The Nazarene Way of Essenic Studies
~ Karma / Kamma ~
The Laws of Cause and Effect

Karma is the physical manifestation of the law of balance and harmony, as it applies to the results of decisions reached and attitudes held by beings capable of free will and choice. A karmic experience is a challenge to a individual to reconsider a choice that has been made, or an attitude that has been held, to see if these decisions were founded upon a misunderstanding of The Laws of the System. You are bound karmically to anything that you accept, or misunderstand, until you understand it. Karma is merely a gap in your understanding. And, karma applies only to beings who have advanced to the level of experiencing in the forms of the human kingdom.

Each individual creates their own karma by experiencing results, their ability to learn, and their disregard for experiencing. We creates our own capacities and limitations. Karma is the need to know more about a feeling, or an action, to make one's knowledge more complete and whole. It is the necessity to experience an action or thought  more fully, or from a different perspective, so that you understand it as completely as possible in order to maintain balance in your mental creations. You cannot project perfect creations unless you understand the materials, tools, and processes of creation completely, and have experienced the repercussions of your actions.

A person exists to experience all forms of materiality, to understand each thoroughly, and to learn how to manipulate and maintain these forms in balance and harmony. As the individual evolves, studies his progress and finds there is a gap in his understanding, at some point in time the gap must be filled with the appropriate experience to balance it out. Karma is, therefore, the need to experience, and to fill gaps in the understanding of the experiences gained. It is a lack of understanding of all the points of view that apply, that must be changed, and an awareness that is necessary to be gained.


The law of Karma (Sanskrit), or Kamma (Pali) originated in the Vedic system of religion, otherwise known as Hinduism. As a term, it can at the latest be traced back to the early Upanishads, around 1500 BCE.

In its major conception, karma is the physical, mental and supramental system of neutral rebound, "cause and effect," that is inherent in existence within the bounds of time, space, and causation. Essentially what this means is that the very being which one experiences (say, as a human being) is governed by an immutable preservation of energy, vibration, and action. It is comparable to the Golden Rule but denies the ostenisble arbitrariness of Fate, Destiny, Kismet, or other such Western conceptions by attributing absolute reason and determinism to the workings of the cosmos.

Karma, for these reasons, naturally implies reincarnation since thoughts and deeds in past lives will affect one's current situation. Thus, humanity (through a sort of collective karma) and individuals alike are responsible for the tragedies and good 'fortunes' which they experience. The concept of an inscrutable "God" figure is not necessary with the idea of karma. It is vital to note that karma is not an instrument of a god, or a single God, but is rather the physical and spiritual 'physics' of being. As gravity governs the motions of heavenly bodies and objects on the surface of the earth, karma governs the motions and happenings of life, both inanimate and animate, unconscious and conscious, in the cosmic realm.

Thus, what certain philosophical viewpoints may term "destiny" or "fate" is in actuality, according to the laws of karma, the simple and neutral working out of karma. Many have likened karma to a moral banking system, a credit and debit of good and bad. However, this view falls short of the idea that any sort of action (action being a root meaning of 'karma'), whether we term it 'good' or 'bad', binds us in recurring cause and effect. In order to attain supreme consciousness, to escape the cycle of life, death, and rebirth and the knot of karma one must altogether transcend karma. This method of transcendence is variously dealt with in many streams of not only Hinduism and Buddhism, but other faiths and philosophical systems as well.

From Hinduism the concept of karma was absorbed and developed in different manners in other movements within the other Indian subcontinental (South Asian) religions of Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. Although these religions express significant disagreement regarding the particularities of "karma", all four groups have relatively similar notions of what karma is.

More recently the concept has been adopted (with various degrees of accuracy and understanding) by many New Age movements, Theosophy and Kardecist Spiritualism.

Karma in the Dharma-based Religions


Karma first came into being as a concept in Hinduism, largely based on the Vedas and Upanishads. One of the first and most dramatic illustrations of Karma can be found in the great Hindu epic, the Mahabharata. The original Hindu concept of karma was later enhanced by several other movements within the religion, most notably Vedanta, Yoga, and Tantra.

Hinduism sees karma as immutable law with involuntary and voluntary acts being part of a more intricate system of cause and effect that is often not comprehensible to one bound by karma. It is the goal of the Hindu, as expressed succinctly in the Bhagavad Gita, to embrace a 'sattvic' lifestyle and thus avoid creating more karma (karma is not qualified as good or bad). By ceasing to create more karma, the jiva-atma or individual soul is able to move closer to moksha, or liberation.

