Difference Between Dharma and Karma

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

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

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

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

When a person is born there are set of some 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.

Dharma vs Karma

The main 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 Between Dharma and Karma (in Tabular Form)

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

Hinduism– acceptance of natural order for 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 righteous is dharma .
  3. Buddhism preserving spiritual teachings and liberation is dharma. 

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 as  Adharma for another community or person.

For example eating flesh, for one person or community it is dharma to eat 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.

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’.

It is considered that dharma is important functioning as it gives meaning to life.

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

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

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

Dharma is sometimes misinterpreted and creates divisions of society, although the path gets different but 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 the humanitarian values.


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, 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 . Until the soul becomes pure and settles all scores of good and bad karma, liberation cannot be achieved.

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

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.

Fruit of Karma are not punishment but consequences of inner intentions. Karma is not only what you do but also the intentions behind doing good or bad 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 continous for thousands of years.

According to hindu mythology a person 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 less or no misinterpretations in the concept of karma.


Main Differences Between Dharma and Karma

  1. Dharma is completely based on present life whereas karma has impacts from 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 raise .
  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. Dharma can be preached by any teacher, but karma itself is a life lesson.
  7. Dharma is often misunderstood as a concept but there are no misinterpretations in the concept of karma.
Difference Between Dharma and Karma



Dharma and karma both are important principles of human life. Without both of these no one can attain salvation.

They are intertwined and thus dependent on each other. Person is required to do karma while staying within the boundaries of dharma.

Although there are differences in theory. Nevertheless, the ultimate goal is to reach divine.

Both of them advocate generosity, humanity, truth and non violence. By following dharma and having a good score of karma gates of paradise can be opened.

Without dharma and karma there is no meaning of human life.

Key Differences Between Dharma and Karma (PDF Format)

Download the key differences in .PDF format, to read or print them later:

Difference Between Dharma and Karma


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