Difference Between Karma and Dharma

Karma vs Dharma

Dharma and Karma are two of the 4 principle duties of a man who takes birth on this planet. The other two duties are Kama and Moksha, according to ancient Hindu scriptures. While Karma deals with the actions or deeds of a man, his Dharma is supposed to be his duty towards his society and religion. Many people believe that acting according to the laws of Dharma is enough and that one should not act according to his free will to try and make his own destiny. There are also many who feel that there is always a struggle between Dharma that talks about life as well as after life, and that karma deals with deeds in real life only. Let us try to understand the two concepts of Dharma and Karma that are intricately intertwined.


This is a concept central to understanding the Hindu way of life. Every society has some moral values and concepts of right and wrong that come from heavens as if ordained by god. In Hindu religion also, the natural laws or those behaviors that are necessary to maintain peace and law and order are considered to be part of Dharma or the duty of a man who has taken birth and has to follow a cycle of births and deaths to attain Moksha, finally.

Everything in life that is right according to the society one is living in is considered to be the Dharma of a man. There is also the opposite of Dharma, Adharma or all thins wrong and immoral. In Hindu religion, a man’s Dharma is decided on the basis of his age, gender, caste, occupation etc. This means that the Dharma of a child would be different from that of his grandparents while the Dharma of a man is always different from that of a woman.

The Dharma of a warrior is obviously to fight and protect his motherland whereas Dharma of a priest is to preach and give knowledge to others. Dharma of a brother is always to protect his sister while the dharma of a wife is to follow the commands of her husband in both good, as well as bad times. In modern times, Dharma has been used to equate roughly with the religion of a man which is, however, not correct.


Karma is a concept that roughly equates with the western concept of action and deeds. However, there are both good karma, as well as bad karma and as long as one is acting as per his Dharma, he is performing good Karma that will always have good consequences for him in later life and after life. This is one concept that goads or drives men to be righteous and be performing good karma all the time.

In India, people have a desire to do something for their after life to be receiving a call from paradise, and they are fearful that performing bad Karma will lead them to hell after death. Pain and sufferings in one’s life are often attributed to his earlier Karma or karma in his previous lives.


Dharma and Karma are central concepts in the lives of Indian people who believe in the cycle of births and deaths to attain nirvana finally which is the ultimate goal of life. While Dharma is everything that is right and moral and descends from religious scriptures, these are also behaviors that are expected of a person in the society. Karma is the concept of action or deed and decides if one will reach nirvana on the basis of his deeds or not. Pain and sufferings in life are explained on the basis of karma and those following their Dharma are at peace with themselves assured of a place in heaven after liberation.