What is Karma?


Listen to this while you read.

This article is about understanding “Karma” as per Hindu Philosophy. The term Karma means “Action.” Any action that we commit is called Karma, whether we do with our body or mind, but the word “Karma” has a much greater significance as per Hindu Philosophy than just simple meaning as “Action.” According to the Hindu scriptures, Karma is related to the origin of one’s own body. Karmas (deeds) of previous birth become the basis of our present birth and Karmas of our present birth become the basis of our next birth and so on. This relation of Karmas to the rebirth makes it different from doing just any action in life.

Now, the question here arises that, “How is Karma related to rebirth as per the Hindu mythology?” The Hindu mythology states that, any action that we do, has a consequence or gives us some fruit. An example would be, a man does his job for 6 hours in a restaurant, and he would expect his 6 hours salary at the end of his work. The salary may be given to him at the end of his job on that day, may accrue to his account weekly or monthly, but the man expects his salary to be given to him for his hard work. So, here the “Expected Salary” is the “Fruit” of his 6 hours of “Actions.”

Similarly, any kind of “Action” or “Karma” we do in life has some “Fruit” or “Consequence” attached to it. When the Karmas (deeds or actions) are performed by a man, the God determines to announce the results or hand fruits. Let’s say, you donate some money to a beggar or a poor and a hungry man, what fruit shall be given to you for this great work? Or let’s say, a person murders someone to acquire his money, property or for revenge, what fruit shall be given to him for his evil and ghastly act? In all such acts or Karmas done by humans, the consequential fruits are adjudicated by God Almighty as per the divine laws and not by any human on earth. So, now we know that, all Karmas or actions done by a human have a fruit related to it and that fruit is adjudicated by God only.

Perhaps, you might be questioning to yourself that, “How does Karmas become the basis of Rebirth as per the Hindu mythology?” The Hindu mythology answers that, any “Karma” (action or deed) done by the person, remains with that person, unless he/she has tasted the consequential fruit arisen out of doing that Karma. If a person does good deeds, he/she will receive rewards of his good deeds. Similarly, if he does bad deeds, he’ll face punishment of his bad deeds. Unless that person enjoys his good or bad result of his Karma, it shall remain forever with that person and leave that person after that person has enjoyed and tasted the fruit of his Karma.

Whatever action or karma a human does with his/her body, mind or speech, that “Finished Karma” goes to the person’s reserved stock of Karmas; it adds up to all the accumulated karmas of his/her previous birth and present birth for which its fruit is yet to be enjoyed. During the time of his/her death, out of those accumulated karmas which that person carries, God Almighty takes a handful of those karmas which have begun to bear the fruits and a new body is developed with the seeds of this fruit bearing karmas. In conclusion, any karma done becomes the seed of our next birth.

The Hindu mythology states that, when karma becomes the seeds of a new birth of a body, they are called, “Parabdha” or “Fate.” In the next birth, the person again does karmas and it again adds up to his/her accumulated stock. In this way, the cycle of re-birth continues. Yes, the cycle keeps on moving, it goes on for a soul of taking birth after birth. It is also said, “Our body is mortal, but our soul is immortal.” In Hinduism, Karma is a law which maintains the act done, no matter how insignificant, will ultimately return to the doer with equal impact. The Good is returned with good and evil with evil. With the law of Karma, the perpetual journey of a soul from one birth to the next goes on. The theory of Karma states that, “As you bow, so shall you reap.” Believe it and act upon it.

~ Copyright © Surabhi Kaura 2010

Comments 30 comments

lorlie6 profile image

lorlie6 6 years ago from Bishop, Ca

What a lovely explanation of Karma and part of the Hindi mythology, Surabhi. You have done a beautiful job on this hub.

Thank you.

