prārabdhakarma

(‘karma that has started giving the results’)

The doctrine of karma—that karma or action done in any life must produce its result, good or bad, now or in future (including future births)—is a fundamental belief in Hinduism.

Of the three karmas recognised (See KARMA for details.) the prārabdha karma is the second. It simply means the karma that has started giving its fruits by causing the present birth.

After discussing the various possibilities and alternatives as regards the punarjanma or rebirth by prārabdha-karma, the Vyāsabhāṣya (commentary by Vyāsa [A. D. 600]) on the Yogasūtras (2.13) of Patañjali (200 B. C.) comes to the conclusion that several karmas out of the accumulated stock (called sañcitakarma) will cause one janma or birth. However, one of the karmas will be the major one, the others being minor ones, but whose nature is in consonance with the major karma.

The prārabdhakarma is responsible for jāti (birth in a particular species like human or animal and so on), āyus (duration of life) and bhoga (various experiences, good and bad).

Whether ātmajñāna (or brahma-jñāna), knowledge of the Self, destroys prārabdhakarma also (along with the sañcita) has been a moot point. Most of the schools of Hindu philosophy do not accept it since it has already started bearing fruit even as an arrow already discharged cannot be withdrawn. That is why it is seen that the jīvanmuktas also (those who are liberated, even while living here) are seen to suffer from its effects.