Karma is action, its cause, and effect. There is no uncaused action, nor action without effect. The past, the present, and the future are linked together as one whole. The iccha, jnana, and kriya saktis manifest in the jivatma living on the worldly plane as desire, knowledge, and action. As the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad says:
“Man is verily formed of desire. As is his desire, so is his thought. As is his thought, so is his action. As is his action, so his attainment. “(1) These fashion the individual’s karma. “He who desires goes by work to the object on which his mind is set. “(2) ” As he thinks, so he becometh,” (3)
Then, as to action, “whatsoever a man sows that shall he reap.” The matter is not one of punishment and reward, but of consequence, and the consequence of action is but a part of it. If anything is caused, its result is caused, the result being part of the original action, which continues, and is transformed into the result. The jivatma experiences happiness for his good acts and misery for his evil ones. (4)
Karma is of three kindsâ€”viz., samcita-karmaâ€”that is, the whole vast accumulated mass of the unexhausted karma of the past, whether good or bad; which has still to be worked out. This past karma is the cause of the character of the succeeding births, and, as such, is called samskara, or vasana, The second form of karma is prarabdha, or that part of the first which is ripe, and which is worked out and bears fruit in the present birth. The third is the new karma, which man is continually making by his present and future actions, and is called vartamana and agami, (5) The embodied soul (jivatma), whilst in the samsara or phenomenal world, is by its nature ever making present karma and experiencing the past. Even the Devas themselves are subject to time and karma. (6) By his karma a jiva may become an Indra. (7)
Karma is thus the invisible (adrsta), the product of ordained or prohibited actions capable of giving bodies. It is either good or bad, and altogether these are called the impurity of action (karma-mala). Even good action, when done with a view to its fruits, can never secure liberation. Those who think of the reward will receive benefit in the shape of that reward. Liberation is the work of S’iva-Sakti, and is gained only by brahmajnana, the destruction of the will to separate life, and realization of unity with the Supreme. All accompanying action must be without thought of self. With the cessation of desire the tie which binds man to the samsara is broken. According to the Tantra, the sadhana and acara (q. v.) appropriate to an individual depends upon his karma. A man’s tendencies, character and temperament is moulded by his samcita karma. As regards prarabdha-karma, it is unavoidable. Nothing can be done but to work it out. Some systems prescribe the same method for men of diverse tendencies. But the Tantra recognizes the force of karma, and moulds its methods to the temperament produced by it.
The needs of each vary, as also the methods which will be the best suited to each to lead them to the common goal, Thus, forms of worship which are permissible to the vira are forbidden to the pasu. The guru must determine that for which the sadhaka is qualified (adhikari).
1. Chapter IV, iv, 5.
2. Chapter IV, iv. 6.
3. Chandogya Upanisad, III, xiv, I.
4. Mah3:bharata, S’anti-Parva, cci. 23, ccxi, 12.
5. Devi-Bhagavata. VI. x, 9, 12, 13, 14.
6. So it is said;
Narnastat karmabhyo vidhirapi na yebhyah prabhavati, and
Tepi kalesu liyante kalo hi balavattarah,
7. Devi Bhagavata IX, xxvii, 18-20.