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Karma Hinduism

Updated on July 1, 2017

Karma is a fundamental belief of the Hindu faith and basically it denotes the sum collective of all actions, both good and bad, that follows the soul into the next life. Hinduism is based on the notion that existence is dualistic in nature and that the human body is composed or comprises of two components the physical component i.e. the body per se and the spiritual component or the spiritual matter within the body which is commonly referred to as the soul. While the body exists for a limited time and comes to an end after having existed for a specific time, the soul is eternal and exists for all time.

The physical body comes into existence with birth and from then on it gets stronger with age as it grows from adolescence to youth and continues to gain physical strength with time until its faculties start to slow down and it loses the strength it has gained as it grows old and infirm before slipping into death. The body is then reduced to ashes or cremated and it remains only as a fleeting memory in the minds of those that were in some way or form attached to the body.

The same however cannot be said for the soul which remains the same from birth to death and upon death depending on the deeds and actions of the body it was encased in while it was alive it either attains salvation or liberation or migrates to another body to begin the journey anew.

According to some schools, the type of body that the soul attains after death depends on its deeds and actions when it was trapped or encased in the previous body. Souls that belonged to a body that had lived a good life, even if they do not attain salvation or liberation after death, acquire the body of someone who is born in a higher or a good station in life and are not subjected to the many miseries that often accompany human existence for example poverty, disease, sickness, and homelessness, to name some of the many problems that plague human existence today.

Souls that belong to a body that has led a wayward life and a body that has committed numerous sins normally attain the body of someone who is born into a lower station in life and are subjected to the many miseries of mortal existence. The general belief is that the new body will experience the sins the former body inflicted on others and upon realization of its mistakes, it will be liberated from a wretched existence and continue on the higher path until it is born in the body of someone who attains salvation and liberation by virtue of having lead a noble existence.

As far as the soul is concerned, birth and death is a continuous cycle and the soul passes from one state to another, repeating the process for as long as it takes or for as many times that is needed until such time that it attains the body of someone who desires to live a noble and virtuous existence and not be swayed by material pleasures or corporeal or temporal needs but rather someone whose existence is driven by spiritual needs and the desire to do so permeates his or her very existence.

Another way of looking at it is that in order for one to escape the birth and death cycle, all one has to do is to live a good life for the duration of a lifetime which in present terms translates to no more than a hundred years or so and upon death the soul will either attain salvation or liberation or attain the body of someone who is born in a higher station of existence.

Living a good or a meritorious life doesn’t always equate or translate to attaining salvation or liberation and even while living a praiseworthy existence, one can be subjected to the many pitfalls that result from temporal or corporeal needs and therefore the only surefire way of attaining salvation or liberation is to seek enlightenment.

Seeking enlightenment merely means renouncing all material existence and devoting one’s existence to seeking out the higher truths and it normally means leading the life of a monk or an ascetic.

Upon death those persons who have faithfully complied with the norms and rules that accompany an ascetic existence are liberated and gain the status of an enlightened being and may return to the world of the living to help others through difficult times or may be reunited with the source and continue to exist with the source for the duration of the universe.

Karma in short is simply the deeds that we acquire in the present life, good and bad, that follow us into the next life and determine the body that we will attain in the next life. Therefore, while one is alive it is in one’s best interest to accrue as many good deeds as possible and to avoid negative actions.

© 2017 Kathiresan Ramachanderam and Dyarne Jessica Ward

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