What is Karma?
Law of Cause & Effect


Karma means that whatever we do, with our bodies, speech, or minds, will have a corresponding result. Each action, even the smallest, is pregnant with its consequences. It is said by the masters that even a little poison can cause death, and even a tiny seed can become a huge tree. And as Buddha said: “Do not overlook negative actions merely because they are small; however small a spark may be, it can burn down a haystack as big as a mountain.”

Similarly he said: “Do not overlook tiny good actions, thinking they are of no benefit even tiny drops of water in the end will fill a huge vessel.”

Karma does not decay like external things, or ever become inoperative. It cannot be destroyed “by time, fire, or water.” Its power will never disappear, until it is ripened.

Whatever is happening to us now mirrors our past karma. If we know that, and know it truly, whenever suffering and difficulties befall us, we do not view them particularly as failures or catastrophes, or see suffering as a punishment in any way. Nor do we blame ourselves or indulge in self-hatred.

We see the pain we are going through as the completion of the effects, the fruition, of a past karma. Tibetans say that suffering is “a broom that sweeps away all our negative karma.” We can even be grateful that one karma is coming to an end. We know that “good fortune,” a fruit of good karma, may soon pass if we do not use it well, and that “misfortune,” the result of negative karma, may in fact be giving us a marvelous opportunity to evolve.

Sogyal Rinpoche,Glimpse of the day, October 15, Rigpa.org

Is karma really so hard to see in operation? Don’t we only have to look back at our own lives to see clearly the consequences of some of our actions? When we upset or hurt someone, didn’t it rebound on us? Were we not left with a bitter and dark memory, and the shadows of self-disgust? That memory and those shadows are karma. Our habits and our fears too are also due to karma, the results of our past actions, words, and thoughts. If we examine our actions, and become really mindful of them, we will see that there is a pattern that repeats itself. Whenever we act negatively, it leads to pain and suffering; whenever we act positively, it eventually results in happiness.

Sogyal Rinpoche,Glimpse of the day, November 7, Rigpa.org

Karma is not fatalistic or predetermined. Karma means our ability to create and to change. It is creative because we can determine how and why we act. We can change. The future is in our hands, and in the hands of our heart.

Buddha said:

Karma creates all, like an artist,
Karma composes, like a dancer.

Although the results of our actions may not have matured yet, they will inevitably ripen, given the right conditions. Usually we forget what we do, and it is only long afterward that the results catch up with us. By then we are unable to connect them with their causes. “Imagine an eagle,” says Jikmé Lingpa.” It is flying, high in the sky. It casts no shadow. Nothing shows that it is there. Then suddenly it spies its prey, dives, and swoops to the ground. And as it drops, its menacing shadow appears.”

Sayings of Shakyamuni Buddha

"A fool thinks it like honey so long as the bad deed does not bear fruit, but
when it does bear fruit he experiences suffering. - Gautama Buddha"

"Like fresh milk a bad deed does not turn at once. It follows a fool scorching
him like a smouldering fire. - Gautama Buddha"


Law of Karma

The theory of karma is common to many oriental religions. In it's most popular form it states that there is a universal accounting system in which each individual must experience the consequence of all his actions [karmas]; good actions bring good results and bad actions inevitably result in the suffering to the one them. The theory also states that the consequences of actions [also known as karmas] need not necessarily be experienced in this present life, they can be carried over into future lives. Because of this, several sub-divisions of karma have been postulated. The following classification which was used by Sri Ramana is common to many Hindu schools of thought.

1. Sanchita Karma - The store of karmic debts accumulated from previous births.

2. Prarbdha karma - The part of ones sanchita karma which must be worked out in the present life. Because the law of karma implies determinism in human activities, prarabdha is often translated as destiny.

3. Agami Karma - New karma accumulated in the present lifetime which is carried forward into future lives

Every action generates a force of energy that returns to us in like kind...what we sow is what we reap. And when we choose actions that bring happiness and success to others, the fruit of our karma is happiness and success.