To the Hindu, karma is the law of the phenomenal cosmos that is part and parcel of living within the dimensions of time and space. All actions, thoughts, vibrations of any sort, are governed by a law that demands perfect rebound. So all jiva-atmas (individual souls) must experience karma if they live and experience the phenomenal universe. To escape the cycle of life, death and rebirth, one must exhaust one's karma and realize one's true Self as the highest truth of Oneness that is Brahman (or for dvaitists (dualists) bliss with the Supreme Godhead).

In Hinduism, karma is of three kinds:

Prarabadha Karma

This karma is unchangeable within the scope of one life, since it is the 'setup' for the life in question. It is the karma of one's past lives. After death, the atma leaves the body, as the casting off of old vestments, and carries with it the samskaras (impressions) of the past life of thoughts and actions and events. These samskaras manifest themselves in the unchangeable situation into which one is born and certain key events in one's life. These include one's time of death (seen as governed by an allotment from birth of the total number of one's breaths for that life), one's economic status, one's family (or lack of family), one's body type and look: essentially, the setting of one's birth, the initial base.

Samchita Karma

The samskaras that one inherits from the last lives create one's personality, inclinations, talents, the things that make up one's persona. One's likings, abilities, attitudes and inclinations are based on the thoughts and actions of past lives. One's samchita karma is somewhat alterable through practice and effort towards change. This might be seen through the Hindu system of yoga and the dynamic of the gunas. An example would be someone who, through meditation, slowly evolved into a more stable personality.

Agami Karma

Agami karma is the karma of the present life over which the soul has complete control. Through it one creates one's karma in the present for the future of the current life and in life-times to come.
The Hindu cannot say, sometimes, if a major event in life is the doing of Prarabadha or Agami Karma. The idea of "bad things happening to good people" is seen by the Hindu as a result of Prarabadha Karma, more simply understood as karma from a past life.

In Hinduism, karma works within a cyclical framework that sees the phenomenal universe being created and eventually dissolving back into itself, back into realization that it was nothing other than Maya imposed on the truth of Brahman. So Karma will eventually be worked out.

Karma does allow for anirudh (Divine Grace). Through exceeding devotion and love of God, the Hindu believes one can be helped to speed through Karma phal (Karmic fruit). By developing 'vairagya' or 'detachment' from the fruits of one's karma, as Lord Krishna most famously summarized, one can transcend karma and be liberated. One is aided by love of God. All the Yogas of Hinduism seek to transcend karma through different means of realization.


In Buddhism, only intentional actions are karmic "acts of will". Often misunderstood in the West as "cause and effect", in actuality, Karma literally means "action" - often indicating intent or cause. Accompanying this usually is a separate tenet called Vipaka, meaning result or effect. The re-action or effect can itself also influence an action, and in this way, the chain of causation continues ad infinitum. When Buddhists talk about karma, they are normally referring to karma that is 'tainted' with ignorance - karma that continues to ensure that the being remains in the everlasting cycle of samsara.
This samsaric karma comes in two 'flavours' - good karma, which leads to high rebirth (as a deva, asura, or human), and bad karma which leads to low rebirth (as a hell-sufferer, as a preta, or as an animal).

There is also a completely different type of karma that is neither good nor bad, but liberating. This karma allows for the individual to break the endless cycle of rebirth, and thereby leave samsara permanently.

This seems to imply that one does not need to act in a good manner. But the Buddhist sutras explain that in order to generate liberating karma, we must first develop incredibly powerful concentration. This concentration is akin to the states of mind required to be reborn in the Deva realm, and in itself depends upon a very deep training in ethical self-discipline.

This differentiation between good karma and liberating karma has been used by some scholars to argue that the development of Tantra depended upon Buddhist ideas and philosophies.

Understanding the universal law of Karma provides order to a beginningless and endless universe. Alongside this view is the related notion of Buddhist rebirth - sometimes understood to be the same thing as reincarnation - which has its roots in the principle of Karma.


Jains believe that karma is a form of matter. Mahavira described karma as "clay particles". Jains do not believe in "good karma" or "bad karma"; they try to avoid all karma.

