Karma or Kamma (from Skt. Karman – “act”, “action”, in the translation from the language of kamma – “action”, “rite”, “retribution”) is one of the key concepts in Indian religious traditions and philosophical currents.

Karma is the law of causes and effects that underlies samsara (the cycle of births and deaths, during which a person commits certain acts and receives retribution in the form of good or bad fate).

The term “karma” was first mentioned in the early Upanishads (ancient philosophical and religious treatises that are part of the religious writings of India, according to scholars, they were written in the VIII century BC). It also occurs in the later Vedic texts.


In the ancient world, belief in karma and reincarnation was widespread.

This is not quite true. The most ancient beliefs (for example, totemism, consisting in the worship of a person or a group of people to a certain class of animals, natural phenomena, etc.) state that, firstly, the ancestors of people of a certain tribe were certain animals. Secondly – after death, a person either goes to the country of his ancestors, or returns to his fellow tribesmen in the guise of the beast (that is why the killing of totemic animals was strictly prohibited).

Later beliefs did not describe reincarnation into a totemic animal, but a happy afterlife in the worlds of happiness (in ancient Egypt – in the fields of Yalu (“Fields of reeds”)). If a person led an unjust life, he did not receive a reward for his sins in the next incarnation, but, according to the beliefs of many ancient peoples, kept an answer only before the deities and could either be punished or forgiven.

Also in ancient times, it was believed that even after death, the soul of a person for a long time (counted from time to time) is associated with the body abandoned by it. Moreover: the soul exists until the bodily shell, abandoned by it, is intact. Because, for example, in ancient Egypt, made considerable efforts to preserve (mummify) the bodies of pharaohs and nobles, and, wishing to harm the soul of the hated dead Pharaoh, his mummy was beheaded or burned.

The term “karma” is common to all philosophical systems of Hinduism.

The idea of ​​retribution for good and evil deeds and the fundamental universal law is characteristic of almost all the philosophical systems of India (except for the lokayata), but the term “karma” is not used in all cases. For example, in Nyaya (from the Sanskrit “method”) – one of the rationalistic Indian philosophical systems, its synonym is the word “adrishta” (Skt., “Invisible”, “inaccessible to perception”). The followers of the orthodox school of Indian philosophy of mimansa (from Sanskrit “meditation”, “research”) prefer to use the term “apurva” (from Skt. “Arising after”, “not the first”), etc.

All the inhabitants of India believe in karma.

No, even in Ancient India, there was the doctrine of the lokayata (also called charvaka), considered materialistic and referring to unorthodox schools (nasties). The followers of the lokayas did not consider the Vedas to be an indisputable authority, and believed that the creation of the universe was the result of the natural interaction of the five elements (air, water, fire, earth, metal) – the fundamental principle of everything that exists in the world. In their opinion, neither God nor the law of karma has any relation to the creation and being of the Universe.


There are several varieties of karma.

This is indeed so. Moreover – karma is classified according to different criteria, as a result of which the list of types of karma can vary widely in different philosophical systems. Hindus, for example, distinguish such types of karma:

1. Sanchita (or nirupakrama) karma – collected and undeveloped results of activity for all past lives of the individual. In turn, it is divided into: – prarabdha (or sopahrama) karma, which includes that part of the accumulations from past incarnations that a person will have to work out in the current life – agami karma – those fruits of activity that will be reaped in subsequent incarnations.

2.Kriyaman karma, created by those deeds and deeds that a person commits in this incarnation. Influences both on current life and on future incarnations.

According to the theorists of Buddhism, karma can be:

1. White – the good actions (for example, yogic concentration practices), which are valid in the world of forms;

2. Black – unwholesome actions performed in the world of forms (evil deeds, unrighteous deeds, etc.);

3. Black and white – good actions that are performed in the world of feelings and drives;

4. Not black and not white – the deeds of a person whose feelings are not fixed on physical or sensual objects.

In addition, personal and social karma (karma of race, nation, etc.) are distinguished, karma is coarse (both deed, and retribution is physical action) and subtle (karmic results of mental activity and sensory impulses).

