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KARMA has become a household word. Just about everone has heard something about it - "as you sow, so shall ye reap" (the Bible). Every action we perform is like a seed sown. Just as different seeds, such as rice seeds or mango seeds, bear fruits at different rates, so do different karmic seeds. But while we can discard ripe produce if its turns out bad, we can't discard the bad fruit of our karmic seeds. We have to eat—suffer—every single karmic fruit we have sown.

The Sanskrit word karma has gained mainstream acceptance today and found a place in the English dictionary. Karma as a philosophical principle, however, is little understood. Simply put, the law of karma states that every action we perform has a reaction.

The intricacies of the law of action and reaction (karma) are difficult to understand. However, one's sufferings and enjoyments in this world can be traced to one's reactionary work performed previously, either in this life or a previous one.

There are three types of karma:

karma, vikarma, and akarma.

In a scriptural sense, karma primarily means actions done in accordance with one's duties prescribed in the revealed scriptures. Vikarma refers to actions done contrary to the scriptures by the misuse of one's free will. Vikarma takes one down to the lower forms of life. The four main vikarmic activities, as mentioned in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.17.38), are intoxication, meat-eating, gambling, and illicit sex. These four lead to severe karmic reactions, which come both in future and in present lives. In this life, illicit sex leads to a variety of diseases; meat-eating leads to heart problems, cancer, and other diseases; gambling causes people to lose their self-control and eventually everything else. Intoxication, which people think is very enjoyable, is actually a ritual of self-torture. What starts with "Cheers!" often leads to tears; under the spell of intoxicants, people act in ways that cause them to lose their self-respect, their bank balance, their families, and sometimes even their lives.

Finally, akarma, which translates literally as "no activity," doesn't mean inactivity, but activity that brings no reaction, activity that frees one from the cycle of birth and death. Akarma activities are those technically called bhakti-yoga, activites of devotional service to the Supreme, or God. These activities are reccomended to be carried out under the guidance of a bone fide spritual master (guru). Basically, all our actitites and the fruits of our actions, like our wealth, if engaged in devotional service, cause our release from the long cycle of repeated birth and death, and entrance into the ani-material world, the spiritual planets talked about in the Vedas, which are far far beyond this material sky. In that shy, there is no birth, death, old age, or disease. And everyone is living an eternal life of full bliss and knowledge.

Some examples of akarma are, chanting in krtan the holy names of God is bhakt-yoga, eating spiritual foodstuffs like we do after every spiritual gathering, is bhakti-yoga.

It is up to each one of us, which kind of karma we produce in our lives. What do we really want? Karma that binds us to more suffering in the material world, or actions that help to elevate our consciousness so we can experience life beyond the physical and mental realm, and become free from anxiety, and ultimately free from samsara, repeated births and deaths.

To illustrate just har far the concept of karma has gone, Here is a song from back in eighties, sung by a famous coutry song writer, Willie Nelson, called "Little 'Ol Fashioned Karma".

The Vedas, India's ancient Sanskrit textx, say that the harm and suffering we perform against any living being, comes back equally to us in our next life.

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