There is neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad’ karma

We often associate the concept of ‘karma’ with goodness or badness. For instance, doing a good deed would lead to the accumulation of good karma. On the other hand, doing something bad, such as actions to inflict hurt on another, would bring us bad karma. You may also have heard of the use of the phrase “karma points”, which in common parlance often refers to one’s reward for doing a good deed.

While the word ‘karma’ has become popularised in modern lingo, it has unfortunately lost its essence due to a lack of understanding of its concept. In Sanskrit, karma means an action or performance. It comes from the root, kri, meaning “to do”. On its own, karma has neither positive nor negative connotations.

The concept of karma may be further subdivided into three types of karma. First, sanchitta karma. In Sanskrit, ‘sanchitta’ means collected or accumulated. Sanchitta karma refers to actions and patterns in your past life which contribute to the tendencies in your present life.

Second, prarabdha karma. Prarabdha karma refers to one’s form or the nature of one’s body or appearance. We derive this form from our previous life. Actions in our previous lives shape our current form or appearance.   

Third, agamia karma. In Sanskrit, ‘agamia’ means coming or arriving. Have you ever heard the phrase, the future depends on what you do today or in the present? This is the essence of agamia karma – that your decisions or actions today will shape your future. Agamia karma essentially refers to our ability to think ahead and plan for our future. This is achieved by spiritual means (such as meditation). Meditation enables us to think ahead and in turn make meaningful decisions that contribute to the future. 

While one’s prarabdha karma is largely fixed and immutable, sanchitta karma can be changed by agamia karma. Through self-reflection, we become aware of our individual tendencies that arise from sanchitta karma. We can identify such tendencies and seek to change them in future through forward planning (agamia karma).

Thus, there is no such thing as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ karma. However, karma takes different forms – and these may either be changeable or unchangeable. Through meditation, our self-awareness is heightened – that is when we make better decisions to change our future, and where agamia karma kicks in to change our lives.         

Tan Tian Hui (August 2017, 200 Hr YTT)