Also, representatives of various philosophical currents differently classify the types of human activity that destroy or increase some or other karmic accumulation. For example, several types of such activities are mentioned in the Vedas, and there is a close connection with the gunas. Guna is a Skt. “Rope” or “property” – the form of maya (illusory energy), the fundamental principle of the material world; they sing out 3 gunas: guna of goodness – sattva-guna, guna of passion – raja-guna and the mode of ignorance – tamo-guna. It is the modes that shape the thinking, way of life and activity of the individual who comes under their influence. As a result, the classification looks like this:

Vikarma is an activity dictated by selfish motives, multiplying the sins of the individual. In doing this kind of work, a person at first leads the mode of passion, and eventually falls into the mode of ignorance;

karma – activities carried out in accordance with the postulates of scripture, contributing to the purification of sins, associated with the mode of passion;

akarma – an activity aimed at understanding the soul and God, as well as understanding their eternal relationship, which frees a person from the effects of gunas.

There is another classification. In the opinion of the Hindus, for the purification from sins, it is necessary to perform such actions:

Nitya Karma are the daily charitable duties of every person.

Narmitta karma – observance of rituals and duties that improve relations between relatives, both alive and long dead (for example, the ceremony of commemoration of the departed Sraddha);

Kamya Karma – mastering various ways to improve one’s own financial situation (including getting education and giving alms and food to the hungry, the latter, according to the Hindus, helping to get rid of karma of loss of property);

Prajaschita karma – activities that help to purify from the sin and enlightenment of the mind (fasting, pilgrimage, visiting temples, ablutions in holy water bodies, etc.);

Kartavya karma is the performance of various actions that improve health and prolong life (yoga, hardening, massages, walks, use of healing oils, etc.) Sometimes the mentioned list of actions is called Pancha nitya karma (“5 permanent duties”), .

Agami karma can not be worked out.

This is not quite true. The division of santhitya karma into prarabdhu and agami is very conditional, since much depends on the mode in which the person lives and acts. For example, staying in the mode of goodness, he can very quickly accelerate his progress and in one incarnation work out much of what is planned for future lives (although in some cases this may be prevented by the absence in the living world of some individuals associated with a karmic person). And, living in ignorance, on the contrary – may not fulfill even prarabdhi (that part of karma that was planned for working out in this incarnation).

To purify oneself of sins, it is enough to diligently perform Pancha nitya karma.

Yes, it is. But it is necessary to take into account some features.All the actions described in the Pancha-nitya Karma, contribute to purification from sin only if performed in goodness (ie, in accordance with the postulates enshrined in the scriptures). If a person is in passion or worse – in ignorance, the same deeds will lead only to the multiplying of sins and the deterioration of karma. For example, remembering relatives, people often consume alcoholic beverages, thereby insulting the memory of the deceased. As a result, the Naimittika karma, designed to harmonize interpersonal relationships within the family, acts exactly the opposite. Neitya karma will not bring purification, let’s say, provided that a person considers God himself, and replaces traditional rituals with self-aggrandizement. Kartavya karma, with the aim of reaching record levels (for example, in any sport) can contribute to poor health and significantly shorten life (instead of prolonging it), and excessive zeal in Prajasicita karma (say, prolonged starvation) can lead to the undermining of the mental health of the individual.


God can completely clean man from karma.

There is no consensus on this issue. In the early Upanishads one can find information that only the incarnating beings themselves are responsible for the creation and development of karma, nothing outside influences this process. Vedanta also assigns the role of distributing karmic tasks to God. Today, representatives of various schools of Hinduism have their own opinion on this score. For example, representatives of the Vaisheshika (from Sanskrit “stand out”) and Nyaya – the philosophical systems of India, according to which the main goal of any incarnate is to liberate the individual “I” – argue that it is God who created the world that controls karma, with her the sorrows and joys that have fallen to the lot of people. Karma (adrishta) in itself is the beginning, devoid of consciousness, and completely subordinated to the will of the Higher Powers. Therefore, both God and Guru (as the representative of God in the manifested world) can in some cases facilitate or completely annul the karma of the individual. The followers of other currents of Hinduism, for example, Mimamsa (Sanskrit “study” – an orthodox school dedicated to explaining the nature of dharma) or Sankhya (from the Sanskrit “enumeration” – a philosophical system that seeks to divert the spirit from the material world) believe that the law of karma the will of God does not obey, and acts on its own, being the cause of the origin of the universe and the basis of its organization.

The location of celestial bodies influences the formation of karma.

