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)


Yoga Philosophy in a Nutshell

By Elaine Ee
Coming across yoga philosophy for the first time can be a little bewildering. For the uninitiated, yoga philosophy can feel like an abstract universe of esoteric concepts with unpronounceable Sanskrit names. Yet it can be made straightforward and concrete. Here are five key ideas to get you going.
#1: Don’t forget the other 7 limbs of yoga
Yoga is not just about getting into postures like a pretzel. In fact, Asana practice—which how the modern world defines yoga—is only one component of one path of yoga.
Before this gets too confusing—let’s start with what yoga is. Yoga means union—of body, mind and spirit. There are four paths to this union: Karma yoga, which put simply means doing deeds without any intention (or expectation); Bhakti yoga, which is a devotional form of yoga; Jnana yoga, which is acute self-reflection and the study of philosophy; and Raja yoga—also known as Ashtanga yoga, which is the control of the mind.
Practice of Asanas is one part, or limb, of Raja yoga, and there are seven other limbs. Without sounding like a laundry list, the seven, in this order, are: Yamas and Niyamas (living a ethical, pure life), Pranayama (controlling the life force), Pratyahara (detachment from the senses), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation) and, the final stage, Samadhi (attainment of a super state of consciousness). Asanas is the third of the eight limbs, and means holding steady poses to still the body, to in turn still the mind.
Only when all eight limbs are viewed together is a yoga practice whole. So take your practice beyond the classroom, and into your life and live the eight limbs.
#2: Prana is the master teacher
In most yoga classes, the instructor will ask the students to do Pranayama—the fourth limb of yoga—which most will understand as breathing exercises. But what is ‘prana’ exactly? It’s more than just inhaling and exhaling oxygen and carbon dioxide—it is the life force, the vital energy that courses through your mind and body, that keeps you ticking and allows you to be balanced and in control. A similar concept exists in Traditional Chinese Medicine, known as ‘qi.’ Like ‘qi,’ prana is the fuel that keeps your engine running, and just like high-grade fuel helps a car perform at an optimal level, prana in a good state helps you function at your best—physically healthy, mentally alert but calm, engaged but at peace, active yet still.
Pranayama, or yogic breathing techniques, is the best way to harness and control the prana. Breathing can help prana rise or cool down, remove blockages, and bring about physical, mental and emotional healing. During yoga practice, Pranayama is what sustains your Asanas, centres you and helps you go further and deeper into your practice. So the next time you are in class, and the teacher says ‘breath,’ remember there’s a whole lot more to it.
#3: Karma is unfinished business
The term ‘karma’ has been used a lot. It is commonly understood to mean ‘destiny’ or ‘retribution’ and is described in terms of ‘good karma’ and ‘bad karma.’ In fact, karma is something quite different.
Karma is what stems from unfulfilled desire. What this means is—in each one of us dwells very deep urges. They may be so buried embedded in our subconscious that we are not aware of them, but they shape our character and drive our thoughts, decisions and actions. They may be things like the desire for acceptance, for recognition, for security or for love. Until we let go of our basic desires, they will continue to drive us and we will continue to produce karma through our chosen deeds and their consequences—which is why karma is called ‘unfinished business.’
Fortunately, there are ways to wrap up our unfinished business, like by mastering our mind and will through the practice of Raja yoga. Taking care of unfinished business frees us from our karma and allows us to lead a higher existence—the pinnacle of which is Enlightenment.
#4: Stuck in Samsara
Because of our karma, we remain caught in the cycle of birth and rebirth. This means that even after our physical bodies die, our soul remains on this earth and enters a different form, as it continues to seek its unfulfilled desires. And that before our soul entered our body it probably already existed in someone else’s. And it will continue to do this until it lays to rest its desires.
This cycle is known as Samsara, which is often depicted as a wheel. But before you think you are going to come back as an eagle, a worm or the next Bill Gates, remember that striving for a particular form is a desire in itself. Of course you have to believe in reincarnation in order to accept this paradigm, but even if you don’t the thought that one should purify and advance one’s spiritual development already offers huge potential for one’s yoga practice and one’s life.
#5: Be Sattvic like the sun
One level of existence that is higher but not yet fully enlightened is Sattva, which means purity and knowledge. A Sattvic person is highly evolved, discerning, and spiritual, and understands the path to Enlightenment though he or she may still be seeking it themselves. It is one of three basic qualities of living things, called Gunas. The other two Gunas are Rajas and Tamas. Rajasic people do not see the truth and operate mainly at an emotional, egotistical level. Tamasic people live in darkness—they are ignorant, negative and destructive. These three Gunas are in all of us, in varying degrees at different times of our lives. Together, they form the human existence.
Ultimately we want to move beyond the human existence, beyond even Sattva, to become enlightened, free from Karma, free from Samsara.
As you can see, yoga philosophy is not just about ideas or thought. It is a holistic way of looking at life itself, in which everything from the past, present and the future, to how you think, how you breath, what you do, is interconnected. The best way to comprehend yoga philosophy is to live it. Only then will you internalize it and will it become as natural to you as the sun rising in the East and setting in the West. Because yoga philosophy is not static words on a page, or something that a preacher says, but a living philosophy that guides you through life and to finally your highest fulfillment.

