What is Karma and How Does It Work? Types of Karma Explained

What is karma? And what are the different types of karma? Sadhguru looks at these questions and explains the role karma can play in a spiritual seeker’s life.
What is Karma

What is karma? That's a question that is often answered with explanations of good and bad actions. But karma is something far more profound than that. Yogi and mystic, Sadhguru, looks at these questions and explains the role karma can play in a spiritual seeker’s life.

Questioner: What is karma? Are there different kinds of karma and how do they affect us?

Meaning of Karma

Sadhguru: What you call as "my life" is a certain amount of energy controlled by a certain amount of information. This information, in today’s terms, can be called software. A certain amount of life energy is charged with a certain amount of information. Together, this information technology is you. You become a certain kind of character because of the type of information that has gone into you. The past impressions of life go far beyond the moment you were born, but in your perception right now, at least from the moment you were born till today, what kind of parents, family, and education you had, what kind of religious and social background, what kind of cultural realities – all these impressions have gone in. Someone has become a different character simply because of the type of information that has gotten into him. This is what is karma. This information is traditionally called karma or karmic body or causal body – that which causes life.

The Different Types Of Karma

This information is on many different levels. There are four dimensions, two of which are not relevant right now. For understanding, we can talk about the other two.

Sanchita Karma

One is sanchita karma. This is the warehouse of karma which goes right back to a single-celled animal and even inanimate substances from where life evolved. All the information is there. If you close your eyes, become aware enough and look into yourself, you will know the nature of the universe – not because you are looking at it through your head, but simply because this information is present in the making of the body. There is a warehouse of information going back into creation. That is your sanchita karma. But you cannot take your warehouse and do retail business. You need to have a shop to do retail. That “retail shop,” which is for this life, is called prarabdha.

Prarabdha Karma

Prarabdha karma is a certain amount of information allotted for this life. Depending upon the vibrancy of your life, life allots for itself how much information it can take on. The creation is very compassionate. If it gives you the whole lot of karma that you have, you will be dead. Right now, many people are tortured by the simple memories from the 30-40 years of this lifetime. If they are given a hundred times that memory, they wouldn’t survive it. So, nature allots prarabdha, an allotted memory that you could handle.

How Does Karma Work In A Seeker's Life?

Once you enter the spiritual path, you are making a statement, “I am in a hurry to get to my ultimate destination.” You don’t want to take one hundred lifetimes. And in the process of this one hundred lifetimes you may gather enough karma to last out for another thousand lifetimes. You want to hurry it up. So, once a spiritual process begins, if initiations are done in a certain way, it opens up dimensions which would not have opened up otherwise. You would have lived a more peaceful life if you were not spiritual, but a more lifeless life too, closer to death than life. Without anything fundamental being shaken within you, maybe you just passed comfortably.

So does this mean all negative things happen to you once you are on the spiritual path? That’s not how it is. It is just that when life moves at a tremendous pace – a pace much faster pace than that of people around you – you think some tragedy is happening to you. No tragedy is happening to you. It is just that they are going at normal speed but your life is rolling on fast-forward.

...if you are genuinely on the spiritual path, nothing will be clear. Everything will be a blur.

Many people have this wrong notion that once you enter a spiritual path, you will become peaceful and everything will be clear. If you take on a convenient belief system and become a single-track mind, then everything seems to be clear. But if you are genuinely on the spiritual path, nothing will be clear. Everything will be a blur. The faster you travel the more of a blur it becomes.

A few years ago, I happened to be in Germany and after we finished the program, I had to drive to France, which was about 440 km from where I was. Usually the journey takes five hours. I had no intention of staying on the road for five hours so I just pushed it and we were doing something like 200 kmph. The countryside was supposed to be beautiful in this region, and I thought I would look at it. I tried to roll my eyeballs but everything was a blur and I couldn’t take my eyes off the road for a moment. It was snowing and we were driving crazy speeds.

So, the faster you go, everything becomes a blur and you can't take your eyes off what you are doing for a moment. If you want to enjoy the countryside, you must go easy and slow. If you are in a hurry to reach your destination, you gas it. You see nothing. You are just going. The spiritual path is like this. If you are really on the spiritual path, everything is in turmoil all around you. But you are still going, so it's okay. Is this alright? If it’s not alright, you can go at the evolutionary pace. Maybe it will take a million years and you will get there.

For those who are in a hurry, there is one kind of path. For those who are not in a hurry, there is another kind of path. You must be clear what the hell you want. If you get onto the fast track and try to go slow, you will be run over. If you are on the slow path and try to go fast, you will get a ticket. Every seeker must always decide – does he want to just enjoy the road or does he want to get to the destination quick?

Editor’s Note: Check out "Mystic's Musings" for more of Sadhguru's wisdom and insights. Not for the faint-hearted, this book deftly guides us with answers about reality that transcend our fears, angers, hopes, and struggles. Sadhguru keeps us teetering on the edge of logic and captivates us with his answers to questions relating to life, death, rebirth, suffering, karma, and the journey of the Self.

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6 years 9 months ago

i want to go fast but i want to enjoy the journey!

6 years 9 months ago

In one way it can also be explained by the cause and effect theory. Past actions even if forgotten can bear fruit in the long run as positive or negative outcomes.

6 years 9 months ago

Well, I like to think that I can have my cake and eat it too!

6 years 10 months ago

Very nice explanation.

