One thing I'm a bit confused about:

Hinduism says we must escape the cycle of birth and death and attain moksha. But how are we to do this and how is this related to karma?

If my actions are very negative in one lifetime will there be a chance to progress towards to this goal in the next lifetime?

Say I'm a very evil person in one life, surely, as a result of this bad karma, my next birth will see me in a worse situation/circumstances where it will be increasingly more difficult to attain this goal of Hinduism? Thus will I not essentially be in a downward spiral, never being able to progress spiritually?

Can anyone offer a non-theistic explanation of how this works in Hindu philosophy?

  • karma is like a seed. as you do a good action, you plant a good seed, if you do a bad action, you plant a bad seed. They both will germinate into plants, over lifetime. if as you discuss in the question, you do bad deeds through this life, it is simple: it is only a matter of time before they come back at you (you refers to the hypothetical bad person). While theoretically it is possible to continue doing bad actions, practically as you witness your own bad actions coming at you, naturally you will learn to do good, so that you can avoid disastrous consequences in future.
    – Sai
    Nov 5, 2014 at 20:48
  • does this imply liberation? No. Liberation is freedom. Freedom from suffering. While you proceed through lifes, you get the following maturity (this is a non-theistic explanation): "Whatever I do comes back to me, if I do good, I get it back, if I do bad, I get it back. Also everything is relative. There is no good, if there is no bad. And there is no bad, if there is no good. everything in this world is temporary, nothing eternally". This will lead you therefore to: "I just have to be", nothing matters. no worry, no suffering. Thus will be always contented with yourself liberation! All d best
    – Sai
    Nov 5, 2014 at 20:53
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – Aditya K
    Nov 6, 2014 at 23:19

1 Answer 1


You need to understand Vedanta physiology first. A Person is considered to be an Atman covered by karana sarira (causal body), sukshma sarira (subtle body) and sthula sarira (the gross body). The gross body is the outermost covering of the Atman while the causal body is the final covering of the Atman.

Now that we understand the physiology, we have to know how one attains Moksha. According to the sage Vasishta in Mahabharata Santi Parva Sectiom CCCVII:

When men of knowledge, conversant with the rules of Yoga, become as fixed as a stake of wood, and as immovable as a mountain, then are they said to be in Yoga. When one does not hear, and smell, and taste, and see; when one is not conscious of any touch; when one’s mind becomes perfectly free from every purpose; when one is not conscious of anything, when one cherishes no thought; when one becomes like a piece of wood, then is one called by the wise to be in perfect Yoga. At such a time one shines like a lamp that burns in a place where there is no wind; at such a time one becomes freed even from one’s subtle form, and perfectly united with Brahma. When one attains to such progress, one has no longer to ascend or to fall among intermediate beings. When persons like ourselves say that there has been a complete identification of the Knower, the Known, and Knowledge, then is the Yogin said to behold the Supreme Soul.

Let me draw attention to the bolded portion 'freed from one's subtle form'. The main purpose of any spiritual practice is to go beyond the subtle form or to punch a hole through the subtle covering. This can be achieved through devotion to a Devata (theistic approach) or through knowledge of one's own nature (Jnana marga) or through one's own effort ( strict Buddhistic approach) or through mantra japa etc. After one has broken free of the subtle covering then one has to break free of the causal covering to reach the Atman. When one becomes freed from the subtle covering, the mind becomes an useless appendage and basically does not work. That is why they say that an Yogi has to fix one's mind when he does not notice anything.

You may be wondering what this has to do with bad Karma. What bad Karma does is to injure one's subtle covering so that it becomes very difficult to punch through that covering. Good Karma makes the job of breaking free from the subtle covering easier.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .