Karma and Dharma – Connecting the Divine

The two Hindu principles that connect the divine to this world are karma and dharma. Both are linked to the Hinduism belief in a reincarnation cycle of birth, death and rebirth known as samsara. The primary spiritual goal in Hinduism is to break free from the samsara cycle and achieve a divine state known as moksha. Moksha is where Hindus are liberated from the suffering found in this world. Hindus believe that they can free themselves from the reincarnation cycle by doing good acts of karma that are based on the ideals set forth by dharma.


Karma is best known as a moral law that says every action produces an equal reaction. In Hinduism, a person who acts in a positive, moral way in one life will experience positive reactions such as happiness when they are reincarnated in a following life. The Yajur Veda, one of Hinduism’s holy texts, says this about karma: “According as one acts, so does he become. One becomes virtuous by virtuous action, bad by bad action.”


Dharma is what defines good and bad karmic actions. It’s an ethical code of conduct that Hindus believe is God’s law, which governs everything in the universe. Following the code allows Hindus to find spiritual advancement that allows them to break free from the samsara cycle. Although dharma can be defined differently from one Hindu to the next, Hindus generally turn to sacred scriptures, tradition, wise members of their community and their own conscience when seeking guidance in interpreting it for themselves. Hindu holy scripture says, “Dharma yields Heaven’s honor and Earth’s wealth. What is there then that is more fruitful for a man? There is nothing more rewarding than dharma, nor anything more ruinous than its neglect.”


In Hinduism, when an individual’s physical body dies, their soul remains immortal and is born again into a new physical body. In the period between death and rebirth, the soul is believed to exist in an astral plane, which some Hindus believe is the place where dreams take place. Rather than fate, an individual’s reincarnated life is determined by their own personality and karmic actions. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, another sacred Hindu text, expands on this responsibility: “An individual creates for himself his next life as a result of his desires, hopes, aspirations, failures, disappointments, achievements and actions performed during this life of his.” If an individual makes negative choices, it’s possible that they may regress and be reincarnated in a following life as something non-human, such as an animal.


The moksha state of liberation is defined differently among Hindus. In general, it’s when an individual’s soul experiences self-realization and is freed from any selfish wants or attachments. According to the editors of “Hinduism Today Magazine,” most Hindus believe that once an individual is released from the reincarnation cycle, they exist in a higher world populated by deities and other spiritually evolved souls. Some Hindus believe that the soul continues evolving in the moksha world until they become one with God.

~ Errol Manguso



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  • The Holy Gita says: Dharma means the intrinsic quality of an object or item in a wider sense, and intrinsic value of a Soul in particular. The intrinsic value or Dharma of water is to ebb and flow, that of sun is emitting heat and light, that of rain bearing clouds is giving rains , that of our material body is to enjoy, cry, suffer, lament etc, etc. Whereas the intrinsic quality or Dharma of the soul is its proximity to God and to be eternally ( not temporarily ) happy like God. This happens by serving the Great God Krishna and thus being in Krishna Consciousness. One can attain realisation by avoiding any work and thus not enjoying or craving for fruits of ones labour and also by serving Lord Krishna aka Bhakti Yoga aka Karma Yoga under which the fruits of ones labor devolves unto Lord Krishna. In the process, under Karma Yoga, one knows not only the great God but also ones own soul. The Holy Gita has different chapters for (sadhu) Karma and Karma Yoga if you recall. In the chapter of Karma , Sadhus abandon material work , suffer penances and live in the forests, mountains, etc thus avoiding work and people. A Karma Yogi lives amidst us , serves the Lord by directly recognising the presence of the Lord and also attains realisation of the soul. The Holy Gita deems the Karma Yoga path as being superior to the Karma path followed by Karmis or one conscious of the effects of Karma. He who works and dedicates the fruits or sins of his labor to the Lord is defined to be far superior and can realise God and also his Soul faster than the other , and that too in this life itself instead of abiding by Karma and good deeds and waiting longer to realise God. By following the path of Karma one may reach the heavenly planets, but not God’ s abode, but thru the path of Karma Yoga one can reach God’s abode.

  • P.S. In my above detailed comment, Bhakti does not denote mere devotion or being a devotee of the Lord Sri Krishna. It means eternally serving Lord Krishna vis a vie serving people, society , animals, etc, in a narrow sense. Bhakti is very very wide. For a better perspective read God, Soul and Spirit by A Traveller.

  • No one can avoid karma. Karma alone decides future birth. As you sow so you reap. Nishkama karma is sattvic karma where in we offer every action to the lord and receive results as Ishwara prasada. Thus the mind gets purified.
    Dharma has several meanings the most useful is that which maintains the harmony of creation.