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Karma – Definition and Ayurvedic aspect

In the profound tapestry of philosophy and the intricate wisdom of Ayurveda, the concept of Karma stands as a foundational force that shapes the very essence of existence. As we embark on this insightful exploration, our focus is centered on unraveling the dimensions – its definition, classifications, and the unique perspective it holds in Ayurvedic principles. Positioned as the third essential element in philosophy and the fifth in Ayurveda, It takes on the role of Äshrayi, intertwining with nine dravyas and the intricate web of guna.

This article meticulously dissects the intricacies of Karma, delving into its manifestation in Murta dravya and its instrumental role as Nimitta karana for Samyoga and Vibhaga. Within the realms of Purva-desha-viyoga and Uttara-desha-samnyoga, Karma reveals itself, representing the dynamic interplay of Gati (utility) or Kriya (actions). Join us on this scholarly journey as we navigate its layers, exploring its profound significance and unlocking the Ayurvedic perspectives that enrich our understanding of this timeless concept.

Nirukti of Karma

Derived from the Sanskrit root “kri,” which encompasses the meanings of vikshepe (action) and dhatu (element), the term “Kriya” embodies the essence of dynamic movement and activity. It directly translates to action or motion, encapsulating the fundamental concept of Gati, which signifies the pace and rhythm of movement.

In its linguistic roots, “kri” denotes the impetus for action, reflecting the driving force behind any activity. The term elegantly captures the essence of purposeful movement, aligning with the core idea of Gati, which emphasizes the inherent momentum within actions. As a result, the word Kriya not only signifies action but also encapsulates the underlying dynamics and inherent motion within any given process. This linguistic derivation succinctly links the concept of Kriya to the broader theme of Gati, creating a linguistic bridge that seamlessly connects the essence of movement with the act of doing.


  • Karma
  • Kriya
  • Gati
  • Karya
  • Karya-samarambha
  • Prayatna
  • Praviti
  • Cheshta
  • Karmaphala
  • Chikitsa


क्रियते इति कर्मः ।

Karma is the term used to describe the action that has been performed.

संयोगे च विभागे च कारणं द्रव्यमाश्रितम्‌ ।
कर्तव्यस्य क्रिया कर्म, कर्म नान्यदपेक्षते।।
(च.सू. 1.51)

Karma resides in Dravya, serving as the cause for Samyoga and Vibhaga, and it is known as Kartavya or Kriya. It lacks attributes and is devoid of qualities.

चलनात्मकं कर्म ।

Karma is the term used for movement or action, known as Gati or Chalana.

प्रयत्नादि कर्मं चेष्टितमुच्यते ।
(च.सू्‌. 1.49)

Kriya or Karma is the term used to denote effort, work, and action, such as Prayatna (effort) and Chesta (work).

प्रदत्तस्तु खलु चेष्टा कार्यार्था, सैव क्रिया, कर्म, यतः, कार्यसमारम्भश्च’ ।
(च.वि. 8.77)

Karya, Karma, Cheshta, Prayatna, Karya-samarambha, and Pravritti are synonymous. Pravritti can be categorized into three types: Vak-pravritti involves talking, Kaya-pravritti pertains to physical work, and Manokarma relates to psychological work.

एकद्रव्यमगुणं संयोगविभागेष्वनपेक्षकारणमिति कर्मलक्षणम्‌ ।

Karma serves as the foundation for the connection and separation of substances, without any other influences playing a role.

कर्म वाड्मनःशरीरप्रवृ्तिः ।
(च.सू. 11.39)

There are three types of it: Manokarma, Vakkarma, and Kayakarma. Manokarma involves actions of the mind, Vakkarma pertains to actions of speech, and Kayakarma encompasses physical actions.

संयोगभिन्नत्वे सति संयोगसमवायिकारणं कर्म’ । (दीपिका)

Samyoga Asamavayi karan defines karma. This concept involves the connection of cause and effect.

द्रव्याश्रितं च कर्म, यदुच्यते क्रियते’ ।
(च.सू. 8.13)

Kriya is the term for Dravyashritakarma.

Karma – In Short

In the realm of philosophy, it holds the third position, while in Ayurveda, it secures the fifth spot. The term “Karma” is commonly interpreted as Gati or Kriya. It functions as Āshrayi in Dravya, akin to guna, and coexists with Samavayi karan. Operating as an Eka-dravyashraya, it establishes a link with existing entities. Notably, it manifests solely in Murta dravya and cannot exist in Amurta and Vibhu dravyas.

It serves as the Anapeksha karana of Samyoga and Vibhaga, with Samyoga and Vibhaga acting as Asamavayi karana for Karma. It loses its essence immediately after action, signifying its transient nature. This loss occurs due to the contradiction with the alignment of one’s own duties, characterizing it as Swakarya-samyoga-virodhatwa. Additionally, it is inherently Anitya as the Ashrayi. Distinct from guna, it is either Gunarahit or Nirguna and never gives rise to other Dravya, Guna, or Karma.

Functioning as the Sadhyavastha of dravya, It is of three types: Manokarma, Vakkarma, and Kayakarma. It goes by various names such as Karma, Karmasamārambha, and Kriya, encompassing Gati, Cheshta, Prayatna, Pravritti, Karya, the effort of medicine, bodily movements, different actions or works, as well as physical and mental feelings. Moreover, it influences the fate of previous births, known as Karmaphala.

Importance of Karma

The concept of Karma, or Kārmukatā, holds profound significance within both the realms of Darshana and Ayurveda, playing a pivotal role in various aspects of treatment and well-being. Under the expansive umbrella of Karma, different classifications of treatments emerge, reflecting a nuanced understanding of holistic health practices.

Vega controls impulses, and Pashchātkarma cares for post-treatment, both integral components linked to the broader concept of Karma. Swasthavritta focuses on maintaining a healthy lifestyle, while Pathya and Apathya guide individuals on suitable and unsuitable dietary habits. Ritucharya emphasizes adapting one’s routine to the changing seasons, recognizing the impact of climate on health.

The daily regimen, Dinacharya, and the advisable and inadvisable activities, Dharaniya Adharanīya vega, intricately connect to the principles of Karma. Purva Shastrakarma involves preparatory treatments, while Aushadha karma delves into the use of medicinal remedies. Ksharakarma, Agnikarma, and Samsarjankarma encompass various therapeutic procedures, each falling under the broad spectrum of Karma.

Panchakarma, a set of five detoxification treatments, represents a comprehensive approach to cleansing the body. Ihakarma, the treatment carried out in this world, and Parakarma, the treatment beyond, highlight the extensive applications within the Karma framework. Furthermore, Ihakarma underscores the extensive applications within the Karma framework through the treatment performed in this world. Parakarma, on the other hand, highlights treatment beyond.

The therapies outlined in Chikitsa find their roots in the philosophy of Karma, emphasizing its universal influence on health and well-being. The interconnectedness of these treatments showcases the holistic nature of Karma, making it a cornerstone in the pursuit of a balanced and healthy life.

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