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The Use of Karma in Hinduism and Buddhism
Article by: Yahoo
July 05, 2013

Karma in Hinduism and Buddhism does contain similarities to each other but also hold some differences from each other. Karma is an important feature in Hinduism and Buddhism. These religions would lack meaning without this concept. To understand why karma is so important in Hinduism and Buddhism, a definition of what this word actually means is needed. First Karma, according to the Wikipedia, is an action, a doing or what a person thinks or says ("Karma in Buddhism").
Another source says karma is a Sanskrit (sacred language of Hinduism and Buddhism) word that describes volitional acts and the forces that come about from these acts ("Karma and Rebirth). Huston Smith says karma is the moral law of cause and effect (Smith, 64). A good deed done to someone shall later bring a good result to you. Likewise, a bad deed done will then receive a bad consequence to come back to you. Hinduism and Buddhism use karma just like this but in a more permanent way than most people do. The followers of Hinduism and Buddhism believe that karma dictates the way their life will go. I will now explain how it is used to direct their life.

One way karma is used in Buddhism is to explain transmigration of souls and reincarnation. Buddha did not believe that a soul passes from one body to another, or also called anatta. Instead, he said there is a series of causes that connects each life to the next life. The way that our previous lives were led brings us to the way our current life is lived. This then may seem that we have no power over how our life will be lived which is untrue. Even though our life right now was produced from what acts were done in the past, our will is only influenced but still free. That is to say, we still have the freedom to form our own destinies. This process only says that the results from actions (ideas, impressions, feelings, streams of consciousness) will carry over the next life.

There is no soul that passes on. Buddha used an analogy about flames on a candle to describe this transmigration. Lighting a candle from the flame of another candle does not mean the original flame is on the latter candle. It only means the flame of the first candle caused the flame of the latter candle just as the actions of a previous life is the ignition to the next life. As the candle does not actually pass its flame on to the next candle, the previous life does not pass anything (a soul) on to its next life. Likewise, what an individual desires or feels is not caused because something was transported in the body, which had those desires and feelings.

An individual desires and dislikes is the effect of the people in the previous life, and that individual has the right to reject or accept these desires and dislikes. This individual also can create his or her own desires and dislikes. Karma used in the transmigration of Buddhism does not determine the future of a person. They are given it at first, but have the option of disconnecting from it (Smith, 115-116).

Buddhism uses karma as an ethical principal. It is a person's real (what they truly desired in their heart) intention rather than the intention they may physically display that determines the effect they will get back from their action in the future. For example, a child comes to your door on Halloween to get some candy and you tell the child you have none but actually do. Your intention for not giving any candy to the child was because of the consideration you had for that child's health. However, on the other hand, if you have candy to give to the child but say you do not and the reason you said that was because you wanted it all for yourself then you have acted out of greed. The act done out of consideration would lead to future well-being but the act done out of greed would cause unhappiness in the future ("Karma in Buddhism"). Also, if a person kills a deer because it ran right in front of his or her car, leaving no time to stop, then, even though killing living creatures is morally wrong in Buddhism, this would not be seen as a bad act.

Only if it is your intent to do a bad act then there will not be a negative consequence in your future. Another example of intention being used in the wrong way is by doing a good deed only because you know that it will benefit you in the future. Your motivation for this deed was selfish and therefore not actually considered a good deed ("Basics of Buddhism - Karma"). Buddhists believe there are no private actions. Since actions foretell your future, all actions have consequences. The Buddha says that wholesome actions should only be performed and that unwholesome actions should be avoided. The intention for karma in Buddhism is to guide and show you your present life and that self-effort is needed to improve your future. Karma aims to help you achieve perfection and self-conquest, Buddhism's ultimate goal ("Karma in Buddhism").

One way that karma is used in Hinduism is through karma yoga. Hinduism says there are yogas that an individual should practice to bring their spirit together with God (Smith, 27). Karma yoga is the path to God through work (Smith, 37). A person is born with so many karmas and actions (such as work) need to be performed to get rid of these karmas ("Karma and Yoga"). Its goal is to shrink the finite ego by taking away its nourishment or in other words, the consequences of actions. This can be achieved through jnana (path to God through knowledge) or bhakti (path to God through love/devoted service). In either approach, work can bring you to self-transcendence.

All actions that you perform for the outside world will bring you farther away from God. An act such as pouring tar on a gravel road to make it easier to drive on would be the pleasure only for yourself and therefore would create more distance between you and God. To become closer to God, acts need to be done unselfishly. Bhakti is best suited for the emotionally characterized individuals who want to achieve work unselfishly. This way aims to work in the essence of love. Work is done for the dedication of God and not for their own personal satisfaction. It is God's will that tells them to work and it is acted out through God's energy. The ego now becomes lightened through this action motivated by God. The worker has devotion to God as a mother would have devotion to work for the sole purpose of being able to provide necessities for her children.

