Classical Indian Philosophy the Concept of Karma: Karma, Types of Karma and Practice Questions

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Classical Indian Philosophy: The concept of Karma & types (Philosophy)

Karma

  • The law of karma is the counterpart in the moral world of the physical law of uniformity.

  • The vision of the law and order or karma is also revealed in the cosmic principle of the universe, RTA in the Rig Veda.

  • Rig Veda avers, “The moral law of karma is the expression of the nature of the absolute or Rta,”

  • The concept of Karma is based on the simple principle of as we sow, so shall we reap.

  • According to the upanishads, karmas is our actions, our everyday doing. Actions which are based on selfish reasons, our desires or passions which cause suffering to others are counted in bad karmas.

  • On the other hand, the actions which are performed selflessly are counted in good karmas.

  • In other words, the Upanishads say, we can get rid of the Karmas only via performing social service. So long as we are performing selfish work or self-centred work, we will remain subjected to the laws of karma.

  • Upanishads aver, “When one performs disinterested work, one reaches freedom, thus in no way the laws of karma cling to you.”

  • The laws of karma are also known as the laws of suffering and bondage.

  • It is called so because the selfish actions that one performs in life bind oneself to the chain of birth and death.

  • Upanishads aver, “Fetters himself by himself, like a bird by its own nest” and “what looms over us is no dark fate but our own past.”

  • In other words, the person himself is responsible for one’s actions. It is upto the perform to fall into the cycle of bondage or attain freedom.

  • Similarly, viewpoint is expressed in the Bhagavad Gita. According to Sri Krishna, in the Bhagavad Gita, the Varna system is divided on the basis of Guna and Karma. The quality of sattva, rajas and tamas constitute the Guna and Karma.

The Varna system is divided into 4 classes:

  • Brahmins: they deal with academic activities. For example, studying of scriptures.

  • Kshatriyas: they deal with administrative work.

  • Vaishyas: they deal with business and money related work. For example, merchants, etc.

  • Shudras: they serve other classes.

  • As a result, Karma Yoga is the essence of Bhagavad Gita. Karma means actions, the essence of Gita is not renunciation of action rather it is renunciation in action.

  • This renunciation in action (Nishkama-karma) is called Karma Yoga. Or actions performed with the spirit of disinterestedness, without any attachment to the result of the action, when the only motive behind the performance of the action is welfare of the people.

  • A true karma yogi performs an action with an altruistic vision and that leads to welfare of the society (lokasamgraha).

  • So, the law of Karma has sociological, cosmic and psychological aspect.

  • It can also be said that the law of karma is based on the concept of every effect has a cause or nothing comes out of nothing.

  • According to the Upanishads, every action that a person performs leads to an effect. The effect could be inflicted on oneself, another person or the society as a whole. So, every action leaves an impression.

  • The tendency to perform good or bad actions is entirely dependent on the person itself. When the desires or the passions override one’s reasons, one falls into the cycle of life and death. Also, called the samsara.

  • In short, one cannot be exempted from the laws of karmas. They are applicable on each person, equally.

  • Upanishads advice that one can step out of the samsara and bring a stoppage to the cycle of re-birth via self-discipline.

  • In other words, we must all control our desires and passions. Via self-discipline, we can strengthen the good impulses (vasana) and curb the bad ones.

Different Types of Karmas

  • Prarabdha karmas: Those karmas which have started to bear fruit in this life on the premise of the karmas of our past lives. Hence, these are based on our actions of the previous births.

  • Samchita karma: They are the accumulated karmas from the past lives.

  • Anarabdha karma is those Samchita karmas which have not yet started bearing fruit in this life.

  • Kriyam karma is the actions which are being performed by the person in this very life.

Questions

1. Anarabdha karma is those ______ karmas which have not yet started bearing fruit in this life.

A. Samchita

B. Arabdha

C. Kriyam

D. None of these

Answer: A

2. According to Bhagavad Gita, the Varna system is divided on the basis of

A. Guna

B. Karma

C. Both A and B

D. None of these

Answer: C

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