The Starting Point For a Review of the Principles of Karma

As with all human understanding, humanity has approached the law of karma from our own very limited starting point. We try to essentially bring it down to a personal level and create some kind of ethical rulebook around its operation, or else relate the universal forces to us through some kind of inexorable process that appears to function under certain laws or rules, but directly interacts with our own lives and the decisions we make and the actions we take.

The Buddhist enunciation of the universal law of karma was clearly a breakthrough in terms of treating it as a universal action. In the West, the widening understanding of the vast scope and intelligent activity of the universe has systematically broadened our appreciation for the action of the Forces that are shaping the entire universal action, including, but certainly not limited to our individual lives.

Essentially we are coming to a point in time where we begin to understand that the Creation does not revolve around our own world or our own individuality, and that while we have our role to play, and our own unique value, it is with much larger frameworks and universal laws that we have to grapple to truly begin to understand. Thus, the law of karma includes our own actions, but not as some kind of directed ethical or moral reward or retribution, but as an instance of the universal laws of action, the patterns of energy.

This turns into a much less simplistic model than most of us have entertained to date, and Sri Aurobindo takes up the question with the view toward systematically reviewing it from all angles and aspects to provide a comprehensive basis for understanding. Because we tend to look at things first from the basis of the material world and material energy, we may want to start this review at the point where our vision naturally first engages the issue:

“It may be as well then to start from the physical base in approaching this question of Karma, though we may find at last that it is from the other end of being, from its spiritual summit rather than its material support that we must look in order to catch its whole significance–and to fix also the limits of its significance.”

Sri Aurobindo,