The ego will no longer be large if the worker works for these reasons, knowing that it will be successful. The other way to succeed in Karma yoga is by following jnana, which is for those who work intellectually and are reflective. Work still should be done unselfishly in jnana but for the Infinite Being instead of God. People who are reflective tend to think the Infinite Being has more meaning than God being the center of the person. Work now needs to be done without the attachment to the physical self. You should not work for its' wealth because that increases the ego and isolates it more from the Infinite Being. Your purpose of work should be to become more in the mind state of the Infinite Being.

The worker should increasingly identify more with the infinite self and less with the finite self (Smith, 37-40). When no karma remains on the individual, he or she will finally become free from the rebirths ("Karma Yoga"). He or she should become numb from the acts of her finite self. Karma yogis will accomplish each duty with the attitude that it is their only duty and that there is no others to accomplish. They will stay focused on the duty at hand and not allow themselves to think of things that will distract them.

Every effort they have will be given to each task; otherwise, they will be labeled lazy, which would be a characteristic of selfishness. When there duty is done, they will no longer have any obligations to it and will let it take its own course. The yogis welcome loss, pain, and shame because they know it only helps them learn from their mistakes. During hectic and intense situations, they will remain calm (Smith, 40-41).

Karma in Hinduism also is part of the transmigration of the soul or reincarnation. Hinduism sees karma as an absolute and says the situations of our present life are what it has exactly wanted and done in the past. Our future experiences become created with the thoughts and decisions we are in right now. The acts that we do have a direct effect on ourselves.

With karma, individuals are responsible for the future they make of themselves through their acts in the present. People get what they deserve and have no right blaming others for what mistakes they have made. Every decision has its own consequence but you have your own will to make those decisions. The consequences from the decisions you make will determine the present therefore a soul is guided by the choices it makes and these choices form because the soul has wants and wills.

The soul at first wants to explore and enjoy its senses but this soon becomes uninteresting. Then it wants to have wealth, fame, and power but eventually this becomes unsatisfying too. The soul then finds interest in duty for the community but once again, the interest is soon lost. Then it is realized that the only thing that can satisfy a soul for an unending amount of time is something that is infinite and eternal.

Karma contains the consequences that the soul actually wants. The soul moves upward through these wants, releasing its attachment from physical things, stimuli, and self-interest. Through this release of the physical world, we become closer to the infinite being. The soul holds Atman (the God) throughout this journey. Atman holds human existence and awareness. Though it is never seen, heard, or thought, it is always there. God's warmth is the true and final cause of the soul's actions to give itself to Him (Smith, 64-67).

After thorough examination of karma used in Hinduism and Buddhism, I would conclude that the basic concept on karma in Hinduism and Buddhism is the same. They both believe that your present actions hold your future. If you perform many good deeds, then you should expect fulfilling consequences and a great future. Likewise, you will have a lot of unfulfilling consequences and an unhappy future if you do many bad deeds in your present life. Hinduism uses karma more throughout their religion than Buddhism. They take it as more of a way to life. Buddhism does that too but it seems that it is not quite to the extremes as Hinduism. I do not think karma is necessary in all religions.

In Buddhism and Hinduism, I think it is because they base their religions on karma. If these two religions did not have karma, I think there religion would probably be not so popular and would not contain much meaning anymore. It is useful to religions in the sense that it probably makes people become more wholesome so they end up with positive consequences and a future. Personally, I would not like to live my life like that because not everyone can act good all the time.

There is eventually going to be a situation or a person who is going to make you do something bad. Then you will have to live with the consequences that come because of what you had done. It does not allow for normal feelings and attitudes. I would find it quite hard to resist my urge of bad energy all the time. There needs to be an outlet for negativism because eventually you will probably burst from it all contained inside you. Overall, Karma would not be useful to religions, unless the goal is to fill everybody up with negative energy.

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Posted By: HilsNValls | 7/05/13 3:58 PM
I don't really believe in Buddhist or Hindu "Karma" per say. BUT I do believe that your actions have consequences.
Posted By: amazinggracey | 7/10/13 11:43 AM
I agree with this. I believe ever action has a reaction and depending on the good or bad of that action will cause a negative or positive reaction.
Posted By: RightrBehindU | 7/09/13 8:56 PM
To me karma is cause and affect. If you cause me to take effect I will!
Posted By: Melly0917 | 7/10/13 3:37 PM
I like the idea that you dont just end life when you die you just transition to another place peacefully

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