We hear about karma being carried over through lifetimes, difficult situations in life caused by karma, and good fortune smiling upon us because of karma. But what is karma? 

Let me elucidate further, as I wrote earlier- the theory, the law of karma. Today, I shall go over the four types of karma as captured in various Vedic texts in Hinduism. As always, I may offer you scriptural definitions – though the exposition remains my personal opinion, it may be a deviation from what is known already.

A while ago, I wrote about the three types of karma and how it leaves an imprint on your being, a karmic trail if you will. That was from the angle of execution of any karma, be it mental, physical, or verbal. You can read up more on that here. The classification hereunder is of four types. It is about the realization of such imprints. As follows:

1. Prarabdha, matured, Karma

Imagine a fruit, an apple, on a tree. It has come of its age, and it is ripe. Either it be plucked in time, or it detaches itself from the tree and lands on the ground. It cannot remain on the tree forever. Similarly, prārabdha is ripe karma. At some point in time, you planted a tree, and the fruit is ready to drop today. Regardless of your desire or your preference, it has taken its course, much like the arrow that has left the bow.

Once you perform any karmic act, it is registered in the universe, and it will come to fruition in due course. There is no escape. Whatever you are going through in life presently, note the word presently, that you have no control over, it is your prārabdha.  It does not mean you cannot change your future. Prārabdha is that which has matured. Any karma that may mature in the future is not prārabdha, and it falls under the second category:

2. Sanchita, stored, Karma

This is your store of karma. Not all fruits on the tree will mature the same day, and it will be laden again in the next season and the next and so forth. It is for this reason that life is greatly cyclical for an overwhelming majority of people. Why? If you planted apple trees when the season comes, you would have plenty of it, and, if you planted wild berries, however attractive, thorny bushes, yet protective, they will flourish too during their seasons.

It is often the case why problems rarely come singly. They come in hordes, so do good times. There is something unique about sanchita karma; it can be changed! If you can go to the source of your apples or baneberries, you can choose to nurture them or destroy them altogether. The key is going to the source.

3. Agami, forthcoming, Karma

Imagine you entered the apple garden. You performed a karma, and you exercised choice, forced or voluntary, regardless. Based on this karma, you are bound to perform certain such other karmas as the sighting of the apple trees, experiencing the fragrance, and a definitive karma of exiting the orchard is also waiting to mature. The importance of this karma cannot be underestimated or overstated.

The choices you make today have a direct bearing on your future tomorrow, what you do in the present moment determines what unfolds in the next. Āgāmī karma is a mandatory karma. You have little choice, if any. If you have entered the orchard, you will have to perform the action of exiting as well, sooner or later.  That’s Agami Karma. However, if you could either change the store of your sanchita karma or exercise due care in the present one, this one changes automatically. And how can one change sanchita karma? Continue reading.

4. Vartamana, present, Karma

It is also known as kriyamāṇa, actionable, present karma, the one that is being done. There is another term, perhaps better, called puruṣārtha, effort, karma.

Let us assume you no longer want apples. You can chop the trees; you can have them uprooted. You will still have to find a way to manage or dispose of the wood, rotting apples, green waste, and the rest of it, but it is a one-off, albeit intense, effort. After that, there will be no more fruits waiting for you year after year. You may simply choose to sow wheat and harvest after a few months, clearing your karmic field on a regular basis.

The pertinent question is, how do you know if you are creating new karma or going through the results of your past karma?

The answer is quite simple when you do something out of choice; you are creating new karma, and, when you are forced to do something, you are simply repaying your karmic debt. 

The former will have the consequences, good or bad, drawn up for you; the latter can be tended by managing your karmic store or sanchita karma in other words.

In essence, I am suggesting that you can bring change into your life, you can affect the desired change, provided you are patient and persistent.  So, can you become the next Bill Gates or the future Buddha, well, you are mistaking change for a goal.

That said, if you can travel back in time and build an operating system like Bill Gates did, think like he did, act like he did when he did, you will become another Bill Gates. If you can relinquish as Buddha did, engage in intense practice the way he did, in the manner he did, for the time he did, you will become Buddha.

 

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Bill Gates became Bill because he chose not to become an IBM or an Apple; he stayed true to his own vision, his own design. Buddha became Buddha because he pursued his own path; he chose not to become like some other preacher or sage, he chose to discover himself, his own work, and he became Buddha.

Your fulfillment is not going to come from becoming another Bill or another Buddha; it is going to come from creating your own home. However welcome you may be in another home, however hospitable your host may be, a while later, you no longer feel at home. You only feel at home in your own home. You may have ideals or idols, but it is important to be yourself, to discover yourself, your own truth.

