ਕਰਮ - KARMA

ਜੇਵੇਹੇ ਕਰਮ ਕਮਾਵਦਾ ਤੇਵੇਹੇ ਫਲਤੇ ॥: Jevehe karma kamaavadaa tevehe phalate:
One obtains fruits according to the deeds which he does (sggs 317).

The word Karma is derived from the Sanskrit root "kr", which means "to do". Every action is Karma; physical or mental. If the Karma or action is the "cause", it's result will be the "effect". Accordingly, from a metaphysical standpoint, Karma also means the effects of previous actions.

All beings are under the influence of Maya's three qualities namely Raajas (mode of passion), Taamas (mode of ignorance), and Saatav (mode of goodness). Always present together in varying mix and degrees, these three qualities of Maya bind the Soul to the body and to the earth plane. Above these three qualities is the Hukam. Due to the influence of three modes of Maya's nature, Jeeva (individual beings) perform activities under the control and purview of the Hukam. These activities are called Karma.

The Gurbani states that all are under the purview of the Hukam. That also includes Karma.

  • ਹੁਕਮੈ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਸਭੁ ਕੋ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਹੁਕਮ ਨ ਕੋਇ ॥: Hukamai andari sabhu ko baahari hukam na koi: Everyone is subject to Hukam; no one is beyond (exempt or outside of) Hukam. (sggs 1).
  • ਹੁਕਮੇ ਕਰਮ ਕਮਾਵਣੇ ਪਇਐ ਕਿਰਤਿ ਫਿਰਾਉ ॥: Hukme karam kamaavane paiai kirati phiaaou (sggs 66).

But, we humans alos have responsibility. That is, to listen to our Inner Voice (ਅੰਤਰ ਆਤਮਾ ਦੀ ਅਵਾਜ, the Voice of the Haakam or His Hukam...), to follow our Bibek-Budhi (discerning or discriminating intellect), be established in our Mool within (Source, Origin, Jot...) which is all ਸਚ (Truth, Pure Consciousness...), to earnestly engage in Shabad-Vichaar to attain Divine Knowledge (Aatam-Giaan...), and so on.

In other words, the Gurbani asks us to sow the seed of Naam in this Khet (field) of the body, so that we may attain Giaan (Divine Knowledge) to Realize the Mool (Source, Origin, Haakam...) that resides within.

The implication is that if we do all that the Gurbani asks us to do, our thughts (Mann), Speach (Bachan), and actions (Karam) will be influenced accordingly, which will also affect the outcome or effects of our efforts.

Otherwise we humans have no resposibility! We cannot get off that easily!

The law of physics states that the action and reaction are equal and act in the opposite direction. This is a universal fact. Similarly,  If there is a cause, there is an effect. If there is a Karma or activity (cause), there is a reaction or result (effect). This is the underlying principle, which brings back the effects of one's actions to him. According to the Gurbani, there is no escape from it.

  • ਜੇਵੇਹੇ ਕਰਮ ਕਮਾਵਦਾ ਤੇਵੇਹੇ ਫਲਤੇ ॥: Jevehe karma kamaavadaa tevehe phalate: One obtains fruits according to the deeds which he does (sggs 317).
  • ਕਿਰਤੁ ਪਇਆ ਨਹ ਮੇਟੈ ਕੋਇ ॥: Kirat payiaa na metai koi: Past actions cannot be erased (sggs 154).
  • ਜੇਹਾ ਬੀਜੈ ਸੋ ਲੁਣੈ ਕਰਮਾ ਸੰਦੜਾ ਖੇਤੁ ॥: Jehaa beejai so lunai karma sandarhaa khetu (sggs 134).
  • ਦਦੈ ਦੋਸੁ ਨ ਦੇਊ ਕਿਸੈ ਦੋਸੁ ਕਰੰਮਾ ਆਪਣਿਆ ॥ ਜੋ ਮੈ ਕੀਆ ਸੋ ਮੈ ਪਾਇਆ ਦੋਸੁ ਨ ਦੀਜੈ ਅਵਰ ਜਨਾ ॥: Daddai dos na deyoo kisai dos krammaa aapaniaa. Jo mai keeaa so mai paaiaa dos na deejai avar janaa (sggs 433).

