The Universal Law of Cause and Effect

Scientists have developed what they call “laws” of physics. These laws of physics describe the action of material energy, the laws of “cause and effect” in the physical universe. Similarly, we find other applications of the action of cause and effect. We observe that what occurs today is the result of energy expended and directed yesterday; and similarly, today’s action creates tomorrow’s result. The entire system of life in Western civilisation is based on the principles of cause and effect development.

Sri Aurobindo makes it clear that this action of “cause and effect” is the fundamental essence of what is known in the East as the “law of Karma”. “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.”

This action works not just on the physical plane, but at all levels of Energy, vital, emotional, mental and spiritual. We can see that by the nature of the energy put forth, a commensurate effect is created.

Sri Aurobindo describes two errors that have crept into the general understanding of the workings of this law of karma and it is useful to review them so that we may, hopefully, counteract them and come to a clearer basis for our understanding: “first, the strenuous paradoxical attempt….to explain supraphysical things by a physical formula, and a darkening second error of setting behind the universal rule of law and as its cause and efficient the quite opposite idea of the cosmic reign of Chance.”

Sri Aurobindo makes it clear that in a universe that functions under the kind of strict laws that we see everywhere at work, the idea that it is developed by Chance is incomprehensible. The reason for this mistake is contained as a seed in the first error, in that we attempt to explain things of a different order by an understanding based in the physical world, whereas our expanding insight is now beginning to show us that we need other forms of knowledge and other tools of perception when we begin to explore realms beyond the purely physical world.

Sri Aurobindo, Rebirth and Karma, Section I, Chapter 8, Karma, pp. 69-70