Surabhi Kaura profile image

Surabhi Kaura 6 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author


My pleasure! Thank you for dropping by and nice meeting you =)

dreamreachout 6 years ago

You have explained "Karma" very well here!! You have rekindled the thoughts we forget during our grind with daily life!! One question that comes to my mind, how is the world getting more evil and cruel and is Karma laws not being able to take care of that!! Maybe, you can answer that!!

Kudos for the great hub!! Cheers!! :)

vydyulashashi profile image

vydyulashashi 6 years ago from Hyderabad,India

Wonderful explanation regarding Karma. One have look how his/her Karma pays back(good or bad).

God bless you.

Daniel J. Neumann profile image

Daniel J. Neumann 6 years ago from Harrisburg, Pa


Karma is a fascinating topic. I used to argue against it in my younger years (around 15), calling it “God’s Tally.” I reasoned that if God is all-knowing, then he’d know the actions we’d take (since He is outside of time), thus He is ultimately responsible. I equivocated this rationale to the story of Jesus (who sacrificed Himself to remiss or forgive all sins).

But, when I think about it more today, I find myself aligning with Hinduism as well as Christianity (and Buddhism, humanism, kabbalah, etc.). Couldn’t one argue that Jesus acted out karma? He reaped the consequences of all of humanity’s trespasses so we wouldn’t have to.

I believe Karma works through perceptions and expectations. The idea jives with atheist and theist notions of cause and effect. On one hand, if we feel guilty about something, we’ll associate bad events to the bad things we did to the world. In that respect, karma is an invention of the mind to make sense of a seemingly chaotic world. Now, if you’re a theist, and believe you join God in the after-life, then you’ve always been part of your destiny. You (and God together) choose your hardships and rewards. One might assume you make these choices based on what you need to learn in your next life. (For example, if you murdered people, maybe you’ll be a victim next reincarnation to understand what you did. Or maybe you were so nice in the last life that this life you’ll be part of the problem—or maybe you’ll choose not to come back at all).

Most Christians believe in free will (after all, the Bible says we’ve got it). Most Christians also believe God is omnipotent (and, thus, designed fate from the outset—or at least knew the outcomes to work around choices). I believe we can reconcile this apparent paradox with the idea of Karma. I’m not sure what the exact metrics will be in the after-life, but it makes sense that there is some judgment to determine the “New Heaven and New Earth” (to quote the Bible again).

Excellent hub, Surabhi. It seems Hinduism understood cause and effect long before the Western sciences left the Dark Ages.

Thanks for sharing this,


Surabhi Kaura profile image

Surabhi Kaura 6 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author


That's absolutely right what you said. Thanks for the comment =)

Surabhi Kaura profile image

Surabhi Kaura 6 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author


Wow! That's such a lenthy comment posted by you. Cool! Hahaha. I'll try to give a proper reply.

It’s good to hear that subsequently you started believing in Karma… =) Initially, even I also used to argue against Karma, but after going through the study of Karma and learning from elders regarding Karma, I started to believe in it. I think, God does not know of our deeds, but he is the arbiter.

I believe in the saying, “A man is known by the company he keeps.” Similarly according to the theory of Karma, a man would be evaluated by his/her deeds. We cannot link the actions of human beings with the prior knowledge of the God. Actions are within the preview of a human being, but its results rest upon the God Almighty. I got enlightenment from Bhagvad Gita (one of the most sacred holy books of Hinduism) in which Lord Krishna says to Arjuna, “You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty.” This saying is absolutely veritable.

Daniel, Karma is the ultimate yardstick, by which a person would be dealt with after his/her demise. For example, if three sons are born from the same mother, one son becomes a “doctor”, the second son becomes a “lawyer” and the third becomes a “notorious extremist”, now think for a while that how this happened? Because, all the sons came to the earth from the common channel, but they brought with them the different Karmas (actions and deeds), which they are supposed to perform and which were already performed during their previous birth. As you have said that, Christians believe that God is omnipotent, similarly, Hindus believe God is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient.

