What is Karma?
The simplest explanation for karma is an action whose effect is experienced as a future consequence.
“Your life is like a big white sheet of newly fallen snow.
Be careful how you walk on it, for every mark will show.”
Our lives are often touched by inexplicable events. Especially when we undergo physical or mental suffering, we may complain and view it as some kind of unfair disciplinary lesson from forces we don’t understand. Similarly, there are many unexpected good situations that occur spontaneously in our lives without any apparent cause.
These all relate to the science of what is karma or the universal law of cause and effect.
What is Karma ? Cause and Effect
One of the very first and most important teachings of Hinduism directly related to what is karma is that the mind alone is the performer of action, not the physical body.
Whatever we physically do is originally inspired by a thought. Because of thisthere are only two kinds of action:
- Mental actions
- Mental actions combined with physical actions
In either situation, the mind is the governor, and the physical body is the loyal servant following the inspiration of the mind.
Every life form is active because of the presence of the soul. When the perishable body dies, the soul continues on its journey and enters a new life form.
In Hinduism, 8.4 million different life forms have been described, and there seems to be almost endless variety in nature, yet from the point of view of what is karma, there are only two types of life forms a soul enters:
- Bhog yoni
- Karma yoni
Yoni means ‘birth’. A ‘bhog’ yoni refers to such a birth where a soul can only undergo the consequences of actions he has performed in a previous (human) birth. Every living being continuously performs actions, but they are not actions that yield future consequences. This law applies to every life form except a human form. A human form is a ‘karma yoni’. This is considered a very special opportunity for a soul because of two qualities the human body possesses:
- The ability to discriminate
- The ability to perform consequence-yielding actions
With the help of these two qualities, we have the intelligence and freedom to choose what to do, and the comfort of knowing that action will yield a future effect or result. This whole process of analyzing, thinking, determining and acting produces the future consequences of what is action.