The law of karma

Karma is the law of ‘moral causation’. The belief of karma was prevalent in India before the advent of Buddha, however it was Buddha who explained and formulated the doctrine in the manor in which we know it today.
According to the law of karma nothing happens to a person that he does not for some reason or another deserve. This principle of cause and effect is not only confined to the present life, but may be traced back to a past birth.
The word karma, from the Sanskrit word ‘Kri’ signifies action or deed, whether physical or mental. Karma is the sum total of our acts, both in the present life and in preceding ones. This law suggests that in this world nothing happens to a person that they do not (in some way or another) deserve.  It can be defined as the total effect of a persons actions and conduct during the successive phases of the person’s existence, regarded as determining that person’s destiny.
In some respects, this philosophy is empowering, as it suggests that we are responsible for our own happiness and misery. We create our own heaven and our own hell; and therefore we are the architects of our own fate.
However, there are many terrible things that happen in the world to seemingly ‘innocent’ people. I feel it would be morally wrong and could even impact on my own karma to assume that people ‘deserve’ the negative experiences they have had. In addition I feel the principle of karma is somewhat a selfish one, rather then living life in a positive way to benefit the lives of those around you, karma suggests an element of self preservation. The principle almost has a god fearing element, suggesting that if we don’t behave karma will seek us out, enforcing positive changes only to benefit oneself.
Despite this view, I see it as advantageous to believe we are born into a state created by ourselves, yet by our own self directed efforts there is every possibility of creating new favorable environments even here and now. Not only individually but collectively. Positive actions and thoughts give us the ability to create fresh positive karma that will help create a better life, not only for ourselves but those around us.


Karma is the plane of action and here the exploration of the third Chakra starts. The only desire which remains true for all times and places is the desire of fulfillment. All other desires are manifestations of that one desire, the desire for completion, for self-realisation. On whatever level we vibrate, on that level we seek fulfillment.
In the first and second chakras the desire was manifested as the pursuit of money and sex. In the third chakra the dominant concern becomes identification of the ego and achievement of power. The person becomes conscious of social and political influences on the development of his personality. The ego comes into action.
According to the “Bhagavat Gita” (the famous sacred Hindu scripture) the law of karma is the law of cause and effect. From time immemorial a person has been acting in a material word and enjoyed or suffered the reactions of his own actions. His actions or karma bring his incarnation from one material body to another.
Karma is the cause of the cycle of birth and rebirth. And karma alone can win liberation from this cycle, creating both bondage and liberation.
Basically, each individual has karmic responsibilities for his own self, for his visible body and his invisible being. There are karmas in the body and consciousness. The body is the world, which contains all the elements of gross manifestation. So karma in the human body also affects the whole world.


“Karma” means action. It refers to the intentional deeds we do with our body speech and mind through action, talking and thinking. Karma is the law that every deed done, given the conditions, will bear certain fruits.

How does Karma work? All deeds leave imprints or seeds on our consciousness, which ripen into our experiences when the appropriate conditions come together. For example, if we help someone with a kind heart, this action leaves a positive imprint on our mind stream. When conditions are suitable, this imprint will ripen in our receiving of help when we need it.

If an action brings pain and misery in the long term for oneself and others, it is unwholesome or negative Karma. And if it brings happiness, it is wholesome or positive Karma. Actions are not inherently good or bad. They are only so according to their motivations and the consequences they bring. Whatever happiness and fortune we experience in our lives comes from our own positive actions, while our problems result from our own negative actions.

Examples of actions which create negative Karma are killing, stealing, lying, sexual misconduct, idle talk and craving. Hmm….so the next time my colleagues gossip about others, I should walk away and ignore them. Charity, self-restraint, service and reverence are examples of actions which create positive Karma.

Who controls Karma? There is no one that decides the “rewards and punishments” for what we do. We create the causes of our actions, and we experience their results. We are responsible for our own experience.

Have you ever experienced karma in workplace? Heard of this popular saying – “what goes around comes around”? I am trying very hard every day to practise good karma in the office. A co-worker that I work with has not been very helpful to me since I took over his work about a year ago. He withheld a lot of work-related information from me and was not willing to answer my queries directly or share his knowledge or experience with me. There were times when I wanted to hurl nasty remarks at him just to vent my frustration but I held back. I do not know what stops me from this “negative action”. But I believe in myself, in my own ability to overcome the difficulties. I regard this as a bad experience in life. Everyone has bad experiences; this is a natural part of life. Bad experiences must be addressed with solutions. Look at a crisis, cry if we must, find a solution, and learn from it. We all feel grief, but we cannot solve anything by crying about it. It is natural to cry, but we must move on. The old saying, “Don’t cry over spilled milk,” applies to life. Look at each situation and learn from it. Otherwise, one can fall down and the world will “walk all over you.” My hard work through sheer determination has paid off – I received a promotion this year when I was only on the job for one year! I am glad I did not react to his negative actions.


Dalai Lama has suggested the following twenty ways to get Good Karma:

  1. Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.
  2. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.
  3. Follow the three R’s:
    –  Respect for self,
    –  Respect for others and
    –  Responsibility for all your actions.
  4. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
  5. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.
  6. Don’t let a little dispute injure a great relationship.
  7. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
  8. Spend some time alone every day.
  9. Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.
  10. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
  11.  Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and
    think back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time.
  12. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.
  13. In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don’t bring up the past.
  14. Share your knowledge. It is a way to achieve immortality.
  15. Be gentle with the earth.
  16. Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.
  17. Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.
  18. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.
  19. If you want others to be happy, practise compassion.
  20. If you want to be happy, practise compassion.

Start practising good Karma now. 🙂