It is a psychologically produced energy through volition or intention (cetanā). It is the law of moral causation. The statement Buddha made thereof goes like this: “It is cetanā that I call karma, having willed one acts through body, speech or mind (cētanā’ham bhikkhavē kammam vadāmi. Cetayitvā kammam karoti kāyēna vācāya manasā.)” [The Aṅguttara Nikāya, VI, 63) Unintentional action produces no karma. Once created, karma becomes part of our consciousness.
The function of Karma:
Reproductive Karma (janaka kamma):
This is the kind of karma that produces mental and aggregates and material (bodily) aggregates at the moment of conception (embryonic birth) and throughout the lifetime of the individual. It is called reproductive since it reproduces as a new being upon death from the existing life form.
Supportive Karma (upatthambhaka kamma):
This karma supports the reproductive karma as well as the effect of the reproductive karma throughout the lifetime of the individual.
Obstructive Karma (upapīdaka kamma):
This karma weakens, interrupts, or retards the function of the reproductive karma.
Destructive Karma (upaghātaka kamma):
This karma not only cuts off the effect of the reproductive karma but also destroys the reproductive karma and produces its own effect.
The timing (time of taking effect) of Karma:
1. Immediately effective karma (dittha–dhamma–vedanīya kamma):
This is the karma that bears fruit in the present lifetime.
2. Subsequently effective karma (upapajja–vedanīya kamma)
This is the karma that bears fruit in the next (second) life. The following five great sins bear fruit in the next (second) lifetime:
Murder of an arahant
Shaking the blood of the Buddha
Creating division among the Sangha (the third gem of the Triple Gem). This can only be committed by a fully ordained (upasampadā) monk.
3. Indefinitely effective karma (aparāpariya kamma):
This is the karma that bears fruit from the third lifetime till the last life when the doer realizes Nirvana.
4. Defunct karma (ahōsi kamma):
This is the karma that no longer bears fruit. It is because such karma gets no chance since the doer has already realized Nirvana and passed away.
The ‘priority’ of the karma:
1. Weighty karma (garuka kamma)
This kind of karma is so strong that no other karma can stop its function in the next life. It definitely produces its results in the next life. We have already discussed it under ‘subsequently effective karma.’ However, here is the list of five great sins/ weightiest karma belonging to this kind: 1. Matricide 2. Patricide 3. Murder of an arahant 4. Shaking the blood of the Buddha 5. Creating division among the Sangha (the third gem of the Triple Gem). This can only be committed by a fully ordained (upasampadā) monk.
2. Proximate karma (āsanna kamma)
This karma is decides where a dying person must be reborn. In other words, it conditions the next life.
3. Habitual karma (ācinna kamma)
This is performed regularly, or it may be a karma that is performed once and is recollected and remembered all the time.
4. Unspecified karma (katattā kamma)
This is the kind of karma done once and soon forgotten. Any karma can be an unspecified karma. Even if you forget it, it will bring results. If the unspecified karma is a weighty karma, it will produce its result at death and condition the next life, even if it is forgotten. A karma is forgotten does not mean it does not bring results. Even though we simply forget it, it will remain in our consciousness and may bring results whenever possible.