Karma, aka: Kārma; 22 Definition(s)

Introduction

Karma means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit, Jainism, Prakrit, Marathi. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

In Hinduism

Vaisheshika (school of philosophy)

Karma (कर्म, “activity”) is one of the seven accepted categories of padārtha (“metaphysical correlate”), according to the Vaiśeṣika-sūtras. These padārthas represent everything that exists which can be cognized and named. Together with their subdivisions, they attempt to explain the nature of the universe and the existence of living beings.

Source: Wisdom Library: Vaiśeṣika

Karma (कर्म, “activity”): The karmas (activities) like guṇas (qualities) have no separate existence, they belong to the substances (according to the Vaiśeṣika 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).

Source: Wikipedia: Vaisheshika
Vaisheshika book cover
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Vaisheshika (वैशेषिक, vaiśeṣika) refers to a school of orthodox Hindu philosophy (astika), drawing its subject-matter from the Upanishads. Vaisheshika deals with subjects such as logic, epistemology, philosophy and expounds concepts similar to Buddhism in nature

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Ayurveda (science of life)

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.

Source: Wisdom Library: Āyurveda and botany

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.

Source: Google Books: Essentials of Ayurveda
Ayurveda book cover
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Āyurveda (आयुर्वेद, ayurveda) is a branch of Indian science dealing with medicine, herbalism, taxology, anatomy, surgery, alchemy and related topics. Traditional practice of Āyurveda in ancient India dates back to at least the first millenium BC. Literature is commonly written in Sanskrit using various poetic metres.

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Purana and Itihasa (epic history)

Karma (कर्म) refers to the “activities” that are carried on by the body (śārira), as defined in the Śivapurāṇa 1.18. Accordingly, “[...] the body (śārira) carries on activities (karma). The activities generate the body. Thus birth and activities continue in a series. The body is of three types: the gross (sthūla), the subtle (sūkṣma) and the causal (kāraṇa). The gross body is responsible for all activities (karma); the subtle body yields the enjoyment of pleasures through the senses. The causal body is for the sake of experiencing the good and bad results of the activities (karma) of the Jiva. The Jīva experiences happiness as a result of virtue and misery as a result of sin. The Jīva bound by the rope of activities (karmarajju) revolves round and round for ever like a wheel (cakra) by means of the three types of body and their activities (karma).”.

Source: archive.org: Siva Purana - English Translation

1a) Karma (कर्म).—Two-fold; pravṛtti and nivṛtti;1 importance of;2 that which consists of yajña is best.3

  • 1) Viṣṇu-purāṇa I. 1. 27; VI. 4. 41.
  • 2) Viṣṇu-purāṇa I. 18. 32.
  • 3) Viṣṇu-purāṇa II. 14. 14.

1b) (Vedic) two-fold; pravṛtta and nivṛtta.1 There is another classification of Karma: vaidika, tāntrika, and miśra (mixed).2 Kṛṣṇa advised Uddhava to pursue nivṛtta and abandon pravṛtta path.3 Karma exalted as the source of all good and evil, and appropriate to four castes: is done due to māyāmohan;4 does not lead to final destruction of karman.5 Seven-fold: tapas, brahmacarya, yajña, prajā, śrāddha, vidyā and dāna. Bad karma—five-fold: killing, theft, injury, drinking and lust.6 karma with Agni is kāmya, naimittika and ajasra; should be done with detachment.7 Rebirth after death is dependent on.8

  • 1) Bhāgavata-purāṇa VII. 15. 47-49.
  • 2) Ib. XI. 27. 7.
  • 3) Ib. XI. 10. 4.
  • 4) Ib. X. 23. 50; 24. 13-14 & 18-20.
  • 5) Ib. VI. 1. 11.
  • 6) Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa II. 28. 75; III. 4. 5 & 24; 28. 9; IV. 5. 25; 6. 37; Vāyu-purāṇa 56. 70.
  • 7) Vāyu-purāṇa 29. 44; 104. 86-96.
  • 8) Vāyu-purāṇa 14. 2-3, 31-42; 61. 106.
Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: The Purana Index
Purana book cover
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The Purana (पुराण, purāṇas) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahapuranas total over 400,000 shlokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