This life is likened to a field (Khet) in which our Karma or efforts is the seed. We harvest exactly what we sow. No less, no more. Whatever seeds of Karma we sow, some sprout tomorrow, some the day after, others only years later.  But they will sprout for sure.

This infallible law of Karma holds everyone responsible for what he is or going to be. Based on the total sum of our efforts, some feel close to the Mool (Source...) in this life, and others feel separated or far apart.

  • ਆਪਿ ਬੀਜਿ ਆਪੇ ਹੀ ਖਾਇ ॥: Aap beej aapae hee khaai: As we plant, so we harvest and eat (sggs 25).
  • ਕਿਰਤਿ ਕਰਮ ਕੇ ਵੀਛੁੜੇ ਕਰਿ ਕਿਰਪਾ ਮੇਲਹੁ ਰਾਮ ॥ ਚਾਰਿ ਕੁੰਟ ਦਹ ਦਿਸ ਭ੍ਰਮੇ ਥਕਿ ਆਏ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਕੀ ਸਾਮ ॥: Kirat karam ke veeshurre kar kirapaa melahu raam. Chaar kunt dah dis bhrame thaki aaye prabh kee saam (sggs 133).
  • ਕਰਮੀ ਆਪੋ ਆਪਣੀ ਕੇ ਨੇੜੈ ਕੇ ਦੂਰਿ ॥: (sggs 8).

There is a very popular expression in the west which goes like this: "What goes around, comes around". This expression, in fact, is nothing but the immutable law of Karma. According to this law, whatever one does always comes back to him to be worked out later. We reap what we sow.

According to the law of Karma, all of us since countless ages are engaged in creating Karma. At the same time, in accordance with the law of action and reaction, we are also incurring reactions or debts. Every debt must be paid off by the doer sooner or later. Often with heavy penalties and interest! When it comes to paying off the debts, nobody else can substitute for us. This is the law of nature.

Karma is considered to be the cause for the manifested body. Out of material consciousness or false ego, a person attached to body-consciousness performs both good and bad actions, which create Dharma (righteousness) and Adharma (unrighteousness). Dharma produces real Joy and Adharma produces sorrows.