Parallels with Christianity

Christian teachings do not usually include the idea of Karma, although some parallels can be made, as exemplified by biblical verses of 'God is not mocked, what a man sows he must reap' and 'Vengence is mine says the Lord'.

For the most part, however, the idea of the Abrahamic God makes the concept of Karma redundant for Christians.

It is also worth noting that most interpretations of Christianity do not emphasize the religious importance of thoughts and intentions (volition), that are usually understood to be a major form of Karma by the doctrines that use that concept.

Western Interpretation

According to Karma, performance of positive action results with the reaction of a good conditioning in one's experience, whereas a negative action results in a reaction of a bad response. This may be an immediate result following the act, or a delayed result occurring either in the present life or the next. Thus, meritorious acts may create rebirth into a higher station, such as a superior human being or a godlike being, while evil acts result in rebirth as a human living in less desirable circumstances, or as a lower animal. While the action of karma may be compared with the Western notions of sin and judgment by God or gods, Karma is held to operate as an inherent principle of the Universe without the intervention of any supernatural being.

Most teachings say that for common mortals, having an involvement with Karma is an unavoidable part of day-to-day living. However, in light of the Hindu philosophical school of Vedanta, as well as Gautama Buddha's teachings, one is advised to either avoid, control or become mindful of the effects of desires and aversions as a way to moderate or change one's karma (or, more accurately, one's karmic results).

New Age and Theosophy

The idea of karma was popularized in the west through the work of the Theosophical Society. Kardecist and Western New Age reinterpretations of karma frequently cast it as a sort of luck which is associated with virtue: if one does good or spiritually valuable acts, one deserves and can expect good luck; contrariwise, if one does harmful things, one can expect bad luck or unfortunate happenings. In this conception, karma is affiliated with the Neopagan law of return or Threefold Law, the idea that the beneficial or harmful effects one has on the world will return to oneself.

Health, Relationships, Abilities, Genius, Free Will, Opportunities

Sickness or afflictions have been attributed to misdeeds in the past, as well as merits, fortunes, etc. to meritorious works, etc.. Karma is said to affect the quality of relationships. For example, people who either love or hate each other tend to attract each other (See also Parabadha Karma). Karma dictates that an individual is responsible for his current situation and future situation. Current abilities, talents and inclinations can attributed to past development of these talents or involvement with the same(See also Sanchita Karma and Samskara). In this context, DNA and genes only accomodate and do not determine talents and abilities. In other words you can develop more talents and abilities. Karma however is not a rigid iron-cast system. e.g. Accidents happen outside the workings of karma and free will is a powerful factor in determining the course of life. Getting hit by a car may really be accidental and not karmic at all. A person must also exercise his free will in determining his destiny despite karmic factors. Karma also dictates that opportunities are also increased depending on how one deals with what one has. i.e. Take advantage of what is already available at hand and more will be given.

To be sure, this subconscious memory has an effect and influence on how we think, how we react, what we choose, and even how we look! But the component of free will is ever within our grasp.

Attitudes and Consciousness

Karma pertains mostly to attitudes and consciousness. The Cayce readings did not indicate adverse karmic effects for policemen or soldiers who are compelled to maintain safety or under orders , and had to execute people or employ violent methods. The readings however indicated severe karmic penalties for jeering mobs during the Roman persecution of Christians and in a particular, a spectator who laughed when a lion ripped out the side of a Christian girl. Neither the spectator nor the mob did any actual physical harm.

"It's My Karma"

One of the most distorted views of karma is the idea that nothing can be done about it (destiny).
No matter how terrible the predicament, there is always something that can be done, even if it's a patient smile or maintining a good attitude.

Within adverse conditions often lie the opportunity. The Chinese character for crisis '??', as pointed out by the late J.F. Kennedy, is a combination of the characters of danger and opportunity. The readings recommend taking advantage of what is available, meager as it may be, and better opportunities will be made available, as karmic forces may simply be redirecting. Karma is an educative process. Learn whatever needs to be learned or harsher conditions to drive in the lesson will arise. 

Abilities according to Cayce Reading

One of the interesting aspects about karma in reincarnation is that talents and skills are never lost according to the Cayce files. Someone who has developed an ability in one life will still have it to draw upon later through karma. One may be born for example as a genius or prodigy, in math for example, if he develops this skill or have been of service now or having done so to a prodigous degree in the past or present.

Portions of this page were compiled from the Wikipedia article on Karma and are licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

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