the other two religions. The word karma itself means "action," but implies both action and reaction. All actions have consequences, some immediate, some delayed, others in future incarnations, according to Eastern beliefs. Thus individuals bear responsibility for all their actions and cannot escape the consequences, although bad actions can be expiated by good ones.

Action is not homogeneous, but on the contrary contains three elements: the thought, which conceives the action; the will, which finds the means of accomplishment; and the union of thought and will, which brings the action to fruition. It is plain, therefore, that thought has potential for good or evil, for as the thought is, so will the action be. The miser, thinking of avarice, is avaricious; the libertine, thinking of vice, is vicious; and, conversely, one thinking of virtuous thoughts shows virtue in his or her actions.

There is also a viewpoint which believes that karma comes not from the action itself, but the beliefs and feelings which motivate or allow the action. "The law of karma is not a justice and retribution system, so anyone who has had much suffering in this life is not a victim of 'bad karma,' but simply finds themselves in predicaments that are simply the result of their own beliefs about themselves."

Arising from such teaching is the attention devoted to thought power. Using the analogy of the physical body, which can be developed by regimen and training based on natural scientific laws, Theosophists teach that character, in a similar way, can be scientifically built up by exercising the mind.

Every vice is considered evidence of lack of a corresponding virtueavarice, for instance, shows the absence of generosity. Instead of accepting that an individual is naturally avaricious, Theosophists teach that constant thought focused on generosity will in time change the individual's nature in that respect. The length of time necessary for change depends on at least two factors: the strength of thought and the strength of the vice; the vice may be the sum of the indulgence of many ages and therefore difficult to eradicate.

The doctrine of karma, therefore, must be considered not in relation to one life only, but with an understanding of reincarnation. In traditional Hinduism individuals were seen as immersed in a world of illusion, called maya. In this world, distracted from the real world of spirit, one performs acts, and those actions create karmaconsequences. In traditional teaching the goal of life was to escape karma. There was little difference between good and bad karma. Karma kept one trapped in the world of illusion.

During the nineteenth century, Western notions of evolution of life and the moral order were influenced by Indian teachings. Some began to place significance upon good karma as a means of overcoming bad karma. The goal gradually became the gaining of good karma, rather than escape. Such an approach to reincarnation and karma became popular in Theosophy and Spiritism, a form of Spiritualism.

Western scholars have often mistakenly viewed karma and fate as the same concept. Fate, however, is the belief that the path of one's life is established by agencies outside oneself. Karma is the opposite, implying the ability to alter one's path of lifein a future life if not the presentby altering one's feelings and beliefs, and by engaging in positive practices. "It is the coward and the fool who says this is fate," goes the Sanskrit proverb. "But it is the strong man who stands up and says, "I will make my fate."

According to this view, reincarnation is carried on under the laws of karma and evolution. The newborn baby bears within it the seeds of former lives. His or her character is the same as it was in past existences, and so it will continue unless the individual changes it, which he or she has the power to do. Each succeeding existence finds that character stronger in one direction or another. If it is evil the effort to change it becomes increasingly difficult; indeed a complete change may not be possible until many lifetimes of effort have passed. In cases such as these, temptation may be too strong to resist, yet the individual who has knowledge of the workings of karma will yield to evil only after a desperate struggle; thus, instead of increasing the power of the evil, he helps to destroy its potency. Only in the most rare cases can an individual free himself with a single effort.

The karmic goal in reincarnation, however, is said not necessarily to raise the soul to a higher plain of existence, but entreat enlightenment to reign at whichever level of existence the soul happens to find itself. "Manysee the process of enlightenment as "ascension"; it is in fact more true to say that it is a process of descension, that is bringing the light down to all levels."

Sources:

Abhedananda, Swami. Doctrine of Karma: A Study in the Philosophy and Practice of Work. Calcutta: Ramakrishna Vedanta Math, 1965.

Carus, Paul. Karma: A Study of Buddhist Ethics. La Salle, Ill.: Open Court, 1894.