6 years 9 months ago

Thank you Sadguru, now I know why my life is in a turmoil all the time since I embraced the path of Spiritualism...so can I say I am on the highway to my destination & so the vision is blurred as such I don't see much & feel much but just living it the best I can & pushing through to salvation!

6 years 8 months ago

is there any way to void karma, to be forgiven from karma if on is sorry?

6 years 10 months ago

very difficult concept. can you please explain it citing more examples sadhguru?

6 years 9 months ago

Yeah thanks anna ...I will surely read it...:-)

6 years 3 months ago

Unfortunately not! It is in the nature of existence, that you experience the consequences of your actions,good or bad. This has nothing to do with morality, it is to do with the immutable laws of existence/Universe. The family you are born into, the life situations you encounter, the people you meet, all are your karma (past actions). There is no escaping. Also, actually the universe is offering you an opportunity to evolve to your higher self, higher possibility by putting you through those circumstance. So you can look at it as an opportunity for self-realization.

6 years 10 months ago

Nobody else can explain about KARMA like this. We are fortunate to be here with sadhguru in this lifetime. :-)

6 years 9 months ago

what happens when iam noy asle to do my kriyas due to physical ailments? is it also my karma? then how to dissolve it?

6 years 1 month ago

Simple dear. We as being (human, animal...) inherently seek the ultimate or go beyond what mind can capture. That is just the nature. So what we do is keep on seeking one after another assuming that will give that highest pleasure. For example: gorgeous wife, billion dollar, chairman, guru, house, chocolates, switzerland, my home and what not. In this process, we bump right and wrong thing and keep churning. This is a gradual path since we dont know what we want. The yoga/kriya and other things are tools to get us off-track to retire in one-self, unwound and become self, and jump out of the cycle (karma).

6 years 10 months ago

It is not a concept. It's a truth. according to me, he explained it very well.

6 years 9 months ago

Namaskaram Sadhguru,

Humble request to Editor to post it to Sadhguru-

Is it possible for people to play both family man (Materialistic well being) and Spiritual seeker, 100% at a time. Does it depend on Karma again??. In that case if going spiritual, does it changes the Karma/subsequent events of materialistic life???. How to comprehend this and still stay on track, as knowledge is limited, confusions galore, as there are more turns in family life, there is confusion and stalling of energy, to pursuit what we started. Either, one should have clear vision to understand or enormous energy to go unwavering. Please help us with that Sadhguru. Pranams.

6 years 1 month ago

How do you send me msgs like this? ?? I just want to know....at times am angry with you my master. ...you leave me go astray and you know what will happen to me if I switch to anything other than clinging onto you my sathguru...bless me to be hooked to this path which you have opened up for me....give me the strength to ignore the blurred vision. ..I want to get there at an insane pace...drive me to that my master...please forgive my ignorance just ensure am with you...you are with me all the time...I am the one who is stupid enough to shift my focus when you have set everything up for me...cant miss this chance....pranam.

6 years 10 months ago

Guru namshkaram...And now im clear with my life. ..

6 years 9 months ago

I think Sadguru has explained it pretty well.. I mean either ways we have to go through the kARMA, BE IT GOOD OR BE IT BAD ( WHICH IS AS PER OUR DEFINATION, THOUGH kARMA MAY HAVE NONE ). Now it is upto us to fast track it and get over with it rather than prolonging it...either ways they are going to happen, so the choice is upto us to finish them in thisbirth or may be a few more or live for keep coming back for the next million years. If it is on a fast track, the good may not last long but neither would bad, we don't know how many lifetimes worth of backlogs we have,isn't it ?

5 years ago


So does that mean those who are on spiritual journey does not enjoy the road (path)?

6 years 10 months ago

Do kriyas make to disolve all karma's very soon as possible...??

6 years 9 months ago

Really fortunate to be associated with Sadhguru.....May we receive his blessings.......

4 years 9 months ago


6 years 10 months ago

definitely !! thats wat sadhguru keep on saying again and again - do yoga, do yoga , do yoga !!! read mystic's musings !

6 years 9 months ago

I was very disturbed because of trying to be on a spiritual path( that's what it is I think, but I don't know) but now Sadguru has answered my question.

4 years 3 months ago

Karma is not fatalistic. One can void the karma by learning the lesson . Doing service and tithing and character building . As you sow , so shall you reap. Sow goodness and you will read it . So be good inews thoughts words and actions and you will be on the path to void or lesson the impact of karma .

6 years 10 months ago


I got many questions on the blog you have written here. But fundamental question is. Humans should try to get rid of Prarabdha karma right? Are there any methods/techniques to do that. I heard Ekadashi helps to destroy lot of karma is that true?

Does meditation or Yoga postures help to dissolve Karma?

Or first of all should every one try to reduce their karma or leave it as it is.

6 years 9 months ago

Beautifully explained with examples.

3 years ago

Like always this guy confuses me

6 years 10 months ago

Strange, on the one hand he talks of karma and prarabdha (K&P) and on the other, 'you decide'. Surely, if I decide, K&P are useless and if K&P decide, I am useless? Thanks Sadhguru for ultimate spoiling of our minds (read causing new impressions).

6 years 9 months ago

There is something called "Free Will" and I believe that's what "You Decide" means

6 years 9 months ago

Now I think its my karma that You came along
To fast track my life into the divine song
Blurred the scenary as I speed along this path
But when the mist clears I'm sure there will be clarity at last

Pranams, Sadhguru