THEORY OF KARMA
Why do some students do well in school while others struggle? Why do
some earn money easily while others are poor? Why do some suffer while
others enjoy their lives? Why do some live longer while others die at
a young age?
The answers to all of these questions is the effects of our karmas.
The theory of karma explains how, why, and what happens to us. It also
explains the role that karmas play in our lives, how we accumulate
karmas, and how we get rid of them.
Karmas are the derivatives of karman particles. Karman particles are
non-living matter scattered all around us and all over the universe.
They are very fine particles that cannot be seen even with a
microscope. A cluster of innumerable karman particles is called Karman
Vargana. When you act with passions like attachment, anger, greed,
ego, or deceitfulness, Karman Varganas are attracted towards your soul.
Karman Varganas that are attached to your soul are called karmas.
THE PROCESS OF BONDAGE
The following paragraph has been revised from the original.*
Whenever we think, speak, or act, Karman Varganas around us are attracted
to our souls. (This process is called Asrava in Sanskrit.) The Varganas
become bonded to our soul depending on our passions: anger, ego, greed,
and deceit. Once they are bonded, they are called Karma. (The bondage is
called Bandh in Sanskrit.) The Karma can be furthur divided into two
concepts, Bhav Karma and Dravya Karma. Bhav Karma is the non-physical
thinking or activity that attracts the Karman Varganas. Dravya Karma is
the physical Karman Varganas themselves that have attached to the soul.
There cannot be Dravya Karma without the Bhav Karma and both of these
concepts occur at the same time. In a simplified sense, one can think of
the Bhav Karma as 'thoughts' because mental activity is at the base of
all activity of the soul. However, the true understanding is that the
Bhav Karma is the non-physical part of the Karma.
There are three ways to perform activities; mentally, verbally, and
physically. We can take each of these a step further in three more
ways. We can perform the activities ourselves, ask someone else to
perform the activities for us, or encourage someone else to perform the
activities. Thus, there are nine ways to perform any activity. Out of
all of these activities, mental activities have the farthest reaching
effects on our souls.
At the time of bondage of karmas to the soul, four characteristics of
karmas are decided. They are:
1) Prakriti (nature).
2) Pradesh (quantity).
3) Sthiti (duration).
4) Anubhag (intensity).
The nature and quantity of karmas depend on the vigor of the activities,
while the duration and intensity of karmas depend upon the intensity of
the desires behind the activities.
I. PRAKRITI (NATURE OF BONDAGE)
There are eight types of karmas. Depending upon your activities, you
can accumulate one or more of these eight karmas:
1) Jnanavarniya - Knowledge-Obscuring Karma
2) Darshanavarniya - Perception-Obscuring Karma
3) Antaräya - Obstructive Karma
4) Mohniya - Deluding Karma
5) Nam - Body-determining Karma
6) Gotra - Status-determining Karma
7) Vedniya - Feeling-Producing Karma
8) Ayushya - Age-Determining Karma
These karmas are grouped into two categories Ghati Karmas (destructive)
and Aghati Karmas (non-destructive). Ghati Karmas destroy the true
nature of the soul. Aghati Karmas do not destroy the nature of the
soul, but affect the body in which the soul resides. The first four
types of karmas are Ghati karmas, and last four are aghati karmas.
II. PRADESH (QUANTITY OF BONDAGE)
If the physical vigor of our activities is slight, then we accumulate
fewer karman particles, but if the physical vigor is strong, then we
accumulate larger numbers of karman particles on our soul.
III. STHITI (DURATION OF BONDAGE)
The duration of the karmic particles to be bonded with the soul is
decided by the intensity of our desires at the time of the activity.
The milder the intensity, the shorter is the duration of the bondage of
the karmas. The stronger the intensity, the longer is the duration of
bondage. The time karmas stay bonded to the soul range from a fraction
of a second to an innumerable numbers of years.
IV. ANUBHAG (INTENSITY OF RESULTS)
The intensity of karmas depends upon how intense our passions are at the
time of our activities. The lesser the intensity of our passions, the
less severe is the result of the bondage; the greater the intensity,
the more severe the result of the bondage.
When karmas attach to the soul, there are four levels of bondage:
1. Sprusta or Sithil (Loose): Karmas can be easily shed by regret.
2. Baddha or Gadha (Tight): Karmas can be shed by offering an apology.
3. Nidhatta (Tighter): Karmas can shed by very strong efforts, like
4. Nikachit (Tightest): Karmas can only be shed by bearing the results.
It should be realized that it is not always true that we have to wait in
order to bear the results of our karmas; we can change the course of
our karmas before they mature. It can be changed in duration and
intensity as well as in nature too. This is very important point
because it means, that not only we do have control over our karmas, but
that we can change our fate. For explanatory purpose let us understand
1) Abadhakal - the duration of bondage of karmas to the soul, which
starts from the time of the karmas’ bondage until its maturity.