Yes, Jesus was great. Jesus sacrificed his life with a view to enlighten people in distinguishing what are right and wrong deeds. It was nice knowing your great thoughts on Karma and Christianity. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your immense knowledge on spiritual beliefs. It was note-worthy to go through your feedback. =)

maheshpatwal profile image

maheshpatwal 6 years ago from MUMBAI

Surabhi you have explained THE KARMA in most simple language which can easily be understood by a layman.I'm really surprised that 12th grade indian girl living abroad know so much about our indian culture that most of us living here in india do not know. You must thank your parents for that...... As per me whatever good or bad KARMA or DEED we do in this life gets tallied in this life only.......

Haunty profile image

Haunty 6 years ago from Hungary

Hey Surabhi :) Excellent hub! Now I understand Karma a lot better. Thank you.

I have a question. Sorry if this has been asked previously. If you do harm to someone in this life, then that or similar harm will or may be done to you in your next life. And the person who does it will also receive it in his or her next life. So this "harm" will always be in the system. Will this world then never be a better place?

Surabhi Kaura profile image

Surabhi Kaura 6 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author


Thanks for the kind words. I think, I am fortunate for the parents and teachers I have got. It's wonderful to learn from their experience. They are my elders, my "Gurus", it's my pleasure and my moral duty to learn from them. Thanks for dropping by =)

Surabhi Kaura profile image

Surabhi Kaura 6 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author

Hey Haunty!

Basically, there are two categories of people in this world. The one who does good to others and vice- versa. You’ve rightly said that, the person who does harm to others shall face the same consequences in the next birth. According to Hinduism, for all our deeds (good or bad), God is maintaining the Balance Sheet. After the death of a person, the balance sheet is completed by the God and is weighed in terms of good deeds and bad deeds of that person. With a view to get rid of this process, i.e. birth and death, only “Moksha” is the solution. This can be only possible, who has never committed sin in life, who sees God in every person and who loves the creatures of God.

Surabhi Kaura profile image

Surabhi Kaura 6 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author


I read your question attentively. What I think is that, Karma is neither a God, nor a human. Karma simply means “Action” or “Deed” that a human performs. As far as I know, some people are adapting the wrong path, like thief, dacoit, criminals etc. and they will repent for their misdeeds. Thanks for the feedback.=)

sujju profile image

sujju 6 years ago from mangalore, india

great work surabhi.... nice to see an NRI(i guess) writing such a beautiful piece...

Surabhi Kaura profile image

Surabhi Kaura 6 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author


I believe, one should not forget his/her culture or tradition while being miles away from his/her native land. Once again, thanks for the kind words and feedback. =)

unknown 6 years ago

Everyone believes that there is someone called Supreme, but here there are many ppl around, who hurt/insult others and do pujas daily...so what are their karmas, does the Supreme forgive the hurts those ppl have given to others, only because those ppl ,perform pujas to the Supreme daily ? Its easy to say that be good to all, when you keep quiet and still ppl throw stones at you, then you know the real pain.

Surabhi Kaura profile image

Surabhi Kaura 6 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author


Here, puja (prayer) will not exonerate them for the hurts caused by them to others. The puja will just give them mental satisfaction, but for their good deeds or bad deeds, the account is maintained by the God Almighty and shall be dealt according to the theory of Karmas.

shiju 6 years ago

hi can karma will lead as towards liberation of our soul in the time of dead and also can our karma leads us to heaven or have a right stand with god. if answer is yes then let me ask a doubt can any man do a good karma until he is out sin nature in him can good karma will be accept by god until all sin nature is their in him.can a man be without sin in him until his death.

Surabhi Kaura profile image

Surabhi Kaura 6 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author


The soul has no concern or connection with Karmas. At the time of death, the soul has to leave the body irrespective of the fact of deceased’s karmas. The karmas have already been evaluated by the God before putting the deceased in new birth. This 'new birth' will in fact depend upon the type of birth the person is getting, meaning thereby, whether he is getting birth in an affluent family or in a poor family. The Karmas also have degrees depending upon the gravity of the good deeds or bad deeds. Thanks for the feedback.