  • ਅਹਿ ਕਰੁ ਕਰੇ ਸੁ ਅਹਿ ਕਰੁ ਪਾਏ ਕੋਈ ਨ ਪਕੜੀਐ ਕਿਸੈ ਥਾਇ ॥੩॥: Ahi karu kare su ahi karu paaye koee na pakarreeai kisai thaai ||3||: As we act, so are the rewards we receive; no one can take the place of another ||3|| (sggs 406).
  • ਕਰਮੀ ਆਵੈ ਕਪੜਾ ਨਦਰੀ ਮੋਖੁ ਦੁਆਰੁ ॥: Karamee aavai kaparraa nadaree mokh duaar: By the past Karma the robe of this physical body is obtained. By Divine Grace the Gate of Liberation is found (sggs 2).
  • ਹਉਮੈ ਸਭੁ ਸਰੀਰੁ ਹੈ ਹਉਮੈ ਓਪਤਿ ਹੋਇ ॥: Haumai sabh sareer hai haumai opati hoi: Ego is within all the bodies; and through ego the beings are born (sggs 560).
This law of Karma, for example, is responsible for man's repeatedsuffering. In this regard, one's mentality or state of being at the last moment is important. Whatever one thinks at the last moment depends on what he practiced throughout his life. In other words, whatever we practice in our entire life will determine our consciousness at the time of the death. For example, if one cultivates God-Consciousness throughout his life, he will die in such Pure Consciousness, and he will immediately be liberated from further transmigration. On the contrary, if one has cultivated the mentality of a fruitive worker (Mayaic effprts) throughout his life, he will naturally die in material-consciousness. As a result, he will have to take another body (based on his Karma) to suffer the consequences of thinking he thus created for himself.
  • ਜਿਤੁ ਲਾਗੋ ਮਨੁ ਬਾਸਨਾ ਅੰਤਿ ਸਾਈ ਪ੍ਰਗਟਾਨੀ ॥: Jit laago manu baasanaa anti saaee pragattaanee: That Vaasnaa, to which the mind is attached, at the last moment, becomes manifest (sggs 242).
As the scriptures tell us, one who dies in Manmukh consciousness (false ego-sense or Haume) transmigrates until all Karma are burnt. During this process, one's present body and activities become the background for the future and next life. According to scriptures, it is one's Karma that decides the place of birth, family, environment, etc. Hence the present is a product of the past, with the present Karma providing the blueprint for the future. The future is never a continuum of the past. The future is remolded under the pressure of present Karma.
  • ਸੰਜੋਗੀ ਆਇਆ ਕਿਰਤੁ ਕਮਾਇਆ ਕਰਣੀ ਕਾਰ ਕਰਾਈ ॥: Sanjogee aaiaa kirt kamaaiaa karnaee kaar karaaee: (sggs 75).
Physical death is not the end of Cosmic Drama (Leelaa). When we leave this world, our Karma or accounts go with us. Eeach Soul is required to settle its own accounts. For that reason, the Soul has to return to material world to reap what it has sown. This constitutes the birth-death cycle, also referred to as reincarnation, Awaagavan (coming and going) or Lakh-Chauraasee (the wheel of 8.4-million). No one can escape from this Karmic wheel of repeated pain and delusion. Everyone must pay off the old scores. Hence reincarnation depends on one's Karma.
  • ਨਾਨਕ ਕਮਾਣਾ ਸੰਗਿ ਜੁਲਿਆ ਨਹ ਜਾਇ ਕਿਰਤੁ ਮਿਟਾਇਆ ॥੧॥: Nanak kamaanaa sang juliaa nah jaai kirat mitaaiaa: Nanak, only your actions will go with you; the consequences of your actions cannot be erased (sggs 460).
Karma performed in material consciousness create tendencies (Vaasnaas), which seek their exhaustion through further actions. For which, man moves from one field of activities to another within the span of his life; creating unending barrage of more Vaasnaas in the process.

Thus, Karma can never release our personality from its misapprehension. Accordingly, throughout the Gurbani, we are urged to do only certain things and refrain from doing others. What it means is that God has given us the free will to choose and act.  Because of this free will, we have the control over choosing our Karma. However, we have no control over the fruits of our chosen Karma. If we did, we would not be suffering. Nobody wants to suffer. We all want to be happy. Yet the entire world suffers. It is due to the fact that the fruits of our actions are not in our hands.

  • ਦੁਖੁ ਸੁਖੁ ਦੀਆ ਜੇਹਾ ਕੀਆ ਸੋ ਨਿਬਹੈ ਜੀਅ ਨਾਲੇ ॥: Dukh sukh deeaa jehaa keeaa so nibahai jeea naale: God bestows pain and pleasure, according to the deeds done; the record of these actions stays with the Soul (sggs 581).
God, Maya, the Spirit Soul, and the time are all eternal and interrelated. On the other hand, the Karma is not eternal. It is so because we can change our activities if we want to, thereby we can change the results of our actions or Karma.

What we consistently cultivate in our mind determines our character-formation and, ultimately, our destiny. As the mind is both originating and informing dynamic force, obviously, an intelligent choice of thoughts should change the character-formation in us. Apparently, the entire destiny of one's life is, in fact, in his own hands.

Thus, man is not the creature of his circumstances. He is the architect of his own fate. He can choose either the Mayaic Karma or the Karma of engaging in the Shabad-Vichaar. The choice is in his hands. The important thing the Gurbani urges us to remember is that the Mayaic efforts will bring the reactions (debts), while the Shabad-Vichaar will bring us face to face with our Mool (Source...). There is no deviation or escape from the reactions. This is the essence of the whole matter.

  • ਕਰਮਾ ਉਪਰਿ ਨਿਬੜੈ ਜੇ ਲੋਚੈ ਸਭੁ ਕੋਇ ॥: Karma upper nibrai je lochai sabh koi: According to one's actions, his destiny unfolds, even though everyone wants to be so lucky (sggs 157).
  • ਬੀਜੁ ਬੋਵਸਿ ਭੋਗ ਭੋਗਹਿ ਕੀਆ ਅਪਣਾ ਪਾਵਏ ॥: Beej bovas bhog bhogahi keeaa apanaa pavae: As are the seeds one plants, so are the fruits; he receives the consequences of his own efforts (sggs 705).
Most of our Karmas are collective. Our lives are interwoven with the thread of the All-pervading Self; also called the Divine Love. It is this Divine Love that brings harmony between souls. As such, the influence of our daily actions and behavior spreads in ever-widening circles. Consequently, as our lives are interwoven, we also suffer from each other's sins.

Also called God's "rod" or "Dandaa", Karma is the ultimate discipliner. Everyone of us in this human form is given the invitation to end the repeated suffering. The answer to suffering-free life lies in living a Karma-free life. As the life is nothing but a series of actions, can one possibly live a Karma-free life? The Gurbani shows us the simple and sure way.

  • ਗੁਰ ਕਾ ਸਬਦੁ ਕਾਟੈ ਕੋਟਿ ਕਰਮ ॥੩॥੧॥: Gur ka Shabad kaatai koti karam ||3||1||: The Guru's Shabad eradicates millions of (past bad) Karma ||3||1|| (sggs 1195).
We can satisfy all our previous Karma with Divine Knowledge (Aatam-Giaan) cultivated through the Shabad-Vichaar. By the inner surrender of the falsehood unto the Mool within, one becomes free from Mayaic efforts. To put it otherwise, for one who acts Aatam-Giaan (Gurmat), there is no accounting of Karma. By submitting to God's Will or Hukam within, and becoming Shabad-Conscious, one ceases to create Mayaic actions.
  • ਚਉਥੇ ਸੁੰਨੈ ਜੋ ਨਰੁ ਜਾਣੈ ਤਾ ਕਉ ਪਾਪੁ ਨ ਪੁੰਨੰ ॥ ਘਟਿ ਘਟਿ ਸੁੰਨ ਕਾ ਜਾਣੈ ਭੇਉ ॥ ਆਦਿ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਨਿਰੰਜਨ ਦੇਉ ॥: Chayuthai sunnai jo nar jaanai taa kayu paap na punnam. Ghatt ghat sunn kaa jaanai bheyu. Aadi purakh niranjan deyu: One who is established in the Fourth State (beyond Maya), is not subject to vice or virtue (Paap or Punn). One who knows the mystery of God the Absolute, who pervades each and every heart, he himself becomes the manifestation of the Primal Being, the Immaculate Divine God (sggs 943).
  • ਗੋਬਿੰਦ ਕੀ ਟਹਲ ਸਫਲ ਇਹ ਕਾਂਇਆ ॥: Gobind kee tahal safal ih kaaniaa: Working for God, the body becomes fruitful (sggs 202).
The life is a series of different situations and related challenges and experiences, demanding appropriate response from individuals. When the response to a given experience is based on the Gurmat (Aatam Giaan...), the challenge is met and the problem is removed. Consequently, there will be no accounting for that action since there is no reaction to such Karma. But if the response to a given situation is Mayaic, there will be the reaction of that Karma; because the challenge is not met and the problem remains. The edict of the Gurbani is to respond to situations and related challenges according to the Gurmat (Aatam Giaan...), which will set us free from Karmic (pronounced Kaarmic) reactions.

— T. Singh