Dharma vs Karma: Difference and Comparison

Indian mythology has several beliefs like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, etc… Although every religion and belief advocates a few core principles for a human society, which will lead to a path towards divinity.

According to every belief, there is a way to reach the divine. There is a set of duties and responsibilities following which eternity can be reached.

Spirituality is not confined to Hinduism. A few principles of life are fundamental for all religions and beliefs.

The human life cycle is fundamentally based on two principles – Dharma and Karma.

When a person is born, there are a set of duties and responsibilities that are assigned by society as fundamental cosmic law, which is supposed to be accepted. And as an individual, every person has some deeds and accord.

Key Takeaways

  1. Dharma is a concept in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism that refers to the inherent order of the universe, an individual’s moral duties, and the right path to follow in life.
  2. Karma is the principle of cause and effect that governs an individual’s actions and their consequences, shaping a person’s experiences and determining their future circumstances.
  3. Although both dharma and karma are essential concepts in Eastern religions, they serve different purposes: dharma guides an individual’s actions and responsibilities, while karma governs the consequences of those actions.

Dharma vs Karma

The difference between Dharma and Karma is that dharma is based on birth, whereas Karma is the deeds of human life. Both of them lead to the path of salvation.

Dharma vs Karma

 

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonDharmaKarma
MeaningHas different definitions in different beliefsUniversal(one meaning for all)
FruitBased on present lifeSometimes based on past life
RulesThere are specified rulesThere are no specified rules
DivisionBased on birthBased on actions
Impacts onAffects societyConfined to individual

 

What is Dharma?

Dharma is considered a set of duties and responsibilities creating the right way of living and proper functioning of life. Different beliefs have a different definition of dharma, such as:-

Hinduism- acceptance of natural order for the proper functioning of life.

  1. Jainism – believes non-harming and nonviolent principles are a major part of dharma.
  2. Sikhism- being on the path of righteousness is dharma.
  3. Buddhism- preserving spiritual teachings and liberation is dharma. 
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The conception of dharma may differ from religion to religion or from person to person. Sometimes, what is dharma for one community or a person could be considered Adharma for another community or person.

For example, eating flesh, for one person or community, is dharma to eat the flesh of other animals to maintain balance in the food chain, but it could be considered Adharma for another person or community as animals are killed, which is against humanity.

The highest dharma is to achieve spiritual understanding. Dharma can be understood as a path towards the divine.

Dharma has some boundaries within which humans are supposed to work. Going beyond or against those boundaries is considered ‘adharma’.

Dharma is considered essential functioning as it gives meaning to life.

There are mentionings of dharma and its principles in Hindu holy books. Lord Krishna is considered one of the best preachers of dharma, as showcased in the epic of Mahabharata.

The ultimate goal of dharma is to reach the divine. The one who follows the path of dharma is considered a pure soul.

Dharma is based on humanitarian grounds of non-violence, generosity, and truthfulness with the essence of spirituality which will make the person an asset to society. 

Dharma is sometimes misinterpreted and creates divisions in society. Although the path gets different, the destination is one, that is, to be a good human and to become a pure soul so that divinity can be reached. In kalyug, dharma seems to be more associated with spirituality than humanitarian values.

dharma
 

What is Karma?

Karma is considered as the action or result of the action of any person. Karma is bound by present as well as past life. Karma has no rules, and there is no specific path to follow karma as it counts everything.

There is no teacher to teach karma.

Karma is the actual reason for continuing the cycle of birth and death. Liberation cannot be achieved until the soul becomes pure and settles all scores of good and bad karma.

Every pain and pleasure is the result of karma somewhere. Karma is not confined to evil deeds.

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Liberation (moksha) can only be achieved when all karmas are diminished. There are no specific principles for karma.

It is solely dependent on the deeds of humans during their life.

The fruit of Karma is not punishment but consequences of inner intentions. Karma is what you do and the intentions behind doing good or evil deeds.

Human behaviour is not confined to other humans but also towards animals and other living beings.

Karma is a vicious cycle of human life. There are few people who achieve liberation soon. Otherwise, the birth and death cycle continues for thousands of years.

According to Hindu mythology, people can ask for forgiveness for their karma by getting attached to god

Karma has one meaning regardless of any religion or belief. Therefore, there are fewer or no misinterpretations of the concept of karma.

karma

Main Differences Between Dharma and Karma

  1. Dharma is wholly based on the present life, whereas karma has impacts from a past life as well.
  2. Dharma can divide people among societies, but karma is unbiased to all.
  3. Dharma is connected to spirituality, but karma is universal and has impacts irrespective of any rise.
  4. Dharma has no specified fruit, whereas karma mentions the theory of “what goes around, comes around”.
  5. There are rules in dharma, but karma has no boundaries.
  6. Any teacher can preach Dharma, but karma itself is a life lesson.
  7. Dharma is misunderstood as a concept, but there are no misinterpretations of the concept of karma.
Difference Between Dharma and Karma

References
  1. https://muse.jhu.edu/article/593857/summary

Last Updated : 11 June, 2023

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