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From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Prārabdhakarma literally means ‘karma that has started giving the results’.

The doctrine of karma is that karma or action done in any life must produce its result, good or bad, now or in future including future births. It is a fundamental belief of the religion.

Of the three karmas recognized, 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 with regards the punarjanma or rebirth by prārabdhakarma, the Vyāsabhāsya[1] on the Yogasutras[2] of Patañjali[3] concludes that several karmas of the accumulated stock is called as sañcitakarma will cause one janma or birth. However, one of the karmas will be the major one, the others will be the minor ones, but whose nature is in consonance with the major karma.

The prārabdhakarma is responsible for:

  1. Jāti - birth in a particular species like human or animal and so on
  2. Āyus - duration of life
  3. Bhoga - various experiences, good and bad

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philosophy do not accept it since it has already started bearing fruit like an arrow already discharged which cannot be withdrawn.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


  1. It is a commentary by Vyāsa [A. D. 600]).
  2. Yogasutras 2.13
  3. He lived in 200 B. C.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore

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