Whether one calls it the ‘law of Karma”, ‘dependent origination, or ’cause and effect’, the operation of karma essentially states that each action will create an effect which thereby creates a line of development that impacts the individuals who participate in the situation as it develops. While Karma obviously has an effect on our moral nature, it is not primarily a moral law, but a law of vibration and energy. All thought, all feelings, all emotions, all actions are in essence energetic vibrational patterns. They are influenced by the vibrations to which they are exposed, whether through a past line of development or through present impinging vibrations, and they in turn influence what follows.

The popular culture portrays karma as some kind of retributive law that automatically responds to an individual to pay back the energy that he has given out. It is used as a framework for morality when it is couched as ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” A direct result is anticipated. When we see some individual apparently getting away with deeds that are cruel, or unjust, or dishonest, we recalibrate our undrestanding, in the popular sense, of the law of karma to include a ‘time-delay’ option that promises reward or punishment at some future time or in some future event or lifetime. Some suggest that there is a god who watches over all our deeds and weighs them in the balance for either eternal enjoyment in heaven or eternal suffering in hell.

Karma, however, is not as simple as the popular culture would have us believe; nor is it primarily intended as a means of reward or punishment. The energy or vibration that moves through the world is not “good” or “bad” in that sense, but simply reflects an energetic action which creates and maintains vibratory patterns which will have their inevitable impact. It is thus possible that people other than the individual who started or perpetuated a line of development will be the ones to experience the consequences. The movers of the industrial revolution who undertook to burn massive amounts of hydrocarbons to fuel the growth and development of the recent past clearly are not there to experience the negative unintended consequences of their actions.

We may argue that they were likely reborn and thus suffering the fate of pollution, climate change and wars fought over hydrocarbon access and transport, but that is neither provable nor does it account for the billions of people and all the other beings on the planet who have to bear these consequences.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “Fundamentally, the meaning of Karma is that all existence is the working of a universal Energy, a process and an action and a building of things by that action, — an unbuilding too, but as a step to farther building, — that all is a continuous chain in which every one link is bound indissolubly to the past infinity of numberless links, and the whole governed by fixed relations, by a fixed association of cause and effect, present action the result of past action as future action will be the result of present action, all cause a working of energy and all effect too a working of energy. The moral significance is that all our existence is a putting out of an energy which is in us and by which we are made and as is the nature of the energy which is put forth as a cause, so shall be that of the energy which returns as effect, that this is the universal law and nothing in the world can, being of and in our world, escape from its governing incidence.”

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, The Hidden Forces of Life, Ch. 1 Life Through the Eyes of the Yogin, pg.10

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at http://sriaurobindostudies.wordpress.com and podcast at https://anchor.fm/santosh-krinsky He is author of 20 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.
More information about Sri Aurobindo can be found at http://www.aurobindo.net
The US editions and links to e-book editions of Sri Aurobindo’s writings can be found at http://www.lotuspress.com