The Transmission of the Vinaya says ' Whatever karma is created will bring a corresponding result'

Each action or non action is like dropping a stone into water - has a ripple effect

So sow good seeds

Buddha says:

Negative states of mind such as anger, hatred, jealousy or pride, lead us to say and do negative things. These actions bring us undesirable results in the future. Positive states of mind lead us to positive actions of body and speech, which bring us desirable or happy results.

Therefore our future is dependent on our present actions. However, do not think that there is no hope and that just because we have done bad actions in the past we deserve to suffer and can do nothing about it. The point is that we can abandon our suffering and improve our conditions. If we stop doing negative actions and develop virtuous mind, virtuous speech, and virtuous actions, we can purify all our past negativities. Hence it becomes essential to discipline or train our mind, body and speech in virtue. This is the practice of Dharma as taught by Buddha.

Through disciplining our mind, body, speech we can achieve a stable and clear state of mind, whereby we can gain realization of the ultimate truth. This leads us to complete freedom from all delusions and their resultant suffering.

The Law of Kamma in Buddhism

The Law of Kamma is the basic perception in Buddhism. Kamma does not simply mean action in usual language. Kamma is the mind's willing an action or intention. In Buddhism, what you think in your mind is already your kamma. Once kamma is committed, it is destined to a series of certain consequences; not only in this life,but in many lives thereafter. The movement of beings between rebirths is ordered and governed by the Law of Kamma. Acts of hatred and violence can lead to rebirth in a hell; acts of delusion can lead to rebirth as an animal and acts of greed can lead to rebirth as a hungry ghost. If you behave well in accordance with the Five Precepts, you are to be reborn as a human being again. Other higher rebirths include different levels of heavens.

However, if bad actions are not detected during the rebirth, the man can be reborn as a human being again. Still, his record in past lives mould his consciousness, he will then have good or bad consequences after him always; e.g., stinginess leads to being poor, killing beings leads to frequent illnesses and short life, and anger leads to being ugly. In conclusion, all intentional actions, good or bad will lead to future results always. The Law of Kamma is a natural law, like a law of physics. Any holy Gods do not determine it. The Gods themselves are actually governed by the Law of Kamma. Kamma is thus a will. In this respect, Kamma can be committed through body, speech and mind. In Buddhism, a good action or good kamma is referred to as "kusala" and a bad action or bad kamma is referred to as "akusala. A kusala action (kamma) will produce an uplifting mental state in the doer; an akusala action (kamma)on the contrary involves an unhealthy state of mind that can lead to serious future consequences.

Buddhist Perspective

The Bhagavan himself spoke of Karma in four ways, so they are most vital

How karma is fixed

The Transmission of the Vinaya says ' Whatever karma is created will bring a corresponding result'

Now is the time that we create karmic causes so we must exercise care, for it is impossible to put things right once the cause has produced results.

Cause and effect is extremely subtle, because one accumalates will bring the corresponding result.

Karma shows great increase

Internal causes produce much greater effects than external causes. Even so, here is an example of an external cause and its results:

a great tree grows from but a single tiny peach stone, and every year the tree yields hundreds of thousands of things - leaves and fruit. Though this is a big increase, internal causes yield even bigger results.

Quotes from the Bible

For verify I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled -Matthew 5:18

And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail - Luke 16:17

Personal Experiences

I've joked with my friend Nick - On many occasions when I'd meet up with Nick, I used to experience 'bad luck'.

For example one time Nick came to my work place. After work we went back to my car, only to find the driver's door was smashed in - obviously by another car - and no details.

Another time I went to Nick's house and I came back to my car, half an hour later, only to find my car was totally written off! A car had collided into the side rear of my car, and another car, only to be abandoned in the middle of the road.

We tried to prove the 'Nick Luck', as I was jokily calling it, by playing fruit machines in his presence and without his presence / awareness (other end of pub).

Unbelievably when Nick was near me I was losing.As soon as Nick was away from the machine and not focusing on it, I won some cash and was swiftly on the way to winning a Jackpot! (until he came back that is!!! lol!!)

