Types of Karmas

Tattvabodha is one of the texts authored by Adi Sankaracharya. It is said to be the first text to be taken by a spiritual seeker to get better understanding and clarity about Vedanta.

Below are some notes on a small part of the text where he explains the different types of Karmas.
Karmas are basically divided into three types:
1. Sanchita Karma
2. Prarabdha Karma
3. Aagami Karma

1. Sanchita Karma: Before attaining this birth, we have passed through countless births. During all these births, we have accumulated a lot of Vasanas which resulted in our actions in the past. Some of the actions yield its result in the same birth, while some are not due in the same birth. Such actions which are carried forward to the next birth, or rather, which we have brought forward from our earlier birth are called Sanchita Karma. These Karmas may or may not give its result in this birth even. Many of them may be carried forward to the next birth.

2. Prarabdha Karma: Prarabdha Karma is like a bill that is due for payment. It is something that has to be paid off in this birth. Good actions yield good results and bad actions result otherwise. Whatever the quality of our past actions may be, if it due at the moment, one has to go through it. That is the result why we see some good people suffering or some bad people enjoying life. We can see the lives of many great saints & sages whose body had to go through a lot of physical pain and suffering. Even though they were enlightened, they had to go through their Prarabdha Karma. The result that we see today is according to the action that was performed in the past.

3. Aagami Karma: Our actions today will have its result in the future. So, whatever act we perform at the moment, good or bad, is going to give way to Prarabdha Karmas in the future and we may have to take many more births to exhaust that. This may sound there is no escape for us to break this chain of births & deaths. However, it is not so. If the actions are performed as a dedication to the Lord, then it will not result in any Aagami Karmas. The actions of such a doer become selfless. This is what Bhagwaan Shree Krishna says as Karma Yoga in Bhagawad Geeta.

In case of a Jeevanmukta (a liberated soul or Self-Realised Master), his body has to go through Prarabdha because, even though he has realized God, his body has to go through the result of his past actions that are due in this birth. Even if he might be performing actions today, they are selfless actions that he does for the welfare of others. Hence, he will not enjoy its result in the future. Thus, Aagami Karma cannot affect him. He also does not have to take another birth to experience Sanchita Karmas that are not exhausted in this birth because there are no more Vasanas to exhaust. This may seem confusing to most of us. To explain this situation of exhaustion of Sanchita Karmas, Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda gives the example of a person who is convicted of many crimes and the court is about to award a punishment to him. At that moment, he dies. Now the court is left with no option but to close the case. Such is the case with Sanchita Karma.



2 thoughts on “Types of Karmas

  1. Ashwini Gopalkrishnan Iyer

    [?]Dear vinayji

    Thank you for the beautiful post but i want to know when some people suffering from Prarabdha Karma why does not god show some mercy on those people who are suffering from Prarabdha Karma if he is showing his mercy then what way ? pls explain

    thanks and regards


    1. Dear Ashwini ji,

      I remember my school days when we had four exams in a year – two unit tests and two term-exams. At the end of the year, the annual result would be the average of all the exams. While I was in primary school, there were times when I didn’t do well in the first unit and term exams and as a result of guilt, I used to put it a lot of hard work for the following two exams where I would be far better than the first two exams. But when I used to see that despite me putting in a lot of effort in the last two exams and getting good scores, still I used to go behind in the final annual result (when the average was taken). I never understood that the results of my earlier exams were also the factors that determined my end result.

      Now, if we ask why didn’t God show mercy on me, then what would be your answer? Was God responsible for my results or I myself? Is God responsible for everyone’s destiny or are individuals responsible for their destiny? These are questions that need to be pondered upon.

      Another example I remember is of games. When someone invents a new game, he sets some rules for the game. Every player has to play by the rules so that everyone gets a fair play. The inventor of the game, however compassionate he might be, can he actually pardon someone in the game because of some careless play by the player? Wouldn’t he be considered partial then?

      I hope you got the point.

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