The saying, "What goes around comes around", captures the essence of karma, a foundational concept in Hinduism that influences every aspect of life. But what does karma really mean in Hinduism, and why does it matter to us?  

Often misunderstood and oversimplified in popular culture, the true meaning of karma is rich with depth and nuance. In this blog post, we'll explore what karma means in Hinduism, its different types, and how it influences the lives of believers.

Jump to: 

The Definition of Karma

Karma refers to the law of cause and effect. It's a simple yet profound principle that suggests your actions, thoughts, and intentions have consequences. In Hinduism, karma is a way of understanding the universe and your place. Every action you take, from your words to your deeds, generates a ripple in the cosmic pond, influencing your future experiences.

What is Karma According to Hinduism?

Figurine of a man pushing down a block representing the domino effect, when the final block falls it will come back to him

Karma in Hinduism is often misunderstood. It's not about punishment or reward but balance and harmony. The universe seeks equilibrium, and karma is the mechanism through which this balance is maintained. Whether good or bad, karma ensures that every action has an appropriate response, guiding souls towards growth and enlightenment.

The Rule of Karma

The rule of karma is straightforward: good actions lead to positive outcomes, while negative actions result in adverse consequences. However, it's the intention behind each action that truly determines its karmic weight. Actions undertaken with pure intentions, regardless of the outcome, are more likely to generate good karma. Meanwhile, actions driven by selfish motives can lead to negative karma, even if they appear kind on the surface.

What are the 3 Types of Karma in Hinduism?

Someone holding a candle with their wrist covered in bracelets

Hindu texts describe three main types of karma:

1. Sanchita Karma: The Sum of Past Actions

Imagine a vast reservoir containing every action you've ever performed, every word you've spoken, and every thought you've entertained. This is Sanchita Karma, a comprehensive accumulation of karma from all your past lives. It's like a cosmic ledger, recording the deeds and intentions that shape your soul's journey across many lifetimes.

Sanchita Karma represents potential experiences and lessons waiting to manifest. It's the backdrop against which your life unfolds, influencing your circumstances, challenges, and opportunities. However, not all of it comes to fruition in one lifetime. It's a dynamic, evolving record, with some karmic seeds sprouting in the present life while others lie dormant, awaiting future conditions to ripen.

Understanding Sanchita Karma underscores the significance of every action and thought, reminding Hindus of the long-term impact their choices have on spiritual evolution.

2. Prarabdha Karma: The Present Life Blueprint

Prarabdha Karma is the karma that's ready to be experienced in your current life, shaping its contours, relationships, successes, and struggles. Think of it as a script for the current act in the play of your existence, written by your past selves.

Prarabdha Karma determines the family you're born into, your inherent talents, the challenges you face, and the opportunities that come your way. It's like the hand you're dealt in a game of cards; while you can't change the cards, your free will determines how you play them. This type of karma underscores the importance of living consciously and responding to life's situations with wisdom and grace.

3. Agami Karma: Shaping Future Realities

As you live your life, every decision, action, and thought generates new karma, known as Agami Karma. This is the fresh karma that's being created right now with every breath you take. It's the seed for future experiences and lifetimes, extending the chain of cause and effect into the horizon of your soul's journey.

Agami Karma offers a powerful reminder of your creative potential and responsibility. With every action, you can generate positive or negative karma, influencing your current life and future incarnations. It encourages you to live with intention, making choices that align with the highest good for yourself and all beings.

Dharma and Karma

Closely related to karma is the concept of dharma, or righteous duty. Dharma acts as a moral compass, guiding Hindus to perform their societal and cosmic duties with integrity. By adhering to your dharma and engaging in actions aligned with righteousness, you can ensure good karma and contribute to the balance and harmony of the universe.

The Impact of Karma on Life and Reincarnation

A woman's soul leaving her body

Karma and dharma are integral to the Hindu belief in samsara, the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. Good karma can lead to a favourable rebirth, moving the soul closer to moksha—liberation from the cycle of samsara. Conversely, bad karma can result in a less desirable reincarnation, providing opportunities to learn and rectify past mistakes.

