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Karma, 36 Definition(s)

Karma means something in Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism, Sanskrit, Pali Check out some of the following descriptions and leave a comment if you want to add your own contribution to this article:

32 Definition(s) from various sources:

Karma (कर्म) is defined as the cause of conjunction and disjunction and residing in dravya. It begins with effort and appears in movements of living tissues and organs.

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Karma (कर्म, “action”):—One of the six padārtha (or ‘basic categories’) which should be known to every Physician if he wants to understand the science of life. It is used throughout Āyurvedic (India medicine) literature such as the Caraka-saṃhitā and the Suśruta-saṃhitā.

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Karma (कर्म):—Jains believe that Karma is actual matter that, in its undifferentiated form, exists throughout ākāśa (space). Undifferentiated karma is attracted to the body (āsrava) through the volitional activitie of jīvas (sentient beings). Once bound to the body (bandha), the Karma particles mature and manifest in relation to the activity that brought it about. The accumulated Karma accounts for the seemingly endless birth and rebirth in saṃsāra.

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kamma : (nt.) deed; action; job; work.

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There are two types of rites in a sacrifice, principal (artha karma) and subsidiary (guṇa karma). Guṇa karmas are the constituent accessory rites associated with a principal rite.

  1. In artha karma, the rite is primary and material is subsidiary to the rite. Material is treated as accessory.
  2. In guṇa karma, material is primary and rite secondary to it.
Added: 18.Jun.2014 | Hindupedia: The Hindu Encyclopedia
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Karma (activity): The karmas (activities) like guṇas (qualities) have no separate existence, they belong to the substances (according to the Vaisheshika school). But while a quality is a permanent feature of a substance, an activity is a transient one. Ākāśa (ether), kāla (time), dik (space) and ātman (self), though substances, are devoid of karma (activity).

Added: 21.Jul.2013 | WikiPedia: Hinduism
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("action" or "deed"). Impact of previous deeds (usually in former lives) on one's current circumstances.

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Karma (कर्म): A Sanskrit term that comprises the entire cycle of cause and effect.

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The role that kamma plays in the Awakening is empowering. It means that what each of us does, says, and thinks does matter.

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"Karma" or "action" is understood as a mental, verbal (energetical) or physical deed, and "vipâka" its fruit, result or reaction, accompanying every action like a shadow following its object. The seed is "karma", the fruit arising from it is "vipâka". In general, "karma" refers to actions, their effects and the potentialities left in the mind from the moment of the completion of the action to the moment they ripen and their results are experienced.

Added: 29.Dec.2011 | Studies in Bodhidharma: Buddhism
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Karma Skt., lit. “deed” (Pali, kamma). Universal law of cause and effect, which accord­ing to the Buddhist view takes effect in the fol­lowing way: “The deed (karma) produces a fruit under certain circumstances; when it is ripe, then it falls upon the one responsible. For a deed to produce its fruit, it must be morally good [kushala] or bad [akushala] and be condi­tioned by a volitional impulse, in that it leaves a trace in the psyche of the doer, leading his destiny in the direction determined by the effect of the deed. Since the time of ripening generally exceeds a lifespan, the effect of actions is neces­sarily one or more rebirths, which together con­stitute the cycle of existence (samsāra)” (trans. from German ed. of Die Religionen Indiens, vol. 3, A. Bareau, 1964, 41).

The effect of an action, which can be of the nature of body, speech, or mind, is not primarily determined by the act itself but rather particu­larly by the intention of the action. It is the in­tention of actions that cause a karmic effect to arise. When a deed cannot be carried out but the intention toward it exists, this alone produces an effect. Only a deed that is free from desire, hate, and delusion is without karmic effect. In this connection it should be noted that good deeds also bring “rewards,” engendering karma and thus renewed rebirth. In order to liberate oneself from the cycle of rebirth, one must refrain from both “good” and “bad” deeds.

Added: 23.Jul.2011 | Shambala Publications: General
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literally 'action'; but tends to be used to mean the law of Karma and Vipaka 'action and results'. The Buddhist meaning is not quite the same as the Hindu.

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(wholesome or unwholesome) action; s. karma.

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'action', correctly speaking denotes the wholesome and unwholesome volitions (kusala- and akusala-cetanā) and their concomitant mental factors, causing rebirth and shaping the destiny of beings.

These karmical volitions (kamma cetanā) become manifest as wholesome or unwholesome actions by

  • body (kāya-kamma)
  • speech (vacī-kamma)
  • mind (mano-kamma)

Thus the Buddhist term 'karma' by no means signifies the result of actions, and quite certainly not the fate of man, or perhaps even of whole nations (the so-called wholesale or mass-karma), misconceptions which, through the influence of theosophy, have become widely spread in the West.

