What are the types of karma

Yoga Philosophy: The Principles of Karma and Dharma

"It is better to fulfill the prescribed duties, even if they have some flaws, than to fulfill someone else's duties perfectly." - Bhagavad Gita (chapter 3, verse 35)

“What goes around comes around” is a saying that many people compare to the term karma. What does karma really mean in Indian philosophy? Did you know that there are different types of karma? After reading this blog you will understand the difference between the types of karma, what karma yoga means according to the Bhagavad Gita, and how important this ancient principle is to our lives.

What is karma

karma can be literally translated as "action". It refers to the metaphysical law that every action reacts the same. This reaction can take place either immediately or at a later point in time. Indian philosophy is characterized by the concept of infinity, which implies reincarnation and rebirth. Hence, these karmic reactions are lifelong. Actions that are good or virtuous have good reactions, and actions that are bad or malicious have the opposite effect.

Different types of karma

Karma is determined by the accumulation of virtuous and malevolent actions that form a chain of cause and effect.

Swami Sivananda explained that there is no end to this chain. You can think of a tree and its seeds: a seed is a cause for the tree to grow, which is the effect. The tree produces seeds and in turn becomes the cause. The cause lies in the effect and the effect lies in the cause. It's infinite.

In this infinite chain, three types of karma can be distinguished: past karma (Sanchit Karma), present karma (Prarabdha Karma) and future karma (Agami karma).

  • Past karma is all the accumulated karma from the past. It can be seen in a person's character, tendencies and abilities, abilities and desires. You can think of past karma that affects the person right at birth and incorporates past life karma into the new life cycle.
  • Present karma is what happens during the current life cycle. It cannot be avoided or changed; Past actions require an equal and opposite response at this point in the chain.
  • Future karma is the effect of present actions on the ongoing chain of reactions. This part of karma can be changed or influenced by the choices you make. Again, whether these decisions are virtuous or evil depends on the Dharma.

Morality in the Bhagavad Gita

The Bhagavad Gita is a basic text of Indian philosophy that describes the battle of the warrior Arjuna and his family with the help of the Hindu god Krishna. Arjuna asks Krishna why he should fight in battle, why he should fight his brothers and uncle. The entire discourse of the Bhagavad Gita in which Shri Krishna explains to Arjuna why he must fight is essentially about what is right and wrong with respect to karmic duty or Dharma.

Krishna leads him through the battle and shows that fighting is the right action because Arjuna's duty as a warrior is to fight for the good of a larger society. He should act on his dharma instead of being guided by his emotional ties with the family. Each person's actions in the same situation may differ depending on the Dharma. Not acting according to one's Dharma is wrong and is called Adharma.

So what is defined as good or bad karma depends on your “Dharma”.

The principles of Dharma

Dharma can be described as "duty" or "morality". You can think of Dharma as the force that maintains order and justice in society. What is right or wrong, good or bad, is not the same for everyone.

For each person, their Dharma depends on four principles:

  • Rita Dharma is connected to the greater forces of nature and the universe. Each period of time and space has its own effect on a larger scale.
  • Varna Dharma includes duties at the social and community level. Each person has specific responsibilities at this level.
  • Ashrama Dharma refers to changes in duties throughout the life cycle. What is appropriate varies by age.
  • Sva Dharma works on the smallest scale, the inner world of the individual. Sva-Dharma is about actions and intentions in the ego and mind.

All of these four different principles of morality are related to a person's karma. The tasks that you should perform depend on previous actions and require a balancing effect in this life.

Therefore, different people have different duties and obligations, which are determined by factors such as their age, time period, social position, and past actions. Everyone has their individual Dharma and determines which actions are right or wrong depending on their duty.

Our choices and duties in life

As you can see, karma is not just about what happens to you, as is popularly believed. It works on a more subtle level by dictating the decisions and responsibilities you have in a given situation. Good past karma offers more choice than bad past karma. The current karma determines the moment to make these decisions. Future karma is influenced by the decisions you make.

The idea that you have options to choose from implies that you are responsible for your actions and how they affect your karma. It holds you accountable and also empowers you to change in a positive direction. You are responsible for your own well-being and suffering, for your own present and future condition. If you make the right decisions, sooner or later it will bear fruit.

What is the right choice that is sometimes difficult to distinguish? The principle of bonding can be helpful here. Attachment comes from the ego and includes the things you like or dislike. Although you would like to get your chores done, don't act accordingly because it They like.

An example of this could be an obligation to volunteer. You make an effort to do your job well, even if you may not like all of the tasks. But in the end, you devote your time and energy to something greater than yourself. For this reason, Karma Yoga is sometimes referred to as "selfless service". Duties that will help you become free from the ego.

Liberation from the endless cycle

Karma is lifelong. It leads to an endless cycle of birth and rebirth, with the consequences of actions in previous lives returning to the present. These past live consequences will be Called samsara .

According to the yogic philosophy, you can be freed from this cycle. Exemption or Moksha is actually the ultimate goal of yoga. By practicing yoga, especially the Yamas & Niyamas (moral codes & observances), as well as meditation, you can balance your karmic account and free yourself from the cycle of life and death.

You cannot choose the karma that you have from previous lives or from previous lives. But you can choose your actions in the present and in the future.


In summary, karma refers to an endless chain of actions and reactions. Which actions are right depends on your dharma, your duties in life. Your duties as well as your decisions are determined by past karma and inevitably come back to the present.

But you can influence your future karma by making virtuous decisions now! Virtuous decisions are those that will help you perform your duties in the best possible way without your ego or attachment being involved. When all karma is balanced, liberation takes place; You are free from the cycle of birth and rebirth.

About the author

Ram is the founding director of Arhanta Yoga Ashrams in India and the Netherlands. Born in New Delhi, India, into a traditional and spiritual family, began his training in yoga and Vedic philosophy at the age of eight as part of his primary school education

In the last 10 years the Arhanta Yoga Ashrams have become internationally known for their professional yoga teacher training in India and Europe and to date have trained over 4000 trained yoga teachers from all over the world.

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