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Theory of Karma: Karma Theory Explained.

As a student, you have seen that some students do very well in class even when they don't study, while others struggle to maintain their good grades in spite of studying very hard. In the same way, you might have heard that for some people the money come easily, while others cannot even find a job. You might have also heard that some people stay sick all the time, while others never get sick. You might have heard someone live over a hundred years, while someone dies as a young child. Everybody is looking for an answer to this strange disparity. Some may say it is God's will, others may say it is his luck, and so on. Jainism says everything happens due to the result of our past doings. You reap what you sow and no God or someone else can make this happen or change.

We and only we are the reason for our suffering or happiness. This can be explained by the theory of Karma. Therefore, it is very important that we understand this process very clearly. It also explains what karmas are, why and what role karmas play in our life (with soul), and how do we accumulate different kinds of karmas as well as how we get rid of them.

If you sit back and think, then you will realize that you are doing something all the time. Sometimes you might be talking or listening if you are not doing anything physically or you might be thinking. So you are always busy doing something. This is our nature. These activities may involve harm to others or help others. We do not realize that everything we do brings karmas to our souls. When these karmas are mature that is when they are ready to depart from the soul that process results in happiness or suffering in our lives. This is how karmas are responsible for our happiness or suffering.

Bondage of Karmas.

Karmas are the derivatives of the Karman particles. The Karman particles are made up of non-living matter (pudgals). They are scattered and floating all over the universe (Lok). They are very very fine particles and we are neither able to see them with our eyes or with the regular microscope. A cluster of such innumerable Karman particles is called a Karman vargana. The Karman varganas is one of the eight kinds of pudgal varganas. The Karman vargana has the most subtle particles. When the soul acts with a passion like aversion or attachment; or anger, greed, ego, or deceitfulness, it attracts this Karman varganas to itself. When these Karman varganas get attached to the soul, they are called karmas. Karmas are classified into eight categories depending upon their nature. The karmas can be good (Punya) or bad (Pap). The good karmas are the result of good or pious activities while bad karmas are the result of bad or sinful activities.

PROCESS OF THE BONDAGE (BANDH) OF THE KARMAS Once again as said earlier, whenever, we think, talk or do something, Karman varganas are attracted to our soul and get attached to it and these Karman varganas are then called the karmas. This process is also called the bondage of karmas to the soul. When our activities are unintentional or without any passions, these karmas are called the Dravya Karmas. On the other side, when our activities are intentional or with passions, like anger, ego, greed, and deceit these karmas are called the Bhava Karmas. The passions work as the gluing factors, and that is why the bhava karmas stay for a longer time with the soul while dravya karmas fall off almost immediately and easily from the soul.

Our activities are:
  1. physical,
  2. verbal or
  3. mental
We further do these activities in three different ways,
  1. We do the activities ourselves,
  2. We ask someone else to do for us, or
  3. We encourage someone else to carry on these activities.
Thus, in different combinations, we do our activities in nine different ways that cause bondage of the karmas to the soul. At the time of the bondage of karmas to the soul, the following four characteristics are determined about the karmas. They are:

Nature of Karmas.

What Kind of (Nature) Karmas will these be?
  1. How many Karma particles (Quantity) will attach?
  2. How long (Duration) will these karmas stay with the soul?
  3. How strong (Intensity) will be the bondage of these karmas?
The nature and the quantity of the bondage of the karmas depend on the vigor of activities while the duration and the intensity of the bondage of the karmas depend on the intensity of the desires behind those activities.

Depending upon the nature of the results of the karmas, they are grouped into eight types. They are:
  1. Knowledge-Obscuring (Jnanavarniya) Karma
  2. Perception-Obscuring (Darshanavarniya) Karma
  3. Obstructive (Antaräy) Karma
  4. Deluding (Mohniya) Karma
  5. Feeling-Producing (Vedniya) Karma
  6. Body-Determining (Nam) Karma
  7. Status-Determining (Gotra) Karma
  8. Age-Determining (Ayushya) Karma
These eight karmas are also grouped into two categories,
  1. Destructive (Ghati) Karmas
  2. Non-destructive (Aghati) Karmas
Ghati means destruction. Those karmas that destroy the true nature of the Soul are called destructive or ghati karmas. Those karmas that do not destroy the true nature of the soul, but only affect the body in which the soul resides are called non-destructive or Aghati karmas. The first four types of karmas from the above list are destructive (ghati) karmas, and the last four are non-destructive (aghati) karmas.

If the physical vigor of our activities is weak, then we accumulate a smaller number of Karman particles, but if the physical vigor is stronger, then we accumulate larger number of Karman particles on our soul.

Duration of the karmic particles on the soul is decided by how intense are our desires at the time of our activities. If the desire for the activity is mild, then the duration of the bondage will be for a short time, but on the other side of the desire is stronger, then the duration of the bondage will be for a long time. The minimum time could be a fraction of a second and a maximum time could be thousands or even millions of years.

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 strong is the resulting bondage; the greater the intensity the stronger the resulting bondage. The intensity of the bondage of the karmas to the soul is described in four different levels.
  1. Loose Bondage: This would be like a loose knot in the shoestring which can easily be untied. Same way, the Karmas which are attached loose to the soul could be easily untied (shed off) by simple things like repentance.
  2. Tight Bondage: This would be a tight knot that needs some efforts to untie it. Same way, the Karmas which are attached tight to the soul could be untied (Shed off) with some efforts like the atonement.
  3. Tighter Bondage: This would be a tighter knot that needs too much effort to untie it. Same way, the Karmas which are attached tighter to the soul could be untied (Shed off) with special efforts like the austerities.
  4. Tightest Bondage: This would be a knot that could not be untied no matter how hard you work at it. Same way, the Karmas which are attached so tight to the soul would not shed off by any kind of efforts but we would have to bear their results to shed off.
There are a few terms, which we should know, are related to the bondage and the manifestation of the karmas.
  1. Bandh means when the bondage of the karmas to the soul happens.
  2. Uday means when the karmas mature at their own set time and manifest their results. (As the karmas mature and give the results they fall off the soul.)
  3. Udirana means when the karmas are brought to the maturity prior to their set time of maturity with active efforts like penance, active sufferings, etc.
  4. Satta means when the karmas are bonded with the soul in the dormant form and are yet to mature.
  5. Abadhakal means the duration of the bondage of the karmas to the soul. It starts from the time of their bondage to the soul until their maturity.
Many of us do nothing special but just wait for accumulated karmas to mature (to produce their results) and fall off thinking that they can't do anything about them. But by understanding udirna, we should realize that we can do something to our accumulated karmas. We don't have to wait for them to fall off themselves if we want to accelerate our progress. Because we can get rid of accumulated karmas ahead of their due time by special efforts. This means we have control over our own destiny (to liberate) and it is us not God or someone else who decides when that will happen. Now it may be clearer why many people follow austerities or take up monkshood or nunhood.


The thoughts above are dedicated to all my teachers who pampered me like anything. I was a very mischeavious student but still they gave me best grades. I am nothing without my teachers. I am indebted to all my teachers forever.

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