A) (1) Karma in Vedic Discipline:
Karma is a concept in Hinduism which explains causality through a system where beneficial effects are derived from past beneficial actions and harmful effects from past harmful actions, creating a system of actions and reactions throughout a person's reincarnated lives.
The doctrine of transmigration of the soul, or fateful retribution for acts committed, does not appear in the Rig Veda.
The concept of karma appeared in Hindu thought during the period 800-200 BC and became widespread during the period considered as "Classical Hinduism" 200 BC - 1100 AD.
"Karma" literally means "deed" or "act", and more broadly names the universal principle of cause and effect, action and reaction, which Hindus believe governs all consciousness. Karma is not fate, for man acts with free will creating his own destiny.
The Vedas tell us that if we sow goodness, we will reap goodness; if we sow evil, we will reap evil. Karma refers to the totality of our actions and their concomitant reactions in this and previous lives, all of which determine our future. The conquest of karma lies in intelligent action and dispassionate reaction. Not all karmas rebound immediately. Some accumulate and return unexpectedly in this or other births.
2) Karma is our own making:
We produce Karma in four ways:
through actions that we perform ourselves
through actions others do under our instructions
Everything that we have ever thought, spoken, done or caused is Karma; as is also that which we think, speak or do this very moment.
3) Hindu scriptures divide Karma into three kinds:
(i) Sanchita Karma:
Sanchita is the accumulated karma. It would be impossible to experience and endure all karmas in one life. From this stock of sanchita karma, a handful is taken out to serve one lifetime and this handful of actions, which has begun to bear fruit and which will be exhausted only on their fruit being enjoyed and not otherwise, is known as Prarabdha Karma.
(ii) Prarabdha Karma:
Prarabdha Fruit-bearing karma is the portion of accumulated karma that has "ripened" and appears as a particular problem in the present life.
According to Sri Swami Sivananda: "Prarabdha is that portion of the past karma which is responsible for the present body. That portion of the sanchita karma which influences human life in the present incarnation is called prarabdha. It is ripe for reaping. It cannot be avoided or changed. It is only exhausted by being experienced. You pay your past debts. Prarabdha karma is that which has begun and is actually bearing fruit. It is selected out of the mass of the sanchita karma."
There are three kinds of Prarabdha karma: Ichha (personally desired), Anichha (without desire) and Parechha (due to others' desire). For a self realized person, a Jivan mukta, there is no Ichha-Prarabdha but the two others, Anichha and Parechha, remain, which even a jivan mukta has to undergo.
(iii) Kriyamana Karma:
Kriyamana or Agami Karma (also called Vartamana Karma) is that which is being accumulated now that will affect future births. It is like an insurance policy for the future and a good record during this birth will ensue in a better life in the next birth.
Kriyamana is everything that we produce in current life. All kriyamana karmas flow in to sanchita karma and consequently shape our future. Only in human life we can change our future destiny. After death we loose Kriya Shakti (ability to act) and do (kriyamana) karma until we are born again in human body.
4) Karma and Parabrahmam:
Swami Sivananda, an Advaita scholar, reiterates the same views in his commentary synthesising Vedanta views on the Brahma Sutras, a Vedantic text. In his commentary on Chapter 3 of the Brahma Sutras, Sivananda notes that karma is insentient and short-lived, and ceases to exist as soon as a deed is executed. Hence, karma cannot bestow the fruits of actions at a future date according to one's merit. Furthermore, one cannot argue that karma generates apurva or punya, which gives fruit. Since apurva is non-sentient, it cannot act unless moved by an intelligent being such as God. It cannot independently bestow reward or punishment.
There is a passage from Swami Sivananda's translation of the Svetasvatara Upanishad (4:6) illustrating this concept:
Two birds of beautiful plumage — inseparable friends — live on the same tree. Of these two one eats the sweet fruit while the other looks on without eating.
In his commentary, the first bird represents the individual soul, while the second represents Brahman or God. The soul is essentially a reflection of Brahman. The tree represents the body. The soul identifies itself with the body, reaps the fruits of its actions, and undergoes rebirth. The Lord alone stands as an eternal witness, ever contented, and does not eat, for he is the director of both the eater and the eaten.
Swami Sivananda also notes that God is free from charges of partiality and cruelty which are brought against him because of social inequality, fate, and universal suffering in the world. According to the Brahma Sutras, individual souls are responsible for their own fate; God is merely the dispenser and witness with reference to the merit and demerit of souls.
5) Analogies for Karma:
(i) In his commentary on Chapter 2 of the Brahma Sutras, Sivananda further notes that the position of God with respect to karma can be explained through the analogy of rain. Although rain can be said to bring about the growth of rice, barley and other plants, the differences in various species is due to the diverse potentalities lying hidden in the respective seeds. Thus, Sivananda explains that differences between classes of beings are due to different merits belonging to individual souls. He concludes that God metes rewards and punishments only in consideration of the specific actions of beings.
(ii) In Vedantic literature, there is a beautiful analogy. The bowman has already sent an arrow and it has left his hands. He cannot recall it. He is about to shoot another arrow. The bundle of arrows in the quiver on his back is the sanchita; the arrow he has shot is prarabdha; and the arrow which he is about to shoot from his bow is agami. Of these, he has perfect control over the sanchita and the agami, but he must surely work out his prarabdha. The past which has begun to take effect he has to experience.
(iii) There is another beautiful analogy also. The total stock represents the sanchita karma; that portion taken from the stock and put in the shop for future daily sale corresponds to agami or Kriyamana; that which is sold daily represents prarabdha.
B) Karmas (or rituals) to be performed daily by Hindus is different from the above explained Karma Theory. These are only rituals.
The Karmas are broadly classified into five types as follows:
1) Nitya Karma – Daily Obligatory Duties
2) Naimittika Karma --Occasional Obligatory duties
3) Kamya Karma – Rites done to attain desired results like Jyotistoma Yaga for reaching Heaven
4) Prayaschitta Karma – Rites for expiation of sins like Candrayana Vrata
5) Nishiddha Karma – Forbidden action like killing, drinking etc
(i) Nitya Karmas:
Nitya Karmas representing the Daily Obligatory Duties for a Grhastha (householder) includes the following:
1) Pratah Sandhya Vandanam (Morning)
2) Samitadanam ( For Brahmachari)
4) Agnihotram (For Agnihotris)
5) Agni Sandhanam
6) Deva-Rishi-Pitru Tarpanam
7) Brahma Yajnam,
8) Vaisva Devam
9) Bhagavad Aradhanam
10) Madhyanikam ( Afternoon)
11) Sayam Sandhya Vandanam (Evening)
12) Pratyabdika Sraddham ( Yearly Ceremony)
The non-performance of Nitya Karmas results in sins.
(ii) Naimittika Karmas:
"naimittikni - putrajanmdyanubandhni jteydni."
Jtei sacrifices (which are performed subsequent to the birth of a son) etc. are called the naimittika-karma or rites to be observed on special occasions [Vedntasra, 10]
Naimittika Karmas representing the rites to be performed on special occasions for a Grhastha (householder) mainly includes the following main 16 Samskaras (40 Samskaras are mentioned in the Scriptures) and other Pitru Karmas:
1) Garbhadana - Conception rite
2) Pumsavana – Rite before Birth
3) Simantonnaya- Rite before Birth
4) Jatakarma – At Birth
5) Namakaranam – Naming ceremony
6) Niskramana – First Outing of the baby and viewing the Sun
7) Karna Vedana – Ear Piercing rite
8) Annaprasana – Feeding
9) Chaula – Tonsure
10) Vidyarambha – Beginning of Studies
11) Upanayan – Sacred Thread
12) Vedarambha – Beginning of Study of Vedas
13) Keshantha – Shaving of Beard
14) Samvartana – Completion of Studies
15) Vivaha – Marriage
16) Anthyeshti – Death
1) Preta Sraddham
3) Sankramana Sraddham ( Monthly)
4) Grahana Sraddham ( Solar / Lunar Eclipse)
6) Nandi Sraddham
1) Upakarma (Avani Avittam)
2) Gayathri Japam
The non-performance of Naimittika Karmas results in sins.
(iii) Kaamya Karmas:
Kaamya karmas refer to those Karmas (or rituals) in Hinduism which are performed with a specific objective in view. Unlike Nitya karmas, these rituals are not required by the Shastras to be performed on a daily or regular basis, but these may be performed only for acquiring some desire. A few kaamya-karmas are listed below:
(iv) Nishiddha Karma:
Nishiddha Karma are heinous acts (declared as immoral).
(v) Prayaschitha Karma;
Prayaschitha Karma is one when one repents for his actions.