The term karma comes from ancient Pali and means “action” or “doing”. The theory behind karma is that any intentional action (physical, mental, or even verbal) is regarded as karma. It does not matter if the action is good or bad, it will cause karma. However, the action has to be of an intentional nature, otherwise karma does not apply. All unintentional actions are immune from karma because volition is the most important factor in creating karma.

Any act of volition committed by anyone other than a Buddha or an Arahant is considered Karma. Buddhas and Arahants are immune from karma because in order for a person to reach such a stature he or she will have been delivered from both good and evil. Because of this they are not bound by craving and ignorance, the roots of all karma.

The Cause of Karma

The main cause of karma is ignorance (not knowing things as they truly are). It is believed that those who are ignorant are dependent on actions, therefore their actions will always come back to them.

Ignorance is also associated with craving, which is another cause of karma. Karma believes that all inherently evil actions and deeds come from the craving that each person has inside of them. Not everyone’s craving is the same, but we all greatly desire things. This is believed to be the root of why men do evil things, but karma teaches that these actions will have a reaction.

Cause and Effect

Karma Expressed by a Yin Yang
Karma embodied by the Yin Yang.

Karma is the law of cause and effect, or what comes around goes around. This does not mean that it only focuses on past actions. In fact, karma focuses on both past and present deeds. While it is true that the present has been influenced by the past, it is also influencing the future. The doctrine of karma states; “we are a result of what we were, we will be the result of what we are”. If you choose to do good deeds then that good will come back to you in some way, shape, or form. If you choose to be selfish, greedy, or just plain evil, then that type of behavior will come back to haunt you.

Karma can serve as an incentive to do good, or at the very lease an incentive not to do bad. However, we do not fully control our karma. While our own volition causes karma, other outside factors have a hand in shaping its response. Things like personality, surroundings, and individual circumstance are known as supportive factors and they have a say in how karma comes to fruition.

Belief in Karma

Those who believe in karma do not condemn even the most evil and corrupt actions because he or she understands that there may come a time that they will need redemption. Karma helps to teach individual responsibility to each and every one of us, as well as explains suffering, fate, and inequality. Karma is not only about peace, it is most importantly about understanding (thus eliminating ignorance). You have the ability to create your own heaven, or your own hell, and that is where the nature of karma lies.

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