To exist is to act
KARMA (kamma in Pali) is simply action or deed. Actions are performed in three ways: by the body, mind or speech. Every action of significance is performed because there is a DESIRE for a result. This desire, no matter how mild, is a form of craving. It expresses the thirst (tanha) for existence and for action. To exist is to act, on one level or another. Existence and action are inseparable.
Some actions, those in which the mind is involved, are bound to have intention. This is expressed by the Pali term, cetana or volition, and chanda, which means wishing, desiring a result. And some form of desire is behind every activity of life. To live is to "desire".
An action, karma, is morally wholesome or unwholesome. It is, unwholesome when it is motivated by the forms of craving that are associated with greed, hatred and delusion. It is wholesome when it is motivated by disinterestedness, amity and wisdom. An act so motivated is prompted by intention rather than by craving. Yet in every act of craving, intention is included. Intention gives direction and form to the deed.
Each deed performed with intention is a creative act. By reason of the will behind it, it constitutes a force, similar to the great, unseen physical forces that move the universe. By our thoughts, words and deeds, we create our world from moment to moment in the endless process of change.
We also create our "selves", that is to say, we mould our changing personality as we go along, by the accumulation of such thoughts, words and deeds. It is the accretion of these, and the preponderance of one kind over another, that determines what we shall become, in this life and subsequent ones. In thus creating our personality , we create also the conditions in which it functions. In other words, we create also the kind of world we are to live in. The mind, therefore, is master of the world. As a man's mind is, so is his cosmos.
Karma, then, as the product of the mind, is the true and only real force in the life-continuum. From this we come to understand that it is the residue of mental force which from the point of death kindles a new birth. It is the only actual link between one life and another ("reincarnation"). Since the process is an unbroken, continuous one, it is the LAST karmic thought-moment at the point of death that forms the rebirth-linking consciousness.
Other karma, good or bad, will come into play at some later stage when external conditions are favourable for their ripening. The force of weak karma may be suspended for a long time by the interposition of a stronger karma.
Each person's karma is his own personal act; its results are his own personal inheritance. He alone has complete command over his actions, no matter to what degree others may try to force him.
The results of karma are called vipaka ("ripening"). Vipaka is pre-determined by ourselves by previous karma. Hence, karma is action and vipaka is result.