The self-controlled person, moving among
objects, with his senses free from attachment and malevolence and
brought under his own control, attains tranquility.
~ Bhagavad Gita II.64 s.
The law of cause and effect forms an integral part of Hindu philosophy.
This law is termed as 'karma', which means to 'act'. The Concise Oxford
Dictionary of Current English defines it as the "sum of person's actions
in one of his successive states of existence, viewed as deciding his
fate for the next". In Sanskrit karma means "volitional action that is
undertaken deliberately or knowingly". This also dovetails
self-determination and a strong will power to abstain from inactivity.
Karma is the differentia that characterizes human beings and
distinguishes him from other creatures of the world.
The Natural Law
The theory of karma harps on the Newtonian principle that every action
produces an equal and opposite reaction. Every time we think or do
something, we create a cause, which in time will bear its corresponding
effects. And this cyclical cause and effect generates the concepts of
(or the world) and birth and reincarnation. It is the personality of a
human being or the jivatman - with its positive and negative actions -
that causes karma.
Karma could be both the activities of the body or the mind, irrespective
of the consideration whether the performance brings fruition immediately
or at a later stage. However, the involuntary or the reflex actions of
the body cannot be called karma.
Your Karma Is Your Own Doing
Every person is responsible for his or her acts and thoughts, so each
person's karma is entirely his or her own. Occidentals see the operation
of karma as fatalistic. But that is far from true since it is in the
hands of an individual to shape his own future by schooling his present.
Hindu philosophy, which believes in life after death, holds the doctrine
that if the karma of an individual is good enough, the next birth will
be rewarding, and if not, the person may actually devolve and degenerate
into a lower life form. In order to achieve good karma it is important
to live life according to dharma or what is right.
Three Kinds of Karma
According to the ways of life chosen by a person, his karma can be
classified into three kinds. The satvik karma, which is without
attachment, selfless and for the benefit of others; the rajasik karma,
which is selfish where the focus is on gains for oneself; and the
tamasik karma, which is undertaken without heed to consequences, and is
supremely selfish and savage.
In this context Dr. D N Singh in his A Study of Hinduism, quotes Mahatma
Gandhi's lucid differentiation between the three. According to Gandhi,
the tamasik works in a mechanic fashion, the rajasik drives too many
horses, is restless and always doing something or other, and the satvik
works with peace in mind.
Swami Sivananda, of the Divine Life Society, Rishikesh classifies karma
into three kinds on the basis of action and reaction: Prarabdha (so much
of past actions as has given rise to the present birth), Sanchita (the
balance of past actions that will give rise to future births - the
storehouse of accumulated actions), Agami or Kriyamana (acts being done
in the present life).
The Discipline of Unattached Action
According to the scriptures, the discipline of unattached action (Nishk‚ma
Karma) can lead to salvation of the soul. So they recommend that one
should remain detached while carrying out his duties in life. As Lord
Krishna said in the Bhagavad Gita: "To the man thinking about the
objects (of the senses) arises attachment towards them; from attachment,
arises longing; and from longing arises anger. From anger comes
delusion; and from delusion loss of memory; from loss of memory, the
ruin of discrimination; and on the ruin of discrimination, he perishes".