Karma is the Hindu view of causality in which good deeds, words, thoughts, and commands lead to beneficial effects for a person, and bad deeds, words, thoughts, and commands lead to harmful effects. These effects are not necessarily immediate but can be visited upon a soul in future lives through reincarnation; additionally, good or bad fortune experienced in life may be the result of good or bad actions performed in a past life. One’s karmic state affects the reincarnation of the soul: good karma may lead to reincarnation as a human while bad karma can lead to reincarnation as an animal or other forms of non-human life. Many Hindus hold a theistic view of karma in which a personal god—such as Vishnu in Vaishnavism and Shiva in Shaivism—is responsible for administering karma according to a soul’s actions. Non-theistic strands of Hinduism believe that karma is a matter of basic cause-and-effect without the need of a deity to mediate the effects.
Karma is a core concept in the Indian religions, including Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism, although their specific views on karma vary. In Hinduism, karma is the force of retributive justice that compels believers to behave righteously according to Dharma—the moral order of the universe. As such, karma is a central component of the Hindu ethical worldview. Further, because Hindu religious ordinances govern not just the individual believer but society as a whole, belief in karma enforces and perpetuates systems of social organization prescribed in Hindu scriptures. Karma also bolsters active worship on the part of believers, as many Hindus hold that bad karma can be counteracted through ritual activity including religious pilgrimages, temple worship, and making offerings to the gods.