Buddhism Basics

What is Karma in Buddhism?

What is Karma (Kamma) in Buddhism? Learn what it is, and is not, in this post!


The word “Karma” means “deed” or “action” in the ancient Sanskrit language and is a central teaching to all schools of Buddhism (called Kamma in Pali), and all teachings and interpretations of the Dharma.

Learn more about Karma by clicking here.

Karma in Buddhism governs the concept of “cause and effect”, meaning that all “intentional” deeds produce results that the doer (“you”) will eventual feel.

Based on that fact, you would obviously want to do “good deeds” so that you would receive positive karmic effects.  Otherwise, any “bad deeds” you do would produce negative (unwholesome) karmic effects.  And it’s just not you who has Karma, but also other types of sentient beings, communities, countries, and even the earth.

There are three types of Karma as identified by the Buddha:

  1. Karma generated by the body (your actions)
  2. Karma generated by speech (your words)
  3. Karma generated by the mind (your thoughts)

This means any actions you intentionally do with your body, speech, or mind will create karmic results.

  • Wholesome karmic actions are based upon generosity, compassion, kindness, sympathy, mindfulness or wisdom
  • Unwholesome karmic actions are based upon greed, hatred, and delusion

There are four types of karmic results:

  • Negative Karma:  Actions that only produce negative karmic effects
  • Positive Karma:  Actions that only produce positive karmic effects
  • Both Negative and Positive Karma:  Actions that produce some negative, and some positive, karmic effects
  • Neither Negative or Positive Karma:  Also known as “karma without outflows” is the type of karma of enlightened beings

And remember, it’s what you intentionally do that matters.  For example, if you unintentionally stepped on spider, there is neither wholesome or negative karma in regards to that action.  However, if you are out to get the spiders at all costs, then it’s negative karma seeds you are planting.

Featured Image: CC0 photo via Pixabay
Copyright © Alan Peto. All Rights Reserved.

About Alan Peto

Alan explains Buddhism for beginners with his articles, graphics, and videos. Learn more about Alan on his website: https://alanpeto.com/about

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