The choices you made yesterday, voluntary or otherwise, have landed you where you are today, and the choices you are making today will dictate your tomorrow. Hence, it is paramount that you pay attention to your present actions, your present thoughts, the range of choices available in the future is a direct function. It is a derivative of your present actions, your future, well, your life, in fact, depends on it.

Peace.
Swami

Still, want to explore the theory of Karma? Some more questions answered below.

What is karma? How do our words and actions affect it?

Purity of discipline in your karma helps a great deal in achieving mental stability. So, what is karma? Whatever you do with speech, actions, or words leave an imprint on your mind. All karma has a residual trail. Such residue covers and conditions your mind.

Physical actions may produce tangible residue whereas verbal and mental karma creates psychic imprints. If
you analyze the trail of any karma, you may be surprised how it may wane but never gets destroyed completely. It is the residue of each karma that conditions you. Read more here.

If destiny exists, what is karma then?

There are five constituents that comprise an action. The execution of a karma is not solely dependent on any one factor. Support (or approach or motive or influence or environment), doer, resources, effort, and destiny are the five elements. Destiny plays an important role, it is no more than twenty percent though. If you operate in the right environment, conducive to your karma, tap into the resources required to execute your plan, stay persistent, your plans will materialize before long. Read more here.

Why is karma important?

What is karma and its role in our life? The fluttering of a butterfly’s wings, several weeks earlier, can influence the formation and path of a tornado thousands of miles away. In other words, the Butterfly Effect is a finer and more sophisticated explanation of the law of karma. That, not only what we do impacts us, it does everyone else too.

To believe that our actions concern only us or that my happiness is all about my individual life is not merely a sign of ignorance but an invitation to lasting grief and suffering too. We have a duty of care to be compassionate, kind, and loving towards everyone who crosses our path. While we may be independent entities striving for individual goals and freedom, the truth is that at a universal level we are interconnected and interdependent. We are one. Read more here.

What is karma in ancient Indian scriptures?

I could have expounded on the word of certain scriptures to address your question, I could have offered you some convincing theory, a lofty philosophy, a logical explanation, some fitting thesis, on the law of karma, but that is not the way of Swami.

I am committed to truth above everything else. I would rather have you ask the right questions through self-inquiry
than accept my answers through secondary analysis. Understanding without experience is dry and experience without understanding is blind. Go on, discover your own truth! That alone will set you free. Read more here.

How can one increase their good karma?

What is karma and the important part it plays in our lives, specifically good karma? If you are happy inside, you will not hurt anyone with your words or gestures, you will only see the beauty in everything and you will only melt their hearts doing even more good karma.

Happiness and good karma complement and fuel each other. The greater the karmic balance, more the peace. It is in a state of peace alone that one experiences any type of joy.

With peace and contentment as your armor, mindfulness, and nobility being your mount, you win naturally, good karma happens effortlessly. You are a product of your thoughts, emotions, and karma. Read more here.

Does karma play a part in natural, large-scale disasters?

In the world of nature, what is karma? I do not believe that the law of karma is your answer to everything, every occurrence. Our planet has developed its own coping mechanism, an evolving ecosystem, a sustentative cycle, it is not dependent on the human race for its sustenance, and as such, does not see us any more important than an ant. It does not reason like us, if it did, we would be long gone.

Acts of nature are simply corrective measures it
takes to maintain its existence. Like the dog that shakes off water after a bath, like a snake that sheds its old skin, Nature renews, realigns, rejuvenates itself. Read more here.

Are karma and reincarnation connected?

What is karma? It’s a common saying that we bring nothing into this world when we are born and we take back nothing when we die. Maybe, maybe. It might even be good if it was entirely true. The fact is, there’s plenty we are born with and there’s a great deal that we take back with us. For one thing, our karma goes with us.

Whether you believe in reincarnation or heaven, our actions largely determine our future beyond our present lifetime. We are certainly not empty-handed when we come into this world. Read more here

In the context of a harmonious and peaceful life, what is karma?

With life, the only way to arrive at its answers is to examine its questions. If you don’t expend your energy in creating answers (results) but conditions, wisdom, and insight will come to you like a beautiful dream. Life will happen to you. It’ll arrive at your doorstep and wake you with a melodious morning song, soft as the winter sun.

Be patient, be simple, and let life flow. This will give you the wisdom to know when to swim versus just float. Then what is karma in this context? It is the secret of a good life — knowing why, when, where and how to act versus not. This is the entire philosophy of Bhagavad Gita, the essence of karma in one simple sentence. Read more here.