The Deeper Sense of the Law of Karma

Having critiqued the popular notions of the law of karma, Sri Aurobindo takes up the deeper meaning of the law of karma and points out that one way or the other, actions have consequences, and those consequences create results. He points out that “all energies in Nature must have their natural consequence; if any are without visible result in the present life, it may well be that the outcome is only delayed, not withheld for ever.”

The popular view does not often deal with more general consequences, but there is also a truth to the fact that the acts of a particular individual may in fact have consequences on and effects for others, both those tied to that individual through some direct relationship and through general impacts which we may call the “societal karma”, whereby the pooled focus and actions of a number of people may create a wide-reaching impact that can affect entire societies, civilisations and the planetary systems themselves. The concept of “climate change” for instance represents a collective action by billions of humans on the planet which is already visibly creating widespread suffering and destruction through drought, flooding, higher intensity storms, rising sea levels, wider territories for disease or insect vectors to operate, etc. The law of karma clearly carries out the effect of the actions and visits them to the degree that they impact the world and its beings.

Of course, there is also the “personal” working of the law of Karma which can and does create both the individual human being’s life and circumstances, as well as, through its momentum and direction, the impact on life after death and a subsequent rebirth. “Man’s being, nature, circumstances of life are the result of his own inner and outer activities, not something fortuitous and inexplicable: he is what he has made himself; the past man was the father of the man that now is, the present man is the father of the man that will be. Each being reaps what he sows; from what he does he profits, for what he does he suffers. This is the law and chain of Karma, of Action , of the work of Nature-Energy, and it gives a meaning to the total force of our existence, nature, character, action which is absent from other theories of life.”

The working of the law of karma is an inevitable and indisputable part of the cosmic machinery and it makes intelligible the way the development of human lives proceeds, providing an inner sense and significance to it.

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part 2, Chapter 22, Rebirth and Other Worlds; Karma, the Soul and Immortality

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