Feuerstein, George. The Shambala Guide to Yoga. Boston and London: Shambala, 1996.

Glasenapp, Helmuth von. The Doctrine of Kerman in Jain Philosophy. Bombay: Bai Vojibai Jivanial Panalal Charity Fund, 1942.

Hanson, Virginia, ed. Karma: The Universal Law of Harmony. Wheaton, Ill.: Theosophical Publishing House, 1975.

Jast, L. Stanley. Reincarnation and Karma. Secaucus, N.J.: Castle Books, 1955.

"Karma: Meaning and Definition." Hinduism Today June 19, 1994, http://www.spiritweb.org/.

Payne, John. "Reincarnation & Karma." January 1, 1995 http://www.spiritweb.org/.

Reichenbach, Bruce R. The Law of Karma: A Philosophical Study. London: Macmillan, 1990.

Sharma, I. C. Cayce, Karma and Reincarnation. Wheaton, Ill.: Theosophical Publishing House, 1975.

Silananda, U. An Introduction to the Law of Karma. Berkeley, Calif.: Dharmachakka Meditation Center, 1990.

Torwesten, Hans. Vedanta: Heart of Hinduism. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1985.

Woodward, Mary Ann. Edgar Cayce's Story of Karma. New York: Coward-McCann, 1971.

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Karma

Karma, kamma (Skt., Pāli: ‘action’, ‘deed’; Chin., yin-yuan; Jap., innen; Korean, inyon). Karman, the law of consequence with regard to action, which is the driving force behind the cycle of reincarnation or rebirth (saṃsāra) in Asian religions. According to karma theory, every action has a consequence which will come to fruition in either this or a future life; thus morally good acts will have positive consequences, whereas bad acts will produce negative results. An individual's present situation is thereby explained by reference to actions in his past history, in his present or in previous lifetimes. Karma is not itself ‘reward and punishment’, but the strict law producing consequence.

In Hinduism, the word karma first appears in the Ṛg Veda, where it means religious action, specifically sacrifice; there is no hint here of its later meaning as the force driving beings through saṃsāra. There is some hint of this in the Brāhmaṇas, but only with the Upaniṣads do we really find karma in the sense of causality of action—e.g. Bṛhadāranyaka Upaniṣad 4. 4. 5.

Action creates impressions (saṃskāras) or tendencies (vāsanās) in the mind which in time will come to fruition in further action. The subtle body (liṅga or śūkṣma śarīra), in which the individual soul (jiva) transmigrates, carries the seeds of karma; and the gross body (sthūla śarīra) is the field (kṣetra) in which the fruit (phala) of action is experienced, and which also creates more karma.

Vedānta and Yoga speak of three kinds of karma: (i) prārabdha, karma to be experienced during the present lifetime, (ii) sañcita, latent karma, or the store of karma which has yet to reach fruition, and (iii) āgamin or sañcīyama, the karma sown in the present life which will be reaped in a future life. Liberation (mokṣa) is freedom from karma. When mokṣa is attained, the great store of sañcita karma is burnt up, but the prārabdha remains to complete its course. The liberated person (jivanmukta) creates no more new karma and at death, having no more karma, is no longer reborn.

In Buddhism, much of the same basic sense of a law of consequence is retained, but there is no ‘self’ to be reborn. Only intentions and actions free of desire, hate, and delusion are free of karmic consequence. Karma/kamma is neither fatalistic nor deterministic, since true insight enables one to direct the stream of continuity, or even to bring it to cessation.

Among Jains, karma is a kind of subtle matter which attaches itself to the jīva and weighs it down in bondage and rebirth. All actions, good as well as evil, cause karmic matter to attach to the soul. Therefore, the abandoning of action, in complete ascetic renunciation (even to the extent of voluntary starvation), is necessary.

For Sikhs, karma (Pañjābi, karamu) is accepted as consequential action, but against it is set karma (Arab., karam, ‘favour’) meaning the grace of God. Sikhs concentrate on bringing karma (grace) to bear on karma, leading to union with God.