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Nyaya (school of philosophy)

Karma (कर्म, “action”) is the third category (padārtha), in the Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika philosophy. After the root ‘kṛ’ the suffix ‘man’ is added and the resulting form is karma which meaning is kriyā. Karma means physical movement. Like guṇa, karma also inheres in substance. Though it inheres in dravya, it is neither dravya nor guṇa; it is an independent category. A guṇa is a permanent and tolerable feature of dravya, while a karma is transitory feature of it. Annaṃbhaṭṭa gives the second definition of karma with the help of its generic attribute (jāti). Karma is the substratum of the genus karmatva. According to the Nyāya-Vaiśeṣikas, the generic attribute karmatva (actionhood) is proved by perception.

According to Kaṇāda, karma (action) is of five kinds. These are:—

  1. utkṣepaṇa,
  2. avakṣepaṇa,
  3. ākuñcana,
  4. prasāraṇa,
  5. gamana.

Praśastapāda states that utkṣepaṇa, avakṣepana, ākuñcana, prasāraṇa and gamana are the five types of karma. All the subsequent writers follow this division of karma. Hence, Viśvanātha, Śivāditya, Keśava Miśra and others mention the five types of karma. Annaṃbhaṭṭa also accepts these five kinds of karma, viz. utkṣepaṇa, apakṣepaṇa, ākuñcana, prasāraṇa, and gamana. In the Kārikāvalī, we find five types of karma.

Nīlakaṇṭha here point out that this division of karma is made by Kaṇāda himself, who is a sage, and as such he possesses independent opinion. Hence, there is no fault in the division of karma as utkṣepaṇa etc. This argument of the Vaiśeṣikas amounts to suggest that gamana is the only karma, others are its different types.

Source: Shodhganga: A study of Nyāya-vaiśeṣika categories
context information

Nyaya (न्याय, nyaya) refers to a school of Hindu philosophy (astika), drawing its subject-matter from the Upanishads. The Nyaya philosophy is known for its theories on logic, methodology and epistemology, however, it is closely related with Vaisheshika in terms of metaphysics.

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General definition (in Hinduism)

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.
Source: Hindupedia: The Hindu Encyclopedia

In Buddhism

Theravada (major branch of Buddhism)

Intentional acts that result in states of being and birth.Source: Access to Insight: A Glossary of Pali and Buddhist Terms

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.

Source: Dhamma Dana: Pali English Glossary

See Four Kinds of Kamma

Source: Buddhist Information: A Discourse on Paticcasamuppada

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

Source: Pali Kanon: Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines

(wholesome or unwholesome) action; s. karma.

-- or --

'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).

Literature:

  • 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).

Source: Pali Kanon: Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines
context information

Theravāda is a major branch of Buddhism having the the Pali canon (tipitaka) as their canonical literature, which includes the vinaya-pitaka (monastic rules), the sutta-pitaka (Buddhist sermons) and the abhidhamma-pitaka (philosophy and psychology).

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General definition (in Buddhism)

1) Karma (कर्म, “deeds”) or Karmavaśitā refers to the “mastery of aspiration” and represents one of the “ten masteries of the Bodhisattvas” (vaśitā) as defined in the Dharma-saṃgraha (section 74). The Dharma-samgraha (Dharmasangraha) is an extensive glossary of Buddhist technical terms in Sanskrit (eg., karma). The work is attributed to Nagarjuna who lived around the 2nd century A.D.

Karma also refers to the third of the “four factors of faith” (śraddhā) as defined in the Dharma-saṃgraha (section 81).

2) Karma or Trikarma refers to the “three kinds of deeds” as defined in the Dharma-saṃgraha (section 132):

  1. dṛṣṭadharma-vedanīya (to be experienced in this very life),
  2. utpadya-vedanīya (to be experienced in the next rebirth),
  3. apara-vedanīya (to be experienced later).
Source: Wisdom Library: Dharma-samgrahaKarman 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.Source: Buddhist Door: Glossary

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).