"Volition (cetanā), o monks, is what I call action (cetanāham bhikkhave kammam vadāmi), for through volition one performs the action by body, speech or mind. . There is karma (action), o monks, that ripens in hell.... Karma that ripens in the animal world.. Karma that ripens in the world of men.... Karma that ripens in the heavenly world.... Threefold, however, is the fruit of karma: ripening during the life-time (dittha-dhamma-vedanīya-kamma), ripening in the next birth (upapajja-vedanīya-kamma), ripening in later births (aparāpariya-vedanīya kamma) ...." (A.VI.63).

The 3 conditions or roots (mūla) of unwholesome karma (actions) are greed, hatred, delusion (lobha, dosa, moha); those of wholesome karma are: unselfishness (alobha), hatelessness (adosa = mettā, good-will), undeludedness (amoha = paññā, knowledge) .

"Greed, o monks, is a condition for the arising of karma; hatred is a condition for the arising of karma; delusion is a condition for the arising of karma ...." (A.III.109).

"The unwholesome actions are of 3 kinds, conditioned by greed, or hate, or delusion.

"Killing ... stealing ... unlawful sexual intercourse ... lying ... slandering ... rude speech ... foolish babble, if practised, carried on, and frequently cultivated, leads to rebirth in hell, or amongst the animals, or amongst the ghosts" (A. III, 40). "He who kills and is cruel goes either to hell or, if reborn as man, will be short-lived. He who torments others will be afflicted with disease. The angry one will look ugly, the envious one will be without influence, the stingy one will be poor, the stubborn one will be of low descent, the indolent one will be without knowledge. In the contrary case, man will be reborn in heaven or reborn as man, he will be long-lived, possessed of beauty, influence, noble descent and knowledge" (cf. M. 135).

For the above 10-fold wholesome and unwholesome course of action, see kamma-patha. For the 5 heinous crimes with immediate result, s. ānantarika-kamma.

"Owners of their karma are the beings, heirs of their karma, their karma is their womb from which they are born, their karma is their friend, their refuge. Whatever karma they perform, good or bad, thereof they will be the heirs" (M. 135).

With regard to the time of the taking place of the karma-result (vipāka), one distinguishes, as mentioned above, 3 kinds of karma:

  • 1. karma ripening during the life-time (dittha-dhamma-vedanīya kamma);
  • 2. karma ripening in the next birth (upapajja-vedanīya-kamma);
  • 3. karma ripening in later births (aparāpariya-vedanīya-kamma).

The first two kinds of karma may be without karma-result (vipāka), if the circumstances required for the taking place of the karma-result are missing, or if, through the preponderance of counteractive karma and their being too weak, they are unable to produce any result. In this case they are called ahosi-kamma, lit. 'karma that has been', in other words, ineffectual karma.

The third type of karma, however, which bears fruit in later lives, will, whenever and wherever there is an opportunity, be productive of karma-result. Before its result has ripened, it will never become ineffective as long as the life-process is kept going by craving and ignorance.

According to the Com., e.g. Vis.M. XIX, the 1st of the 7 karmical impulsive-moments (kamma javana; s. javana) is considered as 'karma ripening during the life-time', the 7th moment as 'karma ripening in the next birth', the remaining 5 moments as 'karma ripening in later births'.

With regard to their functions one distinguishes:

  • 1. regenerative (or productive) karma (janaka-kamma),
  • 2. supportive (or consolidating) karma (upatthambhaka-kamma),
  • 3. counteractive (suppressive or frustrating) karma (upapīlaka-kamma),
  • 4. destructive (or supplanting) karma (upaghātaka- or upacchedaka-kamma).

(1) produces the 5 groups of existence (corporeality, feeling, perception, mental formations, consciousness) at rebirth as well as during life-continuity.

  • (2) does not produce karma-results but is only able to maintain the already produced karma-results.
  • (3) counteracts or suppresses the karma-results.
  • (4) destroys the influence of a weaker karma and effects only its own result.

With regard to the priority of their result one distinguishes:

  • 1. weighty karma (garuka-kamma),
  • 2. habitual karma (ācinnaka- or bahula-kamma),
  • 3. death-proximate karma (maranāsanna-kamma),
  • 4. stored-up karma (katattā-kamma).

(1, 2) The weighty (garuka) and the habitual (bahula) wholesome or unwholesome karma are ripening earlier than the light and rarely performed karma. (3) The death-proximate (maranāsanna) karma - i.e. the wholesome or unwholesome volition present immediately before death, which often may be the reflex of some previously performed good or evil action (kamma), or of a sign of it (kamma-nimitta), or of a sign of the future existence (gati-nimitta) - produces rebirth. (4) In the absence of any of these three actions at the moment before death, the stored-up (katattā) karma will produce rebirth.

A real, and in the ultimate sense true, understanding of Buddhist karma doctrine is possible only through a deep insight into the impersonality (s. anattā) and conditionality (s. paticcasamuppāda, paccaya) of all phenomena of existence. "Everywhere, in all the forms of existence ... such a one is beholding merely mental and physical phenomena kept going by their being bound up through causes and effects.

