One of the most known concepts of Hinduism (and almost always misunderstood) is Karma. When we talk about it, most people express it and understand it, erroneously, as a kind of cosmic justice that returns the good or evil that a person does. This distorted view is dangerous because it is completely disconnected from reality.
Many people with this perception wonder where Karma is when they look at the world around them and see that people who do good have to face all kinds of adversities and that many people who are dedicated to generate suffering seem to lead a life full of pleasures and comforts (as could be the example of many dictators).
What is Karma then? Let’s analyze its simplest meaning:“Karma” is a word that comes from Sanskrit and is translated as “action“. In simple terms, it is the law of cause and effect. Every action (but also non-action) has a reaction or consequence. Actions can be classified as good or bad according to their intentions and results. Good actions lead to positive consequences, while bad actions lead to negative consequences.
At first glance, this may seem very obvious, nothing special, but behind the concept of karma lies a profound teaching that aims to learn to live more fully and authentically, in balance with ourselves and the world around us.
In this article we will explore in depth the richness of the term “karma” and how it can help us on the path of self-knowledge.
Karma Phala is a very important concept that literally translates to “fruits of action“. Every action we perform, whether physical, mental or verbal, leaves an imprint and generates a result. This result, or “fruit”, may be experienced immediately or it may manifest in the distant future, but it is inevitable. In other words, every action has a consequence, and it is this consequence that we experience in our lives.
While it may be tempting to think of Karma Phala in terms of reward and punishment, it is essential to understand that it is not a moral system imposed by an external deity. Rather, it is a natural law of the universe, similar to the law of gravity. Just as an object thrown into the air will eventually fall to the ground due to gravity, so our actions will generate specific results due to the law of karma.
This does not mean that we are passive victims of our past actions. Although certain consequences may be inevitable due to past actions, we always have the freedom to choose how to act in the present. And those present choices also generate their own Karma Phala, thus influencing the course of our future life. In this way, we are active co-creators of our reality, and Karma Phala acts as a compass that guides us, showing us the results of our choices.
Understanding the concept of Karma Phala promotes self-reflection and personal responsibility. By recognizing that we are ultimately responsible for our actions and their consequences, a sense of integrity and self-awareness is fostered. Decisions are no longer made lightly, as they are understood to have an impact on our well-being and the world around us.
On a practical level, Karma Phala can be seen as a teacher. If we experience difficulties in life, instead of considering it a punishment or bad luck, we can see it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Difficult situations may be the result of past actions, but they also offer the opportunity to cultivate virtues such as patience, perseverance and understanding. Similarly, the blessings and opportunities we encounter in life are a reminder of the inherent goodness and interconnectedness of all things.
Everything we do, think or say has an impact, and that impact echoes not only in our lives but also in the world at large. This understanding invites us to act with compassion, integrity and wisdom, recognizing that every choice is a seed we plant, and eventually, that seed will bear fruit.
Types of Karma
Within Hinduism there are three types of karma, which we will detail below:
Prarabdha Karma is that portion of accumulated karma that is destined to manifest in our present life. It is the “active karma” whose effects we are destined to experience as a result of our past actions. We could think of it as “karmic debt“.
why is it relevant to know this concept? Because Prarabdha Karma is seen as inevitable. It is the set of circumstances, challenges, blessings and situations that we face in our life, and are considered to be predestined due to our past actions. This includes the type of family we are born into, our health, the people we meet, the opportunities and challenges we face, and more.
But, although circumstances derived from Prarabdha Karma may be predestined, how we respond to them is in our own hands. This is where Agami or Kriyamana Karma comes into play, which are the actions we take in response to current situations. Our ability to act with wisdom, understanding and discernment can alter the course of our life, despite predestined circumstances.
Although this term is often related to reincarnation and past lives, we can interpret it in a symbolic way. Let us see it as the vast set of actions and decisions that have left a mark over time and that, in their totality, dictate the currents that determine the course of our existence.
Let us imagine for a moment a vast library, the Great Archive of the Soul. Each book, each page, each word represents an action, a decision, a thought that we have had in the “past“. This library does not refer to previous lives in literal terms, but to a more ethereal past: everything we have done, said or thought in a “before“, however we define that “before“. It is the archive of our personal history, but also of our ancestors, our culture and humanity as a whole.
Sanchita Karma, in this symbolism, is the total content of this library. It is the accumulation of all these “books” that, in some way, exert an influence on us. It may be the wisdom inherited from our ancestors, the traditions and beliefs of our culture, or the lessons learned from past experiences. All these “stories” intertwine to create a web of influences that shape our perception, our decisions and our reactions to different situations.