This is not quite true. The relationship between the location of celestial objects (stars, constellations and planets) does exist, but the form-creating effect on karma (or, more precisely, prarabdha karma) does not. According to astrologers, cosmic bodies have individual characteristics, a certain combination of which (it later becomes the basis for building a horoscope) activates certain desires, motivations (unfavorable, favorable or mixed) and moods formed by a person in past incarnations. And it is the aforementioned mood that influences the under what stars the individual will be conceived and born. Heavenly objects can not change anything in human karma.

Sometimes the law of karma does not work, otherwise how to explain that sometimes very pious and kind people suffer illnesses and deprivations, while others who do evil deeds and manifest an unbearable character, on the contrary, are exceptionally lucky.

This situation is explained by the representatives of Tibetan Buddhism in a different way. They believe that in some cases people who commit negative acts and are full of malice, hatred and envy, this kind of behavior brings to life all the good karma accumulated in previous incarnations. As a result, their positive work quickly exhausted, and the following incarnations will take place in completely different conditions (in the lower worlds, in sick or maimed bodies, in hardships and deprivations).While people who have devoted their lives to self-improvement and selfless service to God, get the opportunity to quickly work out all negative karma (which was meant for many lives), and for this reason they suffer illnesses and troubles.

A person who is determined to improve his karma should give up intimate relationships with members of the opposite sex.

Not necessary. Representatives of some schools of Tibetan Buddhism (for example, Karma Kagyu) believe that sexual relationships, like any other, are subject to the law of karma. In this case, in the process of coition, both partners give each other happiness and joy – good karma is formed. If one of them tries to harm the partner or others – he forms negative karma.


You can go beyond the samsara wheel by multiplying the good karma.

This is not true. Buddhists believe that one should completely get rid of the shackles of karma, and for this one must perform actions, without being attached to either the act itself or its fruits. Followers of Hinduism pay a lot of attention to the motivation of actions, highlighting:

Because the motives for actions can be different. Allocate:

1) impure unfavorable – acts whose results lead only to a deeper immersion of the individual in ignorance;

2) impure good – bad deeds, the outcome of which is suffering and repentance, capable of leading a person to the beginning of the true path;

3) pure unfavorable, arising when happiness is understood correctly, but the process of comprehending it is very far from the recommendations set forth in the sacred texts;

4) pure favorable (formed as a result of a true understanding of happiness, which is based on the correct comprehension of the meaning of the scriptures);

5) spiritual (arising during enlightenment).

And only the actions dictated by the last of the motives mentioned can help in the case of liberation from reincarnation. The Jainists argue that it is possible to leave the circle of rebirth only by gaining knowledge and peace, discarding passions, thereby freeing oneself of attachments to worldly life and the material world as a whole.

Representatives of the Sankhya school believe that liberation from the samsara wheel will come only after the linga (false I-concept, the carrier of karma) realizes that the true, not material soul (the true i-concept that does not incarnate, but only dispassionately observes behind the actions of the linga) is actually free of material bondage and links with the linga. This long path of self-improvement should begin with a rejection of base desires and the attainment of tranquility through the use of a light and uncomplicated beginning (sattva).

In order not to accumulate a load of bad karma, one always has to do good only.

There is no single point of view on this matter. In some ancient texts (for example, Bhagavad Gita) it is indicated that actions are not divided into good or evil. Any work someone benefits, and someone – harm, being, in fact, a symbiosis of good and evil. Only an activity to which a person does not feel affection can make him free. All other actions, regardless of whether good or evil predominated in them, are fetters for the soul.

Many schools of Hinduism and Buddhism believe that karma (both bad (aksala) and good (biting)) people earns not only and not so much activity in the physical world, but also on a more subtle plane, observing (or not respecting ) moral and ethical norms and producing a certain kind of will.

And the point of view of the followers of Jainism (from the Sanskrit “winner” – the religious trend, which considers the main goal the perfection of the soul and calls not to harm any living beings) is somewhat different. They believe that the person will experience the effect of the law of karma under any conditions – whether he does the actions or not, makes an independent choice in favor of good or evil or does not make any choice at all.Almost all diseases are karmic.

Wrong opinion. Karmic diseases can be reliably attributed to congenital ailments, as a physical body (congenital heart disease, abnormal functioning of internal organs, blindness, deafness, disability, cosmetic defects (such as a hare lip or wolf mouth), etc.) and the psyche ( for example, Down syndrome). The rest of the diseases can be caused by an incorrect way of life, overwork, hypothermia, nervous environment and other factors, a direct relationship to karmic retribution is not available.

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