Dharma and karma

Photo of author


Dharma and karma are terms that are primarily used in Buddhism and Hinduism, though the word karma has increasingly come into use in English. We will examine the definitions of the terms dharma and karma, where they came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Dharma is the underlying nature of reality, the cosmic law that powers all things through right action. Dharma describes this immutable force, as well as the duty expected from each individual to contribute to the order of reality through that individual’s right action. The life situation each person finds himself in is different, depending on one’s class, personal challenges, economic problems, health, etc., and therefore, each person’s dharma is different. Dharma is a Sanskrit word that means law or decree.

Karma is the sum of all of a person’s actions through all of his lives, past and present. These actions are considered in relation to that person’s dharma, and whether or not that person fulfilled the duties dictated by his dharma. Karma determines the next type of life a person lives, based on the duties he must fulfill or the lessons he must learn. The word karma is used casually by English speakers to mean the reward or retribution the Universe seems to impose on someone because of his good or bad actions. The word karma is also from Sanskrit, and means fate or effect.


Four high school students fainted on Sunday in Siem Reap province while listening to the dharma about gratitude toward parents during Visak Bochea Day celebrations at Puok Pagoda, police said yesterday. (The Khmer Times)

By this dharma, the mind and future dharmas are, for a certain time, hindered from being produced and do not have the power to arise. (The San Diego Reader)

In real life, you are lucky if you can learn about karma from other people’s mistakes, because otherwise if it knocks on your door, it always leaves a scar. (The Times)

“You can just feel the positive synergy of everyone – great karma,” says Tom, president of an educational marketing company. (Hawaii Business Magazine)