Some might see this Great Archive as a weight, a burden of old responsibilities and mistakes that must be faced. However, it can also be seen as a treasure trove of wisdom and experience. While it is true that some of these“stories” may bring with them challenges or repetitive patterns that seem difficult to break, they can also provide us with valuable lessons, insights and a deep understanding of who we are.
What is important is how we relate to this Sanchita Karma. Are we willing to “read” these ancient stories, learn from them, reconcile with them, and ultimately consciously choose which “books” we want to bring into the “present“? While we cannot change what is written, we have the power to decide which stories will influence our current decisions and which will be archived for reflection and learning.
Moreover, every day, with every thought and action, we are writing new pages in this Great Archive. We are contributing to Sanchita Karma, not only for ourselves but also for those around us and for future generations. In this sense, we are both authors and readers, actively participating in the creation and interpretation of this vast legacy.
Sanchita Karma reminds us of the importance of awareness and responsibility. We are heirs of our past, but we are also creators of the future. Through understanding, acceptance and conscious choice, we can navigate the waters of this karmic ocean, honoring the past and forging a future filled with purpose and meaning.
Krinayama or Agami Karma
Kriyamana Karma or Agami Karma represents present actions and the consequences they will generate in the future.
If we imagine life as a continuous series of choices and decisions, Kriyamana Karma represents the freedom and responsibility we have in each moment. It is a reminder that while we cannot change the past and certain circumstances in the present are already determined, we always have the power to choose how to act now. And those choices, no matter how small, have repercussions.
Let us visualize our life as a blank canvas. Sanchita Karma has drawn some lines and patterns on this canvas, representing our accumulated actions and their consequences. Prarabdha Karma is like the design we are currently painting due to those past actions. But the Kriyamana Karma is the brush we hold in our hands here and now. Every stroke we make with this brush will determine how the canvas will look in the future.
This understanding brings a deep sense of empowerment and responsibility. We are not merely passive spectators in the theater of life; we are active co-creators of our destiny. Every action, word and thought contributes to the flow of causes and effects that is karma.
Kriyamana Karma urges us to live with awareness and purpose. It reminds us that the future is not written in stone and that, through our present actions, we can influence the course of our lives. In that sense, it is a call to conscious action, to live in accordance with dharma (moral and ethical duty), and to recognize that every moment is an opportunity to shape the future.
Karma Yoga, the Yoga of Conscious and Selfless Action
Yoga goes far beyond physical postures, it is an integral spiritual discipline that encompasses several paths to self-realization. Among these paths is Karma Yoga, the “Yoga of Action” or “Path of Selfless Service“. This particular path emphasizes the importance of acting without attachment to results and serving selflessly for the welfare of all. It is one of the three paths proposed in Hinduism to attain Moksha or inner freedom.
The heart of Karma Yoga lies in the idea that we should act without attachment to the fruits of our action. This does not mean that we should abandon our responsibilities or not put effort into our tasks. On the contrary, we should act diligently, but without allowing our emotional or mental well-being to depend on the results of our actions.
Acting without attachment frees us from the chains of expectation and anxiety. We do not become disappointed if things do not go as we expect, nor do we wallow in momentary success. This practice allows us to maintain a balanced and centered mind, regardless of external circumstances.
Karma Yoga is not limited to a specific religious or cultural context. Its principles are universal and can be practiced by anyone, regardless of their background. Here are some ways to integrate Karma Yoga into our daily lives:
- Mindful work: Engage in daily tasks, whether mundane or meaningful, with full attention and dedication. Do it as if it is the most important thing at that moment.
- Selfless service: Engage in acts of charity, volunteer in community service or help those in need without expecting anything in return. Such acts purify the heart and mind.
- Righteous Action: Make sure your actions conform to ethical and moral standards. Avoid causing harm to others and make decisions that reflect justice and fairness.
In a world dominated by individualism and material pursuits, Karma Yoga is an act of revolution. It teaches that true happiness comes not from external achievements, but from inner satisfaction. By performing actions selflessly and dedicating them to the greater good, we can find purpose and fulfillment.
In the professional realm, it manifests itself in leaders who prioritize the well-being of their team over personal gain, or in employees who work diligently not just for the paycheck, but for the passion and love of the work. On the social side, those who dedicate their lives to social causes, humanitarian work or community service embody the spirit of Karma Yoga. Their selfless dedication serves as inspiration and reinforces the idea that true joy comes from giving and serving.