I am not blaming Nick. I'm not 100% sure why these things happened as they did. Maybe I was bad to him in our past lives?!

Also by focusing on the 'Nick Bad Luck' only made it worse.

Now we have much less bad luck. Maybe it has been paid off?

Not such thing as Luck?

Luck is said to be 'prepared-ness' (good actions / karma, pure intention/ motivation) and 'right opportunity' (synchronicity - flow)

Often successful people say they were in the right place at the right time - what does that mean?

I think it means they were in the flow, aware of opportunities and synchroncities and it was their next step based on their karmic past!

If you've got a lot of bad karma going on

To build up good karma -

Gathering Good Karma - Accumulating Merit

"Strong Tea needs much milk!"

Thus Buddhists recommend that we build good karma as soon as possible -
if anything it is like sweetness around hot chillies!

To gain good karma practice virtues, such as the 5 perfections in Buddhism - generosity, patience, praise, compassion, loving-kindness, etc. (See buddhism)

Also always have a pure alturistic intention / motivation - eg. for highest good of all

Cultivate Compassion, Develop Bodhicitta (see Bodhicitta & Compassion page), Be loving& Kind, Compassionate & Joyful!

Be in alignment with your Soul / Higher Self

Take refuge with the Three Jewels - The Buddha, Dharma (teachings) and the Sangha (Community)

Serve & Share with Others / GOD / LIFE / SOUL / MONAD

Tithing - give 10% of your income away - to Charity / 'less fortunate' etc. - this affirms your abundance and keeps the money flowing and in circulation

The aim of buddhism is to transcend karma, the wheel of rebirth and to practise harmlessness - thus creating no new bad karma, - for yourself and for all sentient beings if you so choose.

Many buddhist teachers suggest we have a back log of karma to pay off.

Spiritually evolved beings pay off / feel your karma with you - satsang and Dhashan clear out negative karma

You may notice situations in which people are having bad luck / karma in front of or with you - you may be assisting their karmic clearing or you maybe there to learn lessons from a different perspective (especially if you yourself have experienced such 'bad luck'


Some Insights

"Where thought (yi) goes, energy (chi) follows" Chinese Proverb

Karma, the law of cause and effect, relates to your actions, words, feelings and even thoughts!

If prayer / positive intention is proven to work then it stands to reason that negative intention will also effect other people. So imagine everytime you have a negative thought, you are sowing the seeds of suffering for yourself!

I have often found that when either a friend of mine or myself, get hurt by accident (eg. stubbing toe), just before we get hurt we were thinking, doing or saying something negative, (especially without awareness).

Now I hurt myself, by accident, much less!!

Once you are aware of karma and it's consequences your life changes

Just try it. If you steal or do something negative just be aware in the next few mins, half hour, hour, day /week / etc. for any thing negative - notice if you lose something or have unexpected payments / fines / losses / bad experiences. Is there a link?!!

Karma holds and is a true law - Padmasambhava, even though a highly realized master, had high respect for the law of karma, and always acted in accordance with it.

There are obviously varying degrees of good / bad karma. Different levels of Karma - Personal, Group, Race, etc Karma also extends over past and future lives.

Karma is linked in with synchronisity - it works through subtle ways - this is Divine Law - often working mysteriously beyond rational logic!

Synchronicity and Cause and Effect

(An excerpt from God's Vision)

Cause and effect is a law of the material universe. Science knows that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Synchronicity extends this law into all of the complex interconnected web of human life. All positive and negative energy that we put out returns to us in equal and appropriate measure, as existence echoes back our inner world, sometimes instantly, but more often in our future. This is the law of balance, or karma. God has a very tidy, just and fair mind. He always perfectly balances everyone's thoughts, words and deeds with appropriate life experiences, eventually. Some of our best scientists are still trying to discover the secret to the mind of God. God's greatest creative challenge and interest - as He is programming every soul with all of the experiences that they require - is the complexity of perfectly balancing all human energy exchanges, between billions of souls over thousands of years. Understanding the law of balance helps you to accept your situation with equanimity, and gives an insight into the cosmic mind of God.

