karma or karman (kärˈmə, kärˈmən) [key], [Skt., = action, work, or ritual], basic concept common to Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. The doctrine of karma states that one's state in this life is a result of actions (both physical and mental) in past incarnations, and action in this life can determine one's destiny in future incarnations. Karma is a natural, impersonal law of moral cause and effect and has no connection with the idea of a supreme power that decrees punishment or forgiveness of sins. Karmic law is universally applicable, and only those who have attained liberation from rebirth, called mukti (or moksha ) or nirvana, can transcend it. Karma yoga (see yoga), the spiritual discipline of detachment from the results of action, is a famous teaching of the Bhagavad-Gita.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.