What is Karma?
Karma is a very popular word. If we were to find the most popular word in the West which comes from Hindu/Buddhist tradition, it should be this word.
What does Karma means?
In general it means “What you do.”
If you are a writer–writing is your Karma. If you are a painter, painting is your Karma and so on.
But at a deeper level what you do as a human being is Karma. Do you always try to help others? Do you sometimes try to help others? Do you never try to help others? Do you sometimes try to hurt others? Do you always try to hurt others?
Answers to all those questions will tell you about the type of Karmas.
Karma is the programming in your subconscious which has made you the human being you are. Karma is the sum total of intention vectors you carry inside yourself. Everything you do, think or experience is in one way or other Karma you carry inside yourself.
Three Modes of Karma!
Since nature operates in three modes–Karma also has three modes. These three are broad categories: Sattvic(harmonious), Rajasic(passionate) and Tamasic(Inert.)
It’s the most harmonious form of energy you carry on inside. Do you love peace? Do you always want to do good to others. Do you mostly have positive thoughts inside. Do you feel happy and energetic? You carry Sattvic Karma. Sattvic people want to help others. They want to improve the quality of living of other human beings. Most saints are sattvic. This is the most positive type of Karma.
Are you passionate about achieving your goals? Do you have a burning desire to succeed. Are you selfish? Then you have this passionate mode of Karma. Most successful people in the world–passionate artists and entrepreneurs carry this Karma. Rajasic people are calculative and they know how to achieve their ends. They have material success but they lack happiness.
This is plain inertia. These people are literally sleeping. You might have seen people who are drunk and sleeping in a sewer or in a market place in broad daylight. People who splurge all their money on drugs and alcohol. People who can do good to neither themselves nor others–such people are tamasic people. They have all the energy trapped in form of sloth and inertia. They are vibrating at the lowest chakras. These people know nothing of happiness. They are so much in the darkness that they don’t know that they are in the darkness.
What kind of Karma do I carry? Can I know it? Most people who meditate can become aware of type of karmic seeds they carry inside after a little bit of practice. But even those who have not practiced meditation can know it with this easy experiment:
Can you spend time alone? Can you spend a lot of time alone doing nothing? No TV, internet, no human contact or means of interaction or entertainment, no cellphones and completely alone?
Can you spend time doing nothing? If you have never tried that before try it.
How do you feel? How long can you spend time with yourself?
What happens? You have to face yourself!
How do you feel? Do you feel happy, peaceful and positive? Or do you feel suicidal, paranoid and negative?
This test helps you remove the layers of superficial coverings on your Karma. If you feel calm, happy and peaceful–you are carrying positive(sattvic) Karma. You are the most suitable person to go outside, interact with world and be in relations. You will mostly make people happy and make world a better place to live!
But if you feel negative, paranoid and suicidal–you are not supposed to stay alone. You should seek meditation and therapy and company of positive people. You carry negative Karma and you will mostly make people around you suffer. You should be cautious of not spreading your garbage around recklessly. It is better of you seek therapy and meditation. But since sometimes it is too overwhelming to take–isolating yourself in hope of not making others sad might make you too depressed. So please don’t isolate yourself.
If someone knows Vedic Astrology, they can pretty much understand broad karmic type. Especially by assessing disposition of planetary karmic energies in the ninth division of chart called Navamsa.
Types of Karma
Classical texts divide Karma in three broad types:
This is the type of Karma which has already started bearing fruit. Your current birth is the result of ripening of certain karmic fruits. The type of environment you were born in. Your parents, siblings, job, friends and spouse are mostly the results of Prarabdha Karma–a very strong ripening of Karma from past which can’t be changed without a great divine intervention.
Sanchit Karma is a great storage of all Karmic seeds from innumerable births. Prarabdha is part of Sanchit. This Karma can be burnt by a great Samadhi or by a Guru’s divine grace completely so that future births can be avoided.
Is the type of Karma which you are doing right now and fruits of which will be experienced in future.
The following quote from Wikipedia tells a beautiful analogy about the three types of Karma.
In Vedantic literature, there is a beautiful analogy. The bowman has already sent an arrow and it has left his hands. He cannot recall it. He is about to shoot another arrow. The bundle of arrows in the quiver on his back is the sanchita; the arrow he has shot is prarabdha; and the arrow which he is about to shoot from his bow is agami. Of these, he has perfect control over the sanchita and the agami, but he must surely work out his prarabdha. The past which has begun to take effect he has to experience.
There is another beautiful analogy also. The granary represents the sanchita karma; that portion taken from the granary and put in the shop for future daily sale corresponds to agami; that which is sold daily represents prarabdha.
Sages have suggested to transcend Karma by meditation. Meditation when becomes intense burns Karma. Until ego is operating there will be some type of Karma–either positive or negative. One should cancel negative Karma by doing positive Karma. Therefore, until one is liberated one should keep practicing both charity and meditation. Meditation helps you serve others better and serving others helps you go deeper into the meditation.
When there is no ego anymore the Karma is no more. Sages also do Karma but that is not egoic and bears no selfish fruits. It is for the welfare of masses. So only when enlightenment happens true Tapa(penance) starts. The life of a sage is purely for others and all his deeds, even his presence itself is for good of others.
Lord Krishna says to his friend and disciple Arjuna in his song Geeta that to fathom the movement of Karma is almost impossible because it’s profound. In the end he suggests him to have a great faith and surrender unto him without caring about Dharma(duty) and Karma(meritorious deeds.)