"No doer does he see behind the deeds, no recipient apart from the karma-fruit. And with full insight he clearly understands that the wise ones are using merely conventional terms when, with regard to the taking place of any action, they speak of a doer, or when they speak of a receiver of the karma-results at their arising. Therefore the ancient masters have said:

'No doer of the deeds is found, No one who ever reaps their fruits; Empty phenomena roll on: This view alone is right and true. 'And whilst the deeds and their results Roll on, based on conditions all, There no beginning can be seen, Just as it is with seed and tree.' " (Vis.M. XIX)

Karma (kamma-paccaya) is one of the 24 conditions (paccaya) (App.: Kamma).


  • Karma and Rebirth, by Nyanatiloka (WHEEL 9);
  • Survival and Karma in Buddhist Perspective, by K.N. Jayatilleke (WHEEL 141/143);
  • Kamma and its Fruit (WHEEL 221/224).

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Karma (“action”) (q.v.) - Right bodily a.: sammā-kammanta; s. sacca (IV.4)

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Sanskrit; literally, "action"; universal law of cause and effect which governs rebirth and the world of samsara.

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See Four Kinds of Kamma

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action or cause which is created or recreated by habitual impulse, volitions, or natural energies. In popular usage, it often includes the sense of the result or effect of the action, although the proper term for this is vipaka. (In Sanskrit: karma).

Added: 16.May.2009 | Amaravati: Glossary
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N (Action, deed). Collection of deeds resulting from positive and negative actions.

Each of us is free to exercise an influence on his/her own fate according to the quality of the actions he/she does commit. However, the law of kamma is completely uncontrollable. It governs all the acts that each one does commit. It does explain that nothing which happens is left to chance. Everything that constitutes the living conditions of a being, his abilities, his disabilities, his physical and mental constitution, his pleasures and his torments, are nothing else than the consequence of his own former actions.

Added: 26.Apr.2009 | Dhamma Dana: Pali English Glossary
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The law of universal action which states that we reap according to what we sow. It is the means whereby a soul gathers experience through its journey of existence.

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action, deed, work.
Added: 11.Apr.2009 | Mahidol University: Glossary
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Karma is a concept encountered in several Eastern religions, although having different meanings. Teachings about karma explain that our past actions affect us, either positively or negatively, and that our present actions will affect us in the future. Buddhism uses an agricultural metaphor to explain how sowing good or bad deeds will result in good or bad fruit (phala; or vipaka, meaning ripening).

Added: 10.Apr.2009 | BBC: Buddhism
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Sanskrit word meaning "action". Through the force of intention, we perform actions ("make causes") with our body, speech and mind, and all of these actions produce effects. The effect of virtuous actions is happiness and the effect of negative actions is suffering.

Added: 06.Apr.2009 | Mahakaruna: Buddhism Glossary
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the Buddhist universal law of cause and effect
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Karma means "intentional action" and refers to the universal law of cause and effect.
Added: 23.Nov.2008 | About: Glossary of Buddhist Terms
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Action, deed; the law of cause and effect; intentional action, either wholesome or unwholesome that brings either pleasant or unpleasant results respectively
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Action. Intentional actions that affect ones circumstances in this and future lives. The Buddhas insistence that the effect depends on volition marks the Buddhist treatment of kamma as different from the Hindu understanding of karma.
Added: 27.Sep.2008 | GCSE: A Glossary of Buddhist Terms
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For Buddhism, as in Hinduism, this is the moral law of cause and effect. People build up karma (both good and bad) as a result of their actions. This then determines the level to which one is reborn after birth. In Buddhism, the different levels can include hells, humans or animals in this world, or one of several heavens.
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Karman in Sanskrit, Kamma in Pali. It means action, deed, moral duty, effect. Karma is moral action which causes future retribution, and either good or evil transmigration. It is also moral kernal in each being which survive death for further rebirth.
Added: 27.Sep.2008 | Buddhist Door: Glossary
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Literally, "action." Often translated "cause and effect."
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(Sanskrit, "action"). Moral law of cause and effect in which good actions have good effects and bad actions have bad effects. A Hindu concept that was absorbed, largely unchanged, into Buddhism.
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Intentional acts that result in states of being and birth.
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A volitional action.
Added: 21.Jun.2008 | Chez Paul: A Buddhist Glossary
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Volition, volitional or intentional activity. Karma is always followed by its fruit, Vipaka. Karma and Vipaka are oftentimes referred to as the law of causality, a cardinal concern in the Teaching of the Buddha. Common karma: the difference between personal and common karma can be seen in the following example: Suppose a country goes to war to gain certain economic advantages and in the process, numerous soldiers and civilians are killed or maimed. If a particular citizen volunteers for military service and actually participates in the carnage, he commits a personal karma of killing. Other citizens, however, even if opposed to the war, may benefit directly or indirectly (e.g., through economic gain). They are thus said to share in the common karma of killing of their country. Fixed karma: in principle, all karma is subject to change. Fixed karma, however, is karma which can only be changed in extraordinary circumstances, because it derives from an evil act committed simultaneously with mind, speech and body. An example of fixed karma would be a premeditated crime (versus a crime of passion).
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