- Introduction to Karma

Introduction to Karma

Karma graphic

“Karma” comes from the Sanskrit root kri, which means to act, do, or make. It is exactly the same as the Latin verb ago from whose form, actus, we get our English words act and action.

Both verbs are “all purpose” words–that is, they can be applied in many situations to express the idea of many forms of action both mental and physical. This is important to know so we can realize that karma covers the entire range of human action, whatever its character.

Karma, then, means any kind of action, including thought and feeling. But it also means the effects of actions. For karma is both action and reaction.

Being a fundamental principle of existence it may be thought of as the law of causation governing action and its effects in the physical and psychological plane.

It extends back to the moment of our entry into relative existence and extends forward to the moment of our exit from relative existence–even if that exit is a matter of transmutation of consciousness rather than external cessation of manifestation in a relative form or body.

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Three fundamental facts

Karma is one of the three fundamental facts of our present existence:

  1. Karma: Karma, derived from the Sanskrit root kri, which means to act, do, or make, means any kind of action, including thought and feeling. It also means the effects of action. Karma is both action and reaction, the metaphysical equivalent of the principle: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).
    Read: Karma: What Every Aspiring Yogi Needs to Know
  2. Reincarnation: Karma renders necessary the experience of rebirth or reincarnation (punarjanma) in order for the individual to “reap” the effects of his karmic “sowing” in past, present, and future births. This, too, is a Law.
    Read: Our reincarnation resource page
  3. Evolution of Consciousness: The purpose or effect of Karma and Rebirth is evolution of consciousness, the unfoldment of the individual’s inherent divinity. At first this takes place automatically, a virtual function of the cosmos (samsara), but in time the human status is reached after passing through countless lower forms of manifestation. After some time the human being becomes capable of taking charge of and accelerating his evolution through the methodology of classical yoga.
    Read: Climbing the Ladder of Consciousness

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Christianity and Karma

In Christianity we speak of karma as the Law of Compensation, or Retribution. Saint Paul warns, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). It might be more appropriate for a Christian to use the term “sowing and reaping,” but karma is much shorter!

The Golden Rule is usually thought of as a poetic ideal, but it is Jesus’ very practical teaching on karma: “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matthew 7:12). In other words, Jesus is showing us how to create our future by the use of the Law of Sowing and Reaping.

Importance of Understanding Karma

Comprehending the two principles of karma and rebirth is not needful just because they are facts of universal life, but because they give us a right perspective on all facets of life itself. Without knowledge of these two fundamental laws, a “working” concept of ourselves and our lives is impossible.

Seeing ourselves as fundamentally evolving consciousnesses confined in bodies and an environment whose only real purpose is evolution, we will naturally shape our lives accordingly and deal with our life experiences within that greater context.

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For a fuller understand of Karma we recommend the following articles:

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