Central to Hindu philosophy are the concepts of Dharma and Karma. Behind these two ordinary looking words is a veritable universe of meaning. In fact the concepts of karma and dharma are so abstract that we generally tend to get lost in details and their various connotations.
However astonishing as it may seem dharma and karma are two sides of the same coin. Dharma represents right action. Dharma represents action that would result in the greatest good to the greatest number. There are several kinds of dharma – the grihastha dharma or the dharma of the householder, raja dharma or the dharma of the king and so on. Dharma is an extremely difficult concept to comprehend and at times requires counter-balancing many equally ideal virtues to determine the action that benefits the largest number.
Karma on the other hand can be simply stated as the good or bad result that comes out of good or bad actions. So according to karma our current state in life is the result of our past karma or our past actions that we took. Also our current actions in life will determine our future. Any event that happens to us is the result of our past karma. Our response to this will result in our future karma.
So are dharma and karma really related? A little thought will clearly show that not only are these two abstract concepts related but are simply two sides of the same coin.
The stimulus or events that take place in our lives are the result of our past karma. We are free to exercise free will in the space between stimulus and our response. What should our response be to the stimulus that we get which is a consequence of our past karma?
A little deliberation on this will clearly indicate that our response should be based on dharma i.e. we should choose a course of action that is based on the highest value of dharma. Our choice if based on dharma will truly be an action that will be based on good values and principles. Any action that is based on dharma will set forth in motion a virtuous cycle of events. Hence the karma from our virtuous act will only lead to good karma or good providence. In other words bad karma is the result of adharma in our past and good karma is the result of dharma.
In life our exercise of free will should be based on dharma and we will reap the fruits of our action as good karma.