Comparison of the Concept of Karma in Hinduism, Jainism & Buddhism

by Timothy Peckinpaugh
Jainism, like Hinduism and Buddhism, believes karma follows people to their next lives.

Jainism, like Hinduism and Buddhism, believes karma follows people to their next lives.

The idea of karma, the belief that the actions people do garner a positive or negative reaction in this life or the next, exists in the Eastern religions Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. All three believe that what people do returns to them, and that the current state of their lives reflects their actions from previous lives. All three look to gain liberation by escaping the death and rebirth cycle.

Karma in Hinduism

Hinduism is a vast religion. People who practice the faith participate in different rituals, use different names and images for the deity they worship, read different sacred texts and hold different theological beliefs.Hindus, like Buddhists and Jains, believe people are reborn into another life after this one. The idea of karma states that actions in this life will determine the quality of the next life. When people begin their current life, karma accumulate based on their actions. When they die, they enter the process of samsara, and will be reborn into another life, as human or any other life form, depending on the quality of this life, according to Hindu belief. The ultimate goal of Hindus is to attain liberation by escaping samsara, in a process called moksha.

Karma in Jainism

Jains believe that actions, thoughts and words attract karma, and that a person's karma from past lives determines the quality of life they have now. Karma in Jainism is a physical substance present throughout the universe. The soul, called the jiva, carries these karma particles around from one life to the next until people remove them, or until they expire after they have caused the intended harm. Jains seek liberation by freeing themselves from the rebirth cycle by ridding all karma attached to the jiva. They do so by following Jainism vows and living in the correct mental state. Bad karma attracts other bad karma, so a person who commits bad acts will likely commit more. Karma exists on its own; no deity doles it out.

Types of Karma in Jainism

More so than Hinduism or Buddhism, Jainism spells out eight specific types of karma that attach to the jiva. Four cause destruction and four are harmless, but they determine a person's future and quality of life. The destructive types each cause a different type of destruction or harm to the jiva, which include causing people to adhere to false beliefs, deluding the jiva itself, blurring the senses of the jiva and preventing the jiva from performing good acts. The non-destructive types of karma determine everything from the length of people's present lives, their happiness in this life and their station when they are reborn into the next.

Karma in Buddhism

Like the Jain and Hindu ideas, Buddhists believe karma can affect this life, and can carry over into the next. Actions from past lives affect the state of their current one, and the actions that people take now will affect their coming one. Karma is a natural order of things; it is not a punishment or reward from a god. Those with negative karma may be reborn as animals or into a hell, while those with positive karma will be reborn into a heaven. Even if Buddhists are born into a heaven, they attempt to escape the death and rebirth cycle, since they believe nothing lasts forever. Some Buddhist writings hold that not every action is a result of karma, and some events naturally occur, but modern Buddhist thought diverges from that concept.

About the Author

A resident of Riverside, California, Timothy Peckinpaugh began writing in 2006 for U.S. History Publishers, based in Temecula, California. He graduated magna cum laude from the University of California, Riverside, with a bachelor's degree in English.

Photo Credits

  • Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images