2) Bandh - bondage of karmas to the soul.
3) Uday - refers to the results of karmas being manifested in normal
during their normal maturation time.
4) Udirana - refers to the results of karmas being manifested
5) Satta - refers to those karmas which are dormant on the soul.
6) Sankramana - Depending of our activities, bonded karmas can
transform within some of their sub-types. Example: Shata and Ashata
Vedniya karmas are the two sub-types of Vedniya karmas. Shata Vedniya
karma causes comfort while Ashata Vedniya karma causes discomfort. If
our current activities causes comfort to someone then our Ashata
Vedniya karma gets transformed to Shata Vedniya karma. And, so it works
for opposite activities.
7) Utkarshana - increase of duration and intensity of karmas which are
already bonded to the soul.
8) Apakramana - diminution of duration and intensity of karmas which
are already bonded.
9) Upashama - state in which karmas are suppressed and cannot produce
10) Nidhatti bondage - type of bondage in which karmas are neither
brought into operation prematurely nor transferred into that of another
sub-class, but may increase or decrease in duration and intensity of
11) Nikachit bondage - type of bondage in which karmas do not operate
prematurely, nor transferred, nor increase or decrease in duration or
intensity of results.
12) Samuddhat - After achieving perfect knowledge, Kevali Bhagwan
(Omniscient, Omnipotent) realized that the duration and quantity of
Vedniya, Nam and Gotra Karmas were greater than that of Ayushya Karma.
Therefore, by expanding the size and shape of the soul (Atma
Pradeshes), Kevali Bhagwan made the duration and quantity of Vedniya,
Nam and Gotra Karmas equal to that of Ayushya Karma. This process is
13) Shaileshikaran - Immediately before his final death (Nirvana),
Kevali Bhagwan went into very pure meditation during which there was no
activity and hence no inflow of karma at all. This stage lasted very
short period during which one can speak five short letters only. It is
called Saileshikaran. During this time, Kevali Bhagwan discarded all
remaining Vedniya, Nam, Gotra, and Ayushya Karmas for ever.
Karmas obstruct these eight attributes of a pure soul:
1) Kevaljnana (Perfect Knowledge) - State in which the soul knows
everything, past, present, and future that is happening in the world,
all at the same time. Jnanavarniya Karma obscures this attribute.
2) Kevaldarshan (Perfect Perception) - State in which the soul can see,
hear, and perceive everything from the past, present, and future all at
the same time.
Darshanavarniya Karma obscures this attribute.
3) Anant Virya (Infinite Power) - State in which the soul has infinite
Antaräya Karma obstructs this attribute.
4) Vitraga (Victory over Inner Enemies) - State in which the pure soul
has no attachment or hatred for anyone. Mohniya Karma obscures this
Aforementioned four attributes of the soul are experienced by Lord
Arihants. The following four attributes are experienced only when the
soul is liberated, when Lord Arihants become Lord Siddhas upon their
5) Infinite Bliss (No Joy or Sorrow) - State in which there is no pain,
suffering, or happiness; the soul has ultimate peace. Vedniya Karma
obscures this attribute.
6) Ajaramar (End of the Cycle of Birth and Death) - Point at which the
soul is never again born. Ayushya Karma obscures this attribute.
7) Arupi (No form) - State in which the pure soul no longer occupies a
body and is formless. Nam Karma obscures this attribute.
8) Agurulaghu (End of Status) - fact that all liberated souls are equal;
none is higher or lower in status than any other. Gotra Karma obscures
* Thanks to Balu Patel for pointing out the incorrect definition of Bhav
and Dhravya Karmas and to Ashok Choksi for further clarifying the correct
definitions. Updated Jan. 13, 2001.
Uncorrected original text
[Whenever we think, speak, or act Karman Varganas around us are attracted
to our souls and get bonded to it and these varganas are now called
karmas. When our activities are unintentional, or without any passions,
the karmas which are bonded to our souls are called Dravya Karmas. But
if our activities are intentional, or with passions like anger, ego,
greed, and deceit, the karmas are called Bhav Karmas. Bhav karmas stay
on the soul for a longer time than Dravya Karmas which fall off the
soul almost immediately.]
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