Karman (or karma, as the nominative sounds) is a chief theme in the development of Indian culture; it has played a key role since ancient times and until today. Karman means ﬁrst of all ”action”, and hence the action par excellence, that is, ”ritual action”. In this connection, two questions arise:
• the nature of ”action”
• the connection of action and result
One may note, in passing, that even on the Western notion of ”action” strong disagreements are crowded, and that from common-sense to physics through the philosophy of action there is no consensus about what an action is.
A further problem in the identiﬁcation of what karman is, lies in where its core should lie: is an action primarily externally identiﬁed through its eﬀects, or internally, through the attitude leading to it?
In the ﬁrst case, a karman would be the production of an eﬀect (be it a concrete product or a generic consequence in the outer world).
In the second case, a karman would amount to the initiation of a certain action, an individual’s eﬀort and tension towards it.
From left to right, one can imagine a gradual shift from the stress laid on the result to that on the incoation of the action as follows:
(On the first line, what happens on the level of the subject, on the last line, what happens on the level of the obejct)
Vaiśeṣika (1st BC) Kumārila (8th c.) Someśvara (12th c.)
agent of the production eﬀort
movement produced result