RK Sangha profile image

RK Sangha 6 years ago from USA

It is intersting to read on KARMA from a very young but enlightened mind. God bless you, Surabhi.

Surabhi Kaura profile image

Surabhi Kaura 6 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author

RK Sangha,

Thanks for devoting your time and thanks for bestowing blessings.

Ruchira profile image

Ruchira 5 years ago from United States

well explained surabhi :) good hub!

Ruchira profile image

Ruchira 5 years ago from United States

forgot to write in my previous comment..but you should check out my hub titled, my karma. the outline is the same but it always helps to get an insight from another writer :)

Shruti 4 years ago

Thanks Surabhi,,, You might not Understand why... but Out of some reasons i needed to know about Karma, And is there really an impact of karma On our life before birth and after death...And Here Atleast i found some solace and answers... :-)

sudeshna 4 years ago

hi surabhi very nice read indeed however i have got some doubts. i have seen many people doing the worst of karma like forgery cheating playing with people's lives, depriving own siblings of property etc yet they lead a very happy and peaceful life. the ones on the receiving end keep on suffering through out their entire lives. how do you justify that. are they really getting the payback. all these i have experienced in my life and seen the most aghast deed getting rewarded at the end of the day. here i lose my faith on God and the world.

Surabhi Kaura profile image

Surabhi Kaura 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada Author

Sudeshna ji,

One should be concerned with his/her acts and deeds. Do good deeds (which are in your good conscience) and forgive those who deprive you. The reason why I say this is, because God is maintaining a balance sheet of our acts and deeds and in the end, He will be the adjudicator to judge people. So, believe in the philosophy that, 'good' and 'bad' co-exist and nothing is perfect in this world, yet, if we make a positive approach by thinking positive, then we sure can bring a change in the minds of others and ultimately, this will bring a change in the entire world.

Now going back to your question - people who lead their life through cheating, forgery, ect-ect... will not be satisfied in the end. Their joy, their satisfaction and their pleasure will be temporary (momentum). Yet, people who lead their life with honesty and truthfulness will lead an everlasting pleasurable life. Though, they will face abundant hardships and obstacles, but the fruit of their good karmas will pay off. People will be rewarded of their good karmas and vice-versa.

Just friendly pieces of advice - Please, do not feel down or heavy hearted, because life is very beautiful and there is so much to do great in life. Often times in life, we face ups and downs, but courage sustains in the end. Be courageous, have faith in your strength and more importantly, have in God. So, start a new chapter of life and look at your present, see the beautiful things God have rewarded us; we will feel tremendous joy. Be thankful to whatever happened. Things happen for a reason. We might think, “Oh! It didn’t happen for my good/benefit” but, who knows? It might be a turning point of your life for your benefit. Be happy, be courageous and never lose faith in the God Almighty. That supreme power (divine) tests us during crucial situations and we must pass that test. I hope that helps, my friend!

Veanna 24 months ago

Lot of smarts in that potisng!

rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 11 months ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

Nice detailed explanation on what karma is and how it affects us. It is an interesting read.

Surabhi Kaura profile image

Surabhi Kaura 11 months ago from Toronto, Canada Author

Thank you, Rajan ji. I appreciate your kind feedback. Much joy to you!

fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 11 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Surabhi......I very much appreciate your accurate and clear description of "Karma." I'm sure you know there are numerous misconceptions floating around about Karma that sort of evolved from speculations, misinformation and people sort of defining Karma in their own terms. So yes, I fell into this for a while, believing that Karma describes action & reaction during everyday living.

It's been a pleasure to hear from you on this special topic. Again, I thank you. Peace, Paula

Surabhi Kaura profile image

Surabhi Kaura 11 months ago from Toronto, Canada Author

Hi there, Paula! Pleased to meet you. Thank you for dropping by, and I commend you for your insightful feedback. Love and Peace.

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