(Sanskrit = action, work, deed, fate. It derives from the Proto Indo-European root *kwer-, to make, form.)
A Hindu and Buddhist term for the sum of your actions during the course of your life — sort of a virtue scorecard. It determines your state in your next life.
1. The idea of reincarnation is not exclusive to India (e.g. Plato and the Pythagoreans believed in it), however, believing that the type of reincarnation you receive depends on how you behave in this life is unique to Indian religion.
2. Karma is part of the fabric of the universe, an ineluctable process that even the gods are subject to.
3. The concept of Karma acts as the ethicisization of reincarnation, because what you come back as is determined by how you lived your life, i.e. your moral behavior becomes the decisive element in your destiny.
4. In older Vedic times, karma referred to ritual actions that priests performed to make a sacrifice effective. But in the development of classical Hinduism, karma came to include the idea of moral action.
5. You can be reborn at any level on a hierarchy that ranges from plants to animals to humans to various levels of divinity, e.g bad karma can cause a human to be reborn as a buzzard; good karma, an outcaste being reborn as a Brahmin.
Feedback: Actually, Buddhism is functionally theistic, even if it avoids the "G" word. Like its parent religion Hinduism, Buddhism espouses reincarnation, which holds that after death our souls are re-instantiated in new bodies, and karma, the law of moral cause and effect. Together, these tenets imply the existence of some cosmic judge who, like Santa Claus, tallies up our naughtiness and niceness before rewarding us with rebirth as a cockroach or as a saintly lama.
(John Horgan) The doctrine of karma, with its corollary belief in good and bad karmic retribution, tends to serve as a kind of moral justification for social inequality.
(Ichikawa Hakugen (Zen priest) ) "All happiness and suffering is the exclusive result of our individual karmic deeds created through past lives."
(Thrangu Rinpoche (from "King of Samadhi"))
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