Source: Amaravati: Glossary

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.

Source: Shambala Publications: General

In Jainism

General definition (in Jainism)

Karma (कर्म).—What is meant by karma? The entities /activities which veil the inherent nature of the soul or make it dependent on others are called karmas. How many types of karma are there? They are of eight types namely: knowledge-obscuring, intuition-obscuring, misery and pleasure experiencing, deluding, life span determining, physique making, status determining and obstruction create karmas.

Source: Encyclopedia of Jainism: Tattvartha Sutra 2: the Category of the living
General definition book cover
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Jainism is an Indian religion of Dharma whose doctrine revolves around harmlessness (ahimsa) towards every living being. The two major branches (Digambara and Svetambara) of Jainism stimulate self-control (or, shramana, ‘self-reliance’) and spiritual development through a path of peace for the soul to progess to the ultimate goal.

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Languages of India and abroad

Pali-English dictionary

Karma in Pali glossary... « previous · [K] · next »

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

Source: BuddhaSasana: Concise Pali-English Dictionary
Pali book cover
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Pali is the language of the Tipiṭaka, which is the sacred canon of Theravāda Buddhism and contains much of the Buddha’s speech. Closeley related to Sanskrit, both languages are used interchangeably between religions.

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Marathi-English dictionary

karma (कर्म).—n (S) An act or a deed; action gen. 2 Religious action, as sacrifice, ablution &c.; esp. as originating in the hope of future recompense, and as opposed to speculative religion. Three kinds are specified; viz. nitya, naimittika, kāmya. 3 Actions or works; a conduct or course. Hence used for Destiny; destiny being only the allotment, to be enjoyed or suffered in the present life, of the fruit of the good and evil actions performed in former lives. Ex. arē arē karmā || bārā varṣēṃ jhālīṃ yāca dharmā ||. The common terms karmabaḷivanta, karma- baḷōttara, kaṭhīṇakarma, karmaghōra &c. express All powerful destiny, Hard destiny &c. 4 Action specific; moral duty; obligation imposed by peculiarities of tribe, occupation &c. 5 The subject of action in grammar; the accusative case or the object of a verb. 6 A business, office, function; a prescribed and peculiar work. 7 Par eminence. Sexual copulation. karma dōna pāvalēṃ puḍhēṃ Destiny goes ever before us. karmānēṃ ōḍhaṇēṃ or ōḍhavaṇēṃ expresses the Constraining of destiny; -jāgēṃ hōṇēṃ the propitiousness of destiny; -dhāva ghēṇēṃ the running before or preventing of destiny; -pāṭha puraviṇēṃ or ubhēṃ rāhaṇēṃ the opposing of destiny; -māgēṃ ghēṇēṃ or saraṇēṃ the falling back or failing of destiny. kēlyā karmācēṃ phaḷa The reward of a deed done. Ex. kēlyā karmācēṃ phaḷa bāpā || aiśvarya tuja dētīla || arē tū bhulūṃ nakō naṭūṃ nakō ||

Source: DDSA: The Molesworth Marathi and English Dictionary

karma (कर्म).—n An act. The object of a verb. Des- tiny. An office. Religious action.

Source: DDSA: The Aryabhusan school dictionary, Marathi-English
context information

Marathi is an Indo-European language having over 70 million native speakers people in (predominantly) Maharashtra India. Marathi, like many other Indo-Aryan languages, evolved from early forms of Prakrit, which itself is a subset of Sanskrit, one of the most ancient languages of the world.

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Sanskrit-English dictionary

Kārma (कार्म).—a. [karma n-ṇa] Laborious, industrious.

Source: DDSA: The practical Sanskrit-English dictionary
context information

Sanskrit, also spelled संस्कृतम् (saṃskṛtam), is an ancient language of India commonly seen as the grandmother of the Indo-European language family. Closely allied with Prakrit and Pali, Sanskrit is more exhaustive in both grammar and terms and has the most extensive collection of literature in the world, greatly surpassing its sister-languages Greek and Latin.

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