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Karma

Karma


Hinduism has many different definitions of karma, some making karma appear quite deterministic. A clear classical description is found in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (c. 200 b.c.e.c. 200 c.e.) (sutras II: 1214 and IV: 79). This description has been widely influential and makes room for free will. Every time one does an action or thinks a thought, a memory trace or karmic seed is laid down in one's unconscious. There it waits for circumstances conducive to it sprouting forth as an impulse or predisposition to do the same action or think the same thought again. This impulse is not mechanistic in nature, rather, it simply predisposes a person to do an action or think a thought. Through the use of free choice one decides either to go with the karmic impulse, in which case it is reinforced and strengthened, or to say "no" and negate it, in which case its strength is diminished until it is removed from the unconscious. Karmas can be either good or bad as defined by Hindu scripture. Good actions and thoughts lay down good karmic traces in the unconscious for the predisposing of future good karmic impulses. Evil actions or thoughts do the reverse. Karmic impulses do not disappear at death but are carried forward into the next life as one is reborn (samsara ).


See also Determinism; Hinduism

Bibliography

the yoga sutras of patanjali, trans. j. h. woods. harvard oriental series, vol. 17. varanasi, india: motilal banarsidass, 1966.

harold coward

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karma

karma or karman (kär´mə, kär´mən), [Skt.,=action, work, or ritual], basic concept common to Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. The doctrine of karma states that one's state in this life is a result of actions (both physical and mental) in past incarnations, and action in this life can determine one's destiny in future incarnations. Karma is a natural, impersonal law of moral cause and effect and has no connection with the idea of a supreme power that decrees punishment or forgiveness of sins. Karmic law is universally applicable, and only those who have attained liberation from rebirth, called mukti (or moksha) or nirvana, can transcend it. Karma yoga (see yoga), the spiritual discipline of detachment from the results of action, is a famous teaching of the Bhagavad-Gita.

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karma

karma (Sanskrit, ‘action’) Central moral doctrine in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. It is a natural, impersonal law of moral cause and effect, unconnected with divine punishment for sins. In Hinduism and Jainism, karma is the sum of a person's actions which are passed on from one life to the next and determine the nature of rebirth. Buddhism rejects this continuity of the ‘soul’ through reincarnation. The intention behind an action determines the fate of an individual. Release from rebirth into nirvana depends on knowledge of the Real, which in turn enables neutral action. See also yoga

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karma

kar·ma / ˈkärmə/ • n. (in Hinduism and Buddhism) the sum of a person's actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as deciding their fate in future existences. ∎ inf. destiny or fate, following as effect from cause. DERIVATIVES: kar·mic / -mik/ adj.kar·mi·cal·ly / -mik(ə)lē/ adv.

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karma

karma in Hinduism and Buddhism, the sum of a person's actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as deciding their fate in future existences. The word comes from Sanskrit karman ‘action, effect, fate’.
karma yoga in Hinduism, the discipline of selfless action as a way to perfection.

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karma

karma fate, destiny (as determined by one's actions in a former state of existence). XIX. Skr. karma - action, effect, fate, f. IE. *qer - make.

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karma

karmaAlabama, clamour (US clamor), crammer, gamma, glamour (US glamor), gnamma, grammar, hammer, jammer, lamber, mamma, rammer, shammer, slammer, stammer, yammer •Padma • magma • drachma •Alma, halma, Palma •Cranmer • asthma • mahatma •miasma, plasma •jackhammer • sledgehammer •yellowhammer • windjammer •flimflammer • programmer •amah, armour (US armor), Atacama, Brahma, Bramah, charmer, cyclorama, dharma, diorama, disarmer, drama, embalmer, farmer, Kama, karma, lama, llama, Matsuyama, panorama, Parma, pranayama, Rama, Samar, Surinamer, Vasco da Gama, Yama, Yokohama •snake-charmer • docudrama •melodrama •contemner, dilemma, Emma, emmer, Jemma, lemma, maremma, stemma, tremor •Elmer, Selma, Thelma, Velma •Mesmer •claimer, defamer, framer, proclaimer, Shema, tamer

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