How is Karma Different from Hinduism to Buddhism?

Karma is a concept shared by both Hinduism and Buddhism, though each interprets it slightly differently. In Hinduism, karma is closely tied to the soul's journey and ultimate liberation, while Buddhism focuses on karma's role in the cycle of suffering and the path to nirvana.

Common Questions About Karma in Hinduism

How do Hindus Get Good Karma?

Cultivating good karma is about more than just performing good deeds; it's about acting with pure intentions and a selfless heart. Actions rooted in compassion, altruism, and dharma contribute to positive karma, guiding us towards a more fulfilling and enlightened existence.

What Happens if a Hindu Has Bad Karma?

Bad karma, resulting from harmful actions or intentions, can lead to challenges and suffering in this life or future ones. However, Hinduism offers pathways for redemption and transformation, encouraging individuals to learn from their mistakes and evolve spiritually.

Is Karma Only in Hinduism?

While karma is a central tenet in Hinduism, it's also present in other religions, such as Buddhism and Jainism, with each tradition offering its unique perspective.

How do You Get Rid of Karma in Hinduism?

Liberation from karma involves living a life of dharma, engaging in selfless service (seva), and pursuing spiritual practices that foster detachment and enlightenment. Through these efforts, one can transcend the cycle of karma and achieve moksha.

How Does Karma Influence Daily Life in Hinduism?

Karma is not just a spiritual concept but a practical guide that influences daily life and decision-making for Hindus. It encourages mindful living, where every action, no matter how small, is performed with awareness of its potential impact. This mindfulness fosters a culture of ethical behaviour, compassion, and responsibility towards oneself and the community.

Can Karma Be Changed?

One of the most empowering aspects of karma is the belief that it can be transformed through conscious effort. Hindus believe that by engaging in positive actions, cultivating good intentions, and living according to dharma, one can mitigate the effects of past negative karma. This dynamic aspect of karma provides hope and motivation for individuals to strive for personal and spiritual growth.

Is Karma the Same as Fate?

A common misconception is equating karma with fate or predestination. However, karma is about action and consequence, emphasising personal agency and the ability to shape one's destiny through choices. While certain aspects of life are influenced by past karma, the future is not fixed and can be changed through present actions and attitudes.

How Do Dharma and Karma Interact?

Dharma, or righteous duty, acts as a moral compass, guiding individuals to perform actions aligned with cosmic order and righteousness. Adherence to one's dharma ensures the generation of good karma, contributing to the universe's balance and the individual's spiritual progress.

How Does Karma Affect Life and Reincarnation in Hinduism?

Karma and dharma are integral to the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth (samsara). Good karma can lead to favourable rebirths, advancing the soul towards moksha or liberation. Conversely, bad karma may result in less desirable reincarnations, offering learning and spiritual growth opportunities.

What Happens When a Hindu Accumulates Bad Karma?

Bad karma, arising from harmful actions or intentions, can lead to challenges and suffering. However, Hinduism encourages learning from these experiences, offering paths to redemption and spiritual evolution.

Study Hinduism With Centre of Excellence

Learn more about Hinduism practices and beliefs with our Religious Studies Diploma Course, offering a deep exploration into the nuances of religion.

Why Centre of Excellence?

  • Universal Access: Embracing our mission to make education accessible, our courses are priced to welcome everyone, championing inclusivity at every step.
  • Learning on Your Terms: Our courses promise the flexibility to learn at your own pace. Seamlessly blend your pursuit of knowledge with your daily commitments.
  • A Wide Range of Topics: Our curriculum delves into the many aspects of religion and spiritual growth, catering to a variety of interests and explorations.
  • Dedicated Support: Joining our community gives you personalised tutor guidance and the support of like-minded learners.

Special Invitation

We're excited to offer our Religious Studies Diploma Course for just £29 for a limited period, saving you over £100!

Inspiration just for you!

To try some of our most popular courses for free, enter your
email and we'll send you some samples of our favourites.

Image of person of color holding a large envelope


There are no comments yet.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to submit a comment.