Synchronicity is the application of the law of balance in all realms of human life. It differs from cause and effect in its apparent unpredictability. Meditation, for example, can appear to generate very different results - every meditator knows the unpredictable nature of their practice, as do psychics and healers. But deep down synchronicity also follows the law of cause and effect. It is perfectly fair and just, although humans can never understand the complexity of all the connections involved. And the time delay between most actions and their inevitable consequences can give the impression that life is unfair.

Serendipity, happy coincidence, is only one minor aspect of synchronicity. The apparent unpredictability of inner science separates it from the obvious predictability of material science. And inner scientists cannot prove their results objectively, their laboratory is their subjective experience. This subjective knowing from direct experience is enough for the inner scientist.

Buddha knows what enlightenment is but cannot prove it objectively. Mysticism and science do share some common ground. They both start with a hypothesis and experiment to verify it, but the unpredictability of synchronicity (due to the time delay) apparently renders inner science inconsistent. Whereas the certainty of cause and effect in the material realm allows the outer scientist the luxury of consistency.

Love Maitreya

No such thing as Karma?

Sri Ramana accepted the validity of the laws of karma but said they were only applicable as long as a person imagined that he was separate from the Self. At this level (the level of ajnani), he said that individuals will pass through a series of pre-ordained activities and experiences, all of which are the consequences of previous acts and thoughts. He occasionally even said that every act and experience in a person's life is determined at birth and the only freedom one has is to realize that there is no one acting and no one experiencing. However, once one realizes the Self there is no one left to experience the consequences of actions and so the whole structure of karmic laws then becomes redundant.Sri Ramana regarded the law of Karma as a manifestation of God's will.

He said that prior to Self-realisation there is a personal God, Ishwara, who controls each person's destiny. It is ishwara who has ordained that everyone must suffer the consequences of his actions and it is Ishwara who selects the sequence of activities that each person must undergo in each lifetime. One cannot escape from Ishwara's jurisdiction while one still identifies with the activities of the body.

The only way to become free of his authority is to transcend karma completely by realising the Self.

When there is no I, there is no Karma.

The more you prune a plant the more it grows. The more you rectify your karma the more it accumulates. Find the root of karma (ego) and cut it off!

Q: The present is said to be due to past karma. Can we transcend the past karma by our free will now?

A: See what the present is. If you do this you will understand what is affected by or has a past or a future, what is ever-present and always free and what remains unaffected by the past or the future or by any past karma. Sri Ramana

The essence of Karma is to know the truth of oneself by enquiring who am I? the doer, who begins to do the karmas?' Unless the doer of karmas, the ego, is annihilated through enquiry, the perfect peace of supreme bliss, which is the result of karma yoga, cannot be acheived.

Harmlessness is the path of no new bad karma.

While still in the physical it is very difficult not to accumulate karma -

On a high, absolute, perspective there is no Karma - even the Law of Karma is an illusion - part of samsara / existence Also there is no use saying there is no karma if one is still affected by actions and experiences.

However wrong understanding can lead to lower next rebirth. Likewise we can have a positive account only to fall into the negative rather swiftly if we have negative actions and thoughts.


You must get good at one of two things: sowing in the spring or begging in the fall.

God has the tough end of the deal. What if instead of planting the seed you had to make the tree? That would keep you up late at night, trying to figure that one out.

Plant, don't chant.

One of my good friends always says, "Things don't just happen; things happen just."

The soil says, "Don't bring me your need, bring me your seed." Excerpted from The Treasury of Quotes by Jim Rohn. Copyright 1994 Jim Rohn International. These quotes are by Jim Rohn, America's Foremost Business Philosopher. To subscribe to the Free Jim Rohn Weekly E-zine, go to



related books:

Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand by Kyabje Pabonka Rinpoche

The Great Play Sutra

Be as You are - The Teachings of Ramana Maharshi

related pages:


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