Fifty Shades of Karma

Karma or action

by Jayaram V

Karma is one of the central features of Hinduism. It is also common to all the faiths that originated in India. The idea of karma is deeply rooted in the consciousness of the people of the Indian subcontinent and influences their religious outlook, behavior, attitude and relationships. On the positive side, it makes them responsible for their lives and actions and accept their fate as a consequence of their own actions. On the negative side, it makes them vulnerable to superstition and self-defeating behaviors. The following are 50 most important beliefs, ideas or concepts associated with the doctrine of karma in Hinduism. Although every effort has been made to avoid repetition, due to the complexity of certain ideas, you may find them more than once. You may use them for contemplation or further exploration.


1. Karma means any mental, verbal or physical action one performs.

2. The concept of karma is peculiar to the religions of Indian origin.

3. Literally, karma means that which you perform with hands (kara) or with any organ in the body (karmendriya).

4. Philosophically, karma means desire-ridden, selfish actions.

5. Willful inaction (akarma) or avoidance of actions also qualifies as karma.

6. The consequences of karma are called the fruit of karma.

7. The doctrine of Karma is mentioned in the Vedas, which declare that good actions lead to peace and happiness and evil actions to suffering and sin.

8. As the cumulative consequence of all actions, karma also means fate.

9. Karma binds the souls to Samsara or the cycle of births and deaths.

10. Desire is the root of karma. Sinful karma arises from selfish, desire-ridden actions.

11. The law of karma is universal and inescapable even for gods.

12. Karma is viewed in Hinduism both as an effect (phala) and as an impurity (mala).

13. Repetitive actions lead to attraction and aversion and attachments.

14. All beings from the highest to the lowest have karmas (duties).

15. Plants and animals earn karma by serving their purpose and being useful to others.

16. Action performed without desires is known nishkama karma.

17. For the purpose of creation, God himself engages in karma.

18. Actions performed to fulfill desires are known as kamyakarma.

19. Actions performed as part of daily routine are known as nitya karmas.

20. All Vedic rituals are collectively known as karma kanda.

21. Knowledge of karma kanda constitutes lower knowledge (avidya).

22. God is the source of all actions. He is the real doer.

23. Since he is the source, all actions and their fruit should be offered to God only.

24. Karma is responsible for suffering and rebirth.

25. The basis of karma is dharma (godly duties).

26. Karma is continuous. Hence, unexhausted karma is carried forward to next birth.

27. Karma is of different types, spent, unspent, currently accumulating and currently bearing fruit.

28. Karma arises from doership and ownership of actions and things.

29. Tolerating evil or aiding and abetting others in evil actions produce sinful karma.

30. People who commit mortal sins through grave actions (ghora karma) fall down into darkest hells.

31. The fruit of karma accompanies the soul to the next birth and determines its destiny.

32. Karma cannot not be renounced. However, desires can be renounced.

33. True renunciation is the renunciation of desire for the fruit of one’s actions.

34. Nishkama karma (action without desire and selfish motive) does not bind people.

35. Karmaphala sanyasa (actions performed as an offering to God) also do not bind.

36. Karma sanyasa yoga means performing actions without desires as a sacrifice to God.

37. People, whose karma is not exhausted go to the ancestral world upon death and return after exhausting their karma.

38. People whose karma is fully resolved to the immortal world of Brahman upon death and never return.

39. All desire-ridden actions are induced by the triple gunas namely sattva, rajas and tamas.

40. The solution to karma is neither action nor inaction nor avoiding actions

41. One should never give upon obligatory actions, but only desire for their fruit.

42. A guru may neutralize the sinful karma of his disciples to help them on the path.

43. God can intervene and neutralize the karma of his dearest devotees and grant them liberation.

44. Karma is responsible for relationship and interactions with others.

45. Apart from individual karma, collective karma also plays an important role.

46. You keep interacting with certain people until you settle the karmic balance.

47. The purpose of karma is to teach lessons and facilitate self-purification and self-transformation

48. Knowingly or unknowingly you may become responsible for the karma of others.

49. Habitual actions and predominant desires become latent impressions in the mind.

50. Willful negligence of obligatory duties leads to sinful karma.

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