What is Karma?

Karma is a Sanskrit term meaning action or deed, either physical or mental. Thinking constitutes an act of mental Karma and all Karma is the sum total of an individual’s acts, in the present life and in past incarnations. Karma does not just refer to action; it also the result of our actions.

There is a latent power in Karma or action. This is called 'Adrishta'. It is that which brings in fruits of karmas to an individual.


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The consequence of any and every action is not actually separate from the act itself; in fact, it is a part of the action that can’t be separated from it.

According to Rishi Jaimini, Karma is the performance of Agnihotra and other Vedic rituals. But the Gita states that any action done with Nishkamya Bhava (devoid of thought of the fruits of action) constitutes Karma. Sri Krishna tells Arjuna: "Work ceaselessly and relentlessly. Your job is to work without expecting the fruits thereof." The core teaching of the Gita is work without attachment. All acts, from breathing, eating, seeing, hearing, thinking, so on and so forth constitute Karmas. Above all, thinking is the biggest Karma. Raga-Dwesha (likes and dislikes) constitute real Karma.

How Karmas are fashioned

Man is threefold in nature; he comprises Iccha (desire or feeling), Jnana (knowing) and Kriya (willingness).

These 3 things fashion a man’s karmas. Humans know objects such chair, tree, experience joy and sorrow. Above all, a man wills – to do this, or not to do that.

Behind every action, is a desire and a thought. The desire for a sense object takes place in a person’s mind. Then he or she contemplates how to get it. Following that, the individual, exerts pressure to possess it. Desire, thought and action always go hand in hand with each other; they are the 4 threads, in a manner of speaking, which are twisted into the strands of Karma.

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