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“As you sow, so shall you reap” is a common phrase in life which concisely sums up the law of karma. Karma is the universal Hindu law of cause and effect which holds a person responsible for his or her actions and effects. According to one’s good or bad actions, Bhagwan rewards or punishes. The word ‘karma’ means human action or deed; we are constantly performing karmas whether physically, mentally, or emotionally. A person’s karma is responsible for good or bad consequences in his or her life. Nothing in this world happens accidentally or coincidentally; there is a reason behind everything though it may not be clear to us at that time. Good actions produce happiness and bad actions lead to suffering and misery in the present or next life. A person’s past actions govern his present, and his present actions have an effect on his future. This means that every person is, to a certain degree, the creator of his own destiny.

All of our karmas are performed in one of two ways. The first way is called nishkãm karma, when actions are performed without any expectation of material gain, ego, or material desires. Nishkãm karmas are only performed to fulfill one’s duties and please God. The second way is called sakãm karma, when actions are performed with an expectation of material desire or purpose. Bhagwan Swaminarayan taught the ideal of performing one’s karmas without the expectation of material gain. He stressed the need for an aspirant to have one desire – to please God even while performing nishkãm karma.

In Hindu Dharma there are 3 types of karmas:

  1. Kriyamãn karma are karmas being acquired every moment. The fruits of these karmas can be attained in this life, the next, or after many births.
  2. Sanchit karma is an accumulation of karmas containing the sum total of all a person’s karmas from one or many past lives. The fruits of these karmas are being experienced or have yet to be experienced.
  3. Prãrabdha karma is a part of one’s sanchit karma that is being experienced in this birth. For example, the attributes and conditions of one’s physical body and mental capacities are due to one’s prãrabdha karmas.

Bhagwan Swãminãrãyan has explained in His discourses that God has given every person the freedom of action, and therefore, he or she is responsible for performing karmas that either result in punya (merits) or pãp (sins). Furthermore, Bhagwan is the giver of the fruits of one’s good and bad karmas when He determines the consequences of one’s karmas. No karma by itself can produce or give results, but when Bhagwan so decides, only then can one experience its good or bad effects. The karma principle is not a self-operating system in which karmas automatically bring or give one results. This is because karmas by themselves are inanimate. 

Dharma

Dharma is the very foundation of life. It is moral law combined with spiritual discipline that guides one's life. Dharma means ‘that which holds,’ i.e., the people of this world and the whole of creation cannot exist without dharma to hold them in place. Dharma is an all-inclusive term used to mean righteousness, morality, religion, responsibility, and duty. Dharma includes the practice of religious disciplines and duties, such as honesty, brahmacharya, and non-violence. The purpose of dharma is not only to help one’s jiva come closer with Bhagwan, but it also suggests a code of conduct that is intended to secure both worldly joys and eternal bliss. The practice of dharma gives an experience of happiness, strength, and tranquility within one's self and makes life disciplined.

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