The Concepts of Karma and Dharma

What is Karma?

The law of karma is that every cause has an effect and every action has a reaction. It is exemplified by the saying, “As you sow, so shall you reap.” A variation of that last line occurs in the Siri Guru Granth Sahib as “What’s in the seed is what is eaten.” It is the balancing act of life.

This is the law of cause and effect. Newton’s Third Law of Thermodynamics: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Sikhs believe that what you do comes back to you. As each embodied soul acts and reacts, it may accumulate karma over many lifetimes. 


Why does it seem that Karma for good or bad actions is sometimes delayed until the next lifetime?

In the Sikh view Karma is not delayed. Every cause has an effect to follow, every action has a reaction. Like a ripple from a stone, the reaction is not delayed. What occurs is a process, an endless series of reactions. The impact to the doer may only be apparent at the end of the process. Nature reaches back to you in its own time.


If no one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes, how can we get rid of our Karma and become one with God?

Sikhs believe that forgiveness has no limits. Innocence has no punishment. Only when one consciously commits wrong deeds or acts does one gain bad karma.

When one merges in the Shabd Guru (word of the Guru), one lives in Dharma (righteous duty) and in this realm there is not karma. Sikhs believe that Guru covers our actions. Living in Dharma, there is no karma. Each individual can choose.

~This information was originally shared in the books Sikh Spiritual Practice: The Sound Way to God (2010) by Siri Kirpal Kaur Khalsa and Living Reality (1994) by Bibiji Inderjit Kaur Khalsa.


What is Dharma?

“Dharma” refers in Gurmukhi to righteousness, piety, religious observance,; spirituality; morality. For Sikhs, the word “Dharma” can be translated to mean the “path of righteousness.”

The primary object of a Sikh’s life is to seek union with God and hence, liberation from the cycle of births and deaths (cycle of re-incarnation) which is dictated by a person’s thought, deeds and actions in this life. Liberation can be achieved through meditating on God, truthful living and sharing ones wealth in the context of a normal family life and through divine grace. Other important aspects of a Sikh’s life include Sewa (dedication to the service of God’s creation) where the emphasis is often upon manual work, undertaking of goodwill towards other faiths and their followers, to defend for justice and assistance of the oppressed.

~This information was originally shared in the SikhiWiki entry on “Dharma.”


Video: The Journey of the Soul – Karma and Dharma 

In this video, Navjit Kaur describes basic concepts related to the journey of the soul in Sikh Dharma, including Karma and Dharma.