When people are happy and contented, they tend to take life for granted. It is when they suffer, when they find life difficulty, that they begin to search for a reason and a way out of their difficulty. They may ask why some are born in poverty and suffering, while others are born in fortunate circumstances. Some people believe that it is due to fate, chance, or an invisible power beyond their control. They feel that they are unable to live the life they desire so as to experience happiness always. Consequently , they become confused and desperate. However, the Buddha was able to explain why people differ in their circumstances and why some are more fortunate in life than others. The Buddha taught that one's present condition, whether of happiness or suffering, is the result of the accumulated force of all past actions or karma.
Definition of Karma
Karma is intentional action, that is, a deed done deliberately through body, speech or mind. Karma means good and bad volition (kusala Akusala Centana). Every volitional action (except that of a Buddha or of an Arahant) is called Karma. The Buddhas and Arahants do not accumulate fresh Karma as they have destroy all their passions.
In other words, Karma is the law of moral causation. It is action and reaction in the ethical realm. It is natural law that every action produces a certain effect. So if one performs wholesome actions such as donating money to charitable organisations, one will experience happiness. On the other hand, if one perform unwholesome actions, such ass killing a living being, one will experience suffering. This is the law of cause and effect at work. In this way, the effect of one's past karma determine the nature of one's present situation in life.
The Buddha said, "According to the seed that is sown,
So is the fruit you reap
The door of good will gather good result
The door of evil reaps evil result.
If you plant a good seed well,
Then you will enjoyed the good fruits."
Karma is a law itself. But it does not follow that there should be a law-giver. The law of Karma, too, demands no law giver. It operates in its own field without the intervention of an external, independent agency.
Principle of Cause and Effect
As one sows, so shall one reap. Every effect arises from a cause. Under certain conditions, a cause will come to an effect. This is a universal principle, on which Buddhist morality is based.
Here's a verse.
If you want to know the causes in your past life,
The way you live at present is the effect of your past life.
If you want to know what your future life will be,
What you do at present is the cause of your future life.
In the world, some beings are fortunate while others are less fortunate. Some are happy while others are less happy. Why?
The Buddha has specifically stated that Karma explains the differences between living beings. It is also Karma that explains the circumstances that living beings find themselves in.
Law of Karma
Karma is not fate nor predestination.
Literally, Karma means "action", "to do".
Action itself is considered neither good nor bad, but only the intention and thought make it so. Thus, Karma is an intentional, conscious, deliberate and wilful action. Karma is volition.
Every action must have a reaction, i.e. an effect. The truth applies both to physical world (expressed by the great physicist Newton) and to the moral world.
Law of Karma is an important application of the Principle of Cause and Effect in morality.
The denial of the Law will destroy all moral responsibility.
There are two kinds of Karma:
Good Karma (Kushala)
It means intelligent, or skillful. It refers to those intentional actions, which are beneficial to oneself and others, springing out from kindness, compassion, renunciation and wisdom.
Bad Karma (Akushala)
It means not intelligent, not skillful. It refers to those intentional action springing out from greed, hatred and illusion.
For unintentional actions, such as walking, sleeping, breathing, they have no moral consequences, thus constitute neutral Karma or ineffective Karma.
Rebirth in Six Paths
By practicing the Ten Good Deeds and Ten Meritorious Deeds, the fully ripened fruit of these wholesome actions consists of rebirth in the higher realms of happiness, i.e. Man, Asura and Deva.
Conversely, the full ripened fruit of the unwholesome action consists of rebirth in the lower realms of suffering, i.e. Hell, Hungry ghosts and Animals.
The effect of Karma may be evident either in short term or in the long term. Karma can either manifest its effects in this very life or in the next life or only after several lives.
Cause and Condition
Every cause has its effect. However, there must be conditions that are ripe for the effect. Karma, be it good or bad, can be affected by the conditions under which the actions are performed.
The conditions that determine the strength or weight of Karma apply to the subject and object of the action. Moreover, there are five conditions that modify the strength of Karma:
1. persistent, repeated action
2. action done with great intention and determination
3. action done without regret
4. action done towards those who possess extraordinary qualities
5. action done towards those who have benefited one in the past.
Though Buddhism stresses on Karma, it rejects fate. One should take good actions all the time, and let all good conditions arise so that:
1. evil retribution has little chance to come to an effect
2. good retribution becomes more and more significant in enhancing our lives in happiness and wellness.