Karma is a Sanskrit word. The concept of karma depends on the performance of humans in life. Karma expresses that the actions we take in life automatically have consequences. Karma says everyone’s behavior in life creates a power that determines how that person lives. In other words, the law of karma indicates that whatever we do, the result goes back to us.
The Buddha speaks about karma:
I am responsible for my deeds, the inheritor of my deeds, the offspring of my deeds. I live in connection with my actions and based on my actions. Whatever I do, good or bad, I inherit it.
Karma is a common religious, philosophical, and moral concept among some Eastern religions, but it differs from one religion to another.
In Hinduism, which is the main origin of karma, it is believed that the human soul is trapped in a recurring loop called samsara. A person who does not give up his desires and carnal gratification will remain trapped in this loop until he gets free from his desires and becomes a pure soul and reaches Moksha. Moksha means salvation and liberation from the loop of life. Since Moksha is the ultimate goal and is achieved when one gets rid of their desires, most Hindus try to produce good karma to be born into a better life in the loop of reincarnation and rebirth.
Hindus believe that the law of karma controls samsara. In Hinduism, karma is achieved by performing the duties that each person in his social level has. If a person performs the duties of his social level well and completes them, he will be born at a higher level in the next life. Hindus also believe that karma happens inevitably and does not require divine intervention.
Karma in Jainism
Karma is not considered the same law in all Eastern religions. In Jainism, for example, karma is an atomic substance; The real particles that attach themselves to the soul. The followers of this religion believe that as long as the burden of karma is on the soul, it will be stuck in a recurring loop of living. Because negative traits of the soul (such as anger, greed, or pride) make karma more inclined to connect, followers of this religion try to minimize their emotions, be moderate, and do not harm any living being except for Self-Defense.
To properly understand the function of this law in life, we need to know, according to Buddha’s point of view, what the concept of karma is and how it affects our lives. The literal meaning of karma in Sanskrit is action, but the Buddha defines it as motivation and intention. In response to those who asked what karma is, he expressed that karma is motivation. Each person does karma by his body, speech, and intellect.
The word action includes physical movement, speech, and thought, which is equivalent to what the Buddha said. That is, our thoughts and words are also part of our behavior and actions.
To understand the Buddha’s words, we must consider human behavior in two parts. Raw behavior and the intention and the purpose behind the behavior. For example, someone who sharpens a knife may need it to perform an operation, or threaten someone, or injure someone.
The Buddha identifies six intentions behind each action:
Goodwill or kindness
Compassion and empathy
Malice or anger
Oppression and cruelty
The first three intentions are opposed to the other three and are considered positive purposes. These intentions do not harm us or others and instead, they relieve pain and suffering. In the same way, the three ultimate purposes lead to hurtful behaviors and suffering.