Karma is often referred to as the law of cause and effect, or the principle of moral causation. Karma can be described as that which governs the direct relation between all actions and their consequences in the universe. Although the law of causation also exists in modern science, the concept of Karma in Buddhism is not limited to what humans can perceive or measure at a particular point in time.
The word Karma is the Sanskrit term for “action”. These actions can be verbal, mental, or physical. All actions have consequences, and whether an action is good or bad depends on the underlying intentions. Good actions come from good intentions, and bad actions come from bad intentions. Good actions result in positive consequences, and are the main cause of rebirth into higher realms of peace and happiness. Bad actions lead to negative outcomes and cause one to be reborn into the lower realms and be trapped within the samsara world of life and death. Not all the consequences of our actions occur immediately. They may follow us through any of the stages of our lives. Thus, all sentient beings could experience results of actions that were performed many years or even many lives ago.
In Buddhist philosophy, Karma is not meant to make us feel helpless or hopeless. Instead, Karma reminds us that we ourselves have full autonomy in the shaping of destiny.