Karma: What It Is and How It Affects Your Life

You may have wondered, “What is karma, and how karma affects your life?” Karma is a concept with a few definitions, specifically in Hinduism and Buddhism, and the common sayings

IShimwe Emile

April 12, 2024

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You may have wondered, “What is karma, and how karma affects your life?”

Karma is a concept with a few definitions, specifically in Hinduism and Buddhism, and the common sayings “what goes around comes around” and “what you sow is what you reap” are great examples of how karma works. 

Hinduism identifies karma as the relationship between a person’s mental or physical action and the consequences following that action. It also signifies the consequences of all the actions of a person in their current and previous lives and the chain of cause and effect in morality. 

In Buddhism, karma refers to the principle of cause and effect. The result of an action — which can be verbal, mental, or physical — is not determined by not only the act but also the intention.

Workings and Science of Karma
Karma promotes intentional action. For example, when you help someone in need, the action leaves an imprint, and as these imprints develop with experiences, it opens the possibility of you receiving help in return when you need it. Conversely, harmful actions bring about negative consequences — you won’t receive help when you need it, but instead, you may be harmed.  
But how does karma work? Let’s look at karma examples this way: if you were to plant oregano, would you expect something else to grow in its place? Of course, not. Oregano seeds would grow into oregano, just like lavender seeds would grow into lavender.

Karma psychology is essentially the same. If you act with good intentions, happiness will follow. If you act with ill intentions, problems will follow. 

When you see dishonest and cruel people in positions of power get ahead in life or kind people face hardships and die young, it may be hard for you to believe in karma. Many people invest in karma only in times of distress or when uncontrollable situations occur, such as a decline in health.

Karma often helps people cope with these situations. Even people who don’t believe in karma often think that good deeds lead to a good outcome.

However, there is a downside to this belief. Some people are selfless givers, who think their good deeds and sacrifices will help them win in life. But many of these givers also fail because they find it hard to set boundaries when helping others. They may drop their ambitions and goals to help others, making them fall behind in life.
Karma can be individual or collective. For example, individual karma is created by a person’s thoughts, words, and actions. But when people act as a group, like when soldiers use weapons or when a religious group prays or meditates, they create collective karma.

Good Karma vs. Bad Karma

Karma can be divided into good and bad karma. Good karma is a result of good deeds done for others, while bad karma results from intentional harm caused to others.

If your actions cause lasting pain and suffering, they are regarded as negative, unvirtuous, or destructive. If your actions cause happiness, they are considered constructive, positive, and virtuous. While actions aren’t as black and white as being fundamentally good or bad, the results can be identified as either. 

Sanchita Karma vs. Prarabdha Karma 
Karma has four dimensions. Of them, sanchita and prarabdha are the two most common. 

Sanchita karma is the warehouse of karma, which goes back to evolution. It is believed that when people close their eyes and become aware, they can know the nature of the universe because they have a warehouse of information — or sanchita karma. Through this warehouse, you can gain knowledge from single-celled animals and inanimate substances, dating back to the very beginning of creation. 

Prarabdha karma is the information given to you in your current lifetime. This information is often limited to only what you can handle. If you were to take on all of your karma memories, including those from your past lives, you would be unable to handle them and potentially die. Several people are already haunted by memories just from their current existence. This is where prarabdha karma comes into play.

Karma Principles
Karma has four main principles. 

Small actions can lead to great results. The smallest action can bring about immense happiness or great sadness. What you may consider a small act of goodwill might be huge for another in the same way that a short hurtful remark can have a lasting impact on them. You might not realize it but doing good deeds for others — no matter how small — might be life-changing for them.  
Karma is nontransferable. That is, you’re responsible for your own karmic experiences. No one else can experience your karma for you nor can they remove it for you and vice versa. 
Noncommitted actions won’t give you the results you want. You must fully commit to actions or intent to bring about the results you desire. 
Karmic actions won’t disappear on their own. You must experience the results, whether good or bad, or purify them through spiritual practices.
How Karma Affects Your Life
In Buddhist philosophy, no higher power gives rewards and punishments. You simply act with intent and experience the consequences of the actions. That is, you’re responsible for your own actions and consequences. 

Since karma is based on intent, accidental happenings do not count toward karmic justice or consequences. It’s impossible to prove that karma is real, but for the people who believe in it, it can often lead to stronger friendships and happiness. This is because most people who believe in karma will generally do good to receive something good in return.

Even if you don’t believe in karma, treating people with ill intent often leads to hard feelings, which can cause unhappiness and resentment. These feelings alone can cause troubles in life. People often attribute karma to treating others the way you want to be treated.

Karma can affect how you lead your life — either with fear of consequences or with anticipation of future rewards. 

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