What is Karma? How does it work?

कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन।
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि॥

(Bhagwat Gita, Chapter: 2, Verse: 47)

We have grown up listening to this verse. It says that we do not have the right to the fruits of the action we do. We shall only perform; the fructification of actions should never be the motive of your action.Yes, it’s easier said than done. Mostly, our actions (Karmas) are possessed by their results.

People who take karma seriously, in fear of it hitting back, act wisely. Now that’s the opposite concept of this verse of the Bhagwat Gita.But who knows what it is and how it works?

All we know is that there is something like karma, that governs our life, andour life incidents reflect our actions from the past. The concept of Karma is complicated and confusing. Ancient philosophers and sages have dedicated their lives to understanding it, but till date, no one can surely tell what karma is and how it works!

All about Karma

Going by the typical definition of karma, which is a word derived from the Sanskrit language, it is a deed, work, or action, and one has to experience its consequences in life (or lives) or take birth to experience the consequences of karma.

From what we understand–karma is an action that is backed with an intention—good or bad. For example, a small kid who has no intent to kill an ant but does so playfully would not be counted as ‘bad karma’. Because it lacks bad intentions.

Similarly, somebody who murders someone using a knife with the intent to hurt or kill shall be accounted as bad karma, drawing the parallels, a doctor who uses a knife to perform surgery to save one’s life is good karma.

Basically, it’s just the INTENT behind every action that matters in the concept of karma.

What is karma fructification?

Let’s say karma is a seed.We shall sow, it will grow into aplant, and give fruits—and that’s for sure, but when? It’s beyond our control.

Karma fructification is never in our control, but if something gives us hope—the good deeds shall definitely pay off, in this life or the next or its next, it’s a mystery, but they surely would. Similarly, and unfortunately, the bad deeds, too!

Maybe that’s why the verse from Bhagwat Gita about karma emphasises actions with an ‘intention’ and leaving rest up to the almighty.

What are accumulated karmas (Sanchit Karma) and pending karmas (Prarabhdha)?

This might sound a bit difficult to comprehend, but the concept is pretty simple. Just like the functioning of our bank accounts! How?

We save or invest the amount in Fixed Deposits for a safer future.Whenever we need funds, we use them. That’s the accumulated fund. Likewise, the good and the bad karmas are always being accumulated called Sanchit Karma. They thenget fructified as and when the right time comes.

Whereas pending karma (Prarabhdha) is an unavoidable consequence of your actions that forms your destiny. Something from which you can’t escape. You have to go through certain experiences no matter how hard you try to escape from the consequences.

These karmas are pending karmas being carried forward to your present life and so on.

Can we change our Karma?

To answer this question—Yes and No!

Yes, we can always stick to performing good deeds with good intentions so that they accumulate for a better future. This way, we can ensure that someday the good karma shall fructify.

Changing or altering karma is a present-moment task.  Believe it or not, karma is working. You are creating the world around you. You are making things happen—consciously or unconsciously. That’s called correcting your karma while you are doing it.

But sometimes you just can’t change your karma. You sure have to bear the result of the bad pending karmas (Prarabhdha), that’s fate! But the key to your future is in your hands today. Our action as of today is to be determined tomorrow. Just like how past actions determine our today.

The cause-and-effect relationship in Karma

Every action is accompanied by its consequence. To put it clearly, ‘As you sow, so shall you reap’ sooner or later —In karma, in this life or any of the next lives!

Therefore, this law makes it easy for everyone to understand how it works. Like, as we always say, good things happen to good people. These are the way the Universe teaches us lessons that one can never cheat on karma.

So, the simplest mantra to live this life is– always have a good intent behind everything you do. Maybe, this way, you can surplus your good karmas for lives to come.

How to decide on right or wrong karmas?

Well, a very immature question to discuss but an equally important one. Because something can look horribly wrong to someone, in contrast, it won’t be as wrong to someone else!

Like, eating non-vegetarian food is not bad karma in many cultures, but is a misdeed in many.

Now here is the glitch in the concept of karma because this decision of something being right or wrong is subjective to each one’s perspective!

In such a case, there is always a natural fructification of such deeds. Again, the intent behind deeds won’t be spared and the right/wrong shall again be based on the intent of the doer!

Karma is all about ‘Give and take’

We are talking about karmic relationships. Ever thought about why we have relationships which we don’t get to choose? Ancestors, parents, siblings, and relatives. You are always born with this inner circle of your life, and you don’t have the right to choose. This is because we have some ‘give and take’ pending with these souls from past lives. We are given this life to experience the ‘give and take’, the joy and sorrow from these relationships, etc.

You sow the seed of your future lives’ relationships in this life.

Well, not just this, the friends you meet, the people that stay, and the romantic relationships that you come across are all a part of the pending ‘give and take’ from previous lives. These choices or people you choose are also driven by karmic patterns.

Your takeaway:
Who knows how life is going to pan out, but we can always be kind and generous to everyone and everything because nothing else is in our control. Only our good intentions can be our saviour for whatever lives we are going to be born into!



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