Q42. What is Karma?
The scientific concept of cause and effect, action and reaction is called the law of Karma(in religious parlance). A man reaps what he sows. Is it not typical that in spite of the law of Karma, man expects nectar after sowing poison?
Just as our present life is the result of our past Karma, the present Karma will determine our future life. Karma operates in this life and succesive ones. The law of Karma does not cease to operate after death, because death is just a matter of physical disintegration, and has no effect on the soul, which survives.
God is the Creator of the first Karma, the origin of the universe, and the destroyer of Karma.
Good or evil by frequent repetition leave their impression on character. A man doing wicked deeds continuously will turn into a bad character. This produces states of mind, like anxiety, fear and guilt, all of which will cause pain and suffering to the individual.
Karma does not mean that everything is pre-ordained and that man has no free-will. He carries his past Karma in the form of character. It is his own actions that make him what he is. Guru Nanak says, "The record of my deeds cannot be effaced because God has recorded them." Man has to sow seeds, the choice and the initiative to certain extent. He also has the ability to change the course of events even though circumscribed by heredity and environment. God as the Ruler of the Universe controls the over-all destiny of individual. Like the prodigal son, sinners turn to Him only as the last resort.
Sikhism modified the theory of Karma in two directions. Firstly, efforts of the individual are necessary for improving his own condition. Man is responsible for his lot. He must not blame God for his destiny. He must think of the present and the future. Secondly, Karma can be changed by prayer and the Grace of God.
When an individual learns to submit to His will, he ceases to make new Karma. He offers all his actions to Him; he acts as the instrument of His Will. According to Sikhism, all past Karma may then be erased through the association with saints, and meditation on "The Name".