What is Karma? How May One Manipulate, Escape or Circumvent it?

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Buddhism is founded on the understanding that all life in the universe is subject to moral causality, a process that links present actions to future consequences, both in this life and in the lives to come. This force is karma, a word meaning “deeds”, but also their consequence, the individual’s cumulative balance of puṇya (“merit”/good karma) and pāpa (“demerit”/bad karma). Buddhists regard all intentional acts of the body, speech and mind as producing karmic consequences. Karma primarily determines the nature of every rebirth after death, ruling one’s destiny until, and unless, one realizes nirvāṇa and eliminates karma.


As long as there is karma, karma must “ripen”; accumulated karmic consequences produce inevitable rebirth. And if there is future rebirth, there is no realization of nirvāṇa. Buddhist philosophers and saints have stated that practicing meditation is developing prajñā (understanding, wisdom) to overcome this problem. In the lower rings  on the path to nirvāṇa meditation serves to make good karma for the practitioner. Meditation is itself a merit-producing act. To the extent that it weakens the individual’s kleśa’s (mental defilements: greed, anger and delusion) meditation also motivates a person to act rightfully while also diminishing the negativity of one’s subsequent karma. But for advanced practitioners, meditation and prajñā cultivation are also capable of “running up” the “seeds” of past karma.

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