What is karma?
Many people know 'karma' to be short-hand for "cause and effect", "the accumulation of past actions" or its biblical equivalence, “reaping what you sow.” However, it has much more significance. Karma translated is “action” and normally refers to any action, but in scriptural terms, it specifically means “an action or ritual in which there’s an offering.” Thus, in parts of the Bhagavad Gita it has a religious quality.
Karma is also described as the cause of rebirth. Through their actions, an individual accumulates good karma (the fruits of proper action) or bad karma (the fruits of improper action). In this way, karma is accrued like credit. According to scripture, one may gain access to heaven if enough good karma is earned. However, once all their good karma is used up, they will return to the world once again.
An individual’s karma account also determines what kind of womb their rebirth will take place in (person, animal, insect or other) and what kind of parents they will be afforded. Therefore, if one leads a life of deception, greed and anger, in their next life, they might be born as an animal where they can fully express and begin to exhaust those traits. But if one, instead, leads a life of self-mastery and a desire to know the truth, according to karma theory, they will be given the right temperament, support and circumstances to